New Orleans, Louisiana

Ashley: I got involved with a man. I thought he was the best man that I’d ever met in my entire life, so I left home at 16. We were together 7 years. I had two of his kids. This is not my favorite thing to talk about but… he is a heroin addict and I figured, all this time, I could change him and there was no changing him. 

He brought me here [New Orleans] about 2 months ago. I’m pregnant again, as you can see, about 5 months. Recently he up and just disappeared. So, this is the position I’m in at this point. 

BW: Did he have a heroin problem from the beginning?

Ashley: He did but I didn’t know that. It seemed like the perfect, whirlwind, sweep you off your feet, I’m gonna show you the world, Aladdin kind of story and it just didn’t turn out that way.

BW: So, where are you staying?

Ashley: There’s abandoned buildings everywhere here. Basically you can stay in almost any of them and they don’t arrest you so…

BW: Where are you from?

Ashley: Boynton Beach, Florida

BW: You said you have two kids. How old are they?

Ashley: 2 and 3

BW: Where are they?

Ashley: They are currently with my mom in Florida. I gave permanent custody to them because this isn’t the position that I want them in. 

BW: A lot of people that I talk to got started using through the person they’re with. Did you start using heroin at any point?

Ashley: No, luckily for me I’m allergic to heroin. I did have a crack cocaine problem for a while but recently, because of the baby, I’ve been off that as well. 

BW: What was the hardest day?

Ashley: The day DCF came in and said, “we’re taking your kids.” The drug test came up dirty and they literally came in and took the kids by force, with a police warrant and I had to watch them take my two babies out of my life. 

BW: What are your plans? Do you want to make it back to Florida?

Ashley: I can’t go back because of the DCF restraining order with my kids. I can’t be within the same county so if I went back I’d be in the same position as here. 

Your parents tell you, when you’re younger, “This isn’t what you think it’s gonna be. He’s not who you think he is.” And you think, “No, I know everything. I’m young. I can do anything.” You can’t.

My biggest regret is not listening to my parents. Not taking their advice when they said, “If you do this, you will regret it someday.”