From childhood Best Friends, to moms building a non-profit in hopes to support those still struggling with addiction and mental health disorders- and what she has to say to those still battling the disease of addiction. How our newest board member, Ivy Group, is using her story of addiction and recovery to encourage others to live a happier and healthier life, free from addiction. –Ivy is fierce, and she always has been.
We are incredibly grateful to share that Ivy has accepted our invitation to serve as a member of our board, we truly believe she will take Ambersong Outreach to the next level. Her passion for helping others is unmatched, her vulnerability in sharing her own experiences has fostered a support platform for women and mothers in recovery, and we are stoked to see all that she accomplishes both in life & her recovery, and as a part of Ambersong Outreach. Thank you Ivy, we are so incredibly proud of you- today & everyday.
2012 Destiny and Ivy were ICONIC to say the least, don't worry- this story gets a lot better than when I decided to give myself bangs, our blue eyeshadow, and the "lets both make the same face" phase. (& yes- that is the picture we decided was the best and decided to upload online.) This photo was taken shortly before we went to different high schools and our paths began to diverge. I can't tell you how many times I hid in Ivy's closet so her mom wouldn't know I was there when she got home from work, as if she couldn't hear us from the parking lot laughing hysterically. Ivy is/always has been, one of those once in a lifetime type of friends. Little did I know it back then, but almost a decade later we would end up being witness to each others healing in ways we never would have imagined, after addiction forever altered the both of our lives.
Ivy's recovery reminded me that stories of addiction didn't have to end with jails, institutions, or death. Her recovery date is September 1st, which just so happens to be the start of the last week of Ambers life. A week that I dread- now starts off with the recovery of my beautiful, resilient, & incredible best friend, and a reminder that healing is always possible.
She always has been fierce.
Ivy is/always was, one of those once in a lifetime type of friends. We were both forced to grow up quicker than most kids our age, and by 14 we had both faced more than a fair amount of adversity. This along with having very similar personalities- led to our bond standing the test of time. We both were (probably over) honest, blunt, call it like we saw it people- but underneath what was on the surface we both wanted good for everyone, and for the world- but back then, I think we had both sort of came to terms, so to speak, that was out of the cards for us. The years following were busy, chaotic, and full of choices that we later on would come to learn from. However, somehow our paths would cross, we'd reconnect on social media, or run into each other and it would be like nothing ever changed. One day when I went to drop off some laundry with Amber, I ran into Ivy and took her out to dinner with my family for my dad's birthday right before he moved to California. Years later, out of nowhere, we had found our paths crossing once more and their exclamations "Ivyyyy" and hugs were exchanged as if we were 13 again. Once you become a part of our family, you're kinda stuck with us. Lol.
Amber spent much of the last two years of her life in Downtown Olympia (WA) as she struggled to maintain housing as a result of her substance use. Around this time Ivy got more heavily into her addiction also- but they'd run into each other regularly and knew a lot of the same people, Amber would always message me when she'd see Ivy and let me know how she looked or how she said she was doing, and she so badly wanted to see Ivy in recovery and living a happy, fulfilling, and healthy life. Despite watching firsthand so much of what my sister went through, I always made a point to tell the two of them that I loved them and believed in them, because I did. I had learned the true depths of why addiction is defined as a disease, I saw it take so much from people around me- as if there was nothing that could be done. Unlike most diseases however, the shame and stigma of addiction was truly shocking. From business owners and employees shooing my sister away from storefronts in attempts to stay out of the rain while lighting a cigarette, to old friends who used her battle with addiction as some new term to identify her with as if she no longer had a name, these people know who they are, and if you are still one of these people today despite the mass accessibility to education around substance use disorders- from the bottom of my heart, fuck you.
Flash forward to 2023
As it turns out, things did in fact get better then when we cut our own hair and wore blue eyeshadow- in fact, they got much better, perhaps even better than we ever would've expected. The years following Ambers passing were tough. For the most part, I isolated myself from the majority of my social circle. I had no desire to be close to anyone, I had already lost the person who promised to be there for my entire life. Life carried on, but there were many days I took for granted. The year of 2021/2022 brought tremendous growth for both Ivy and I. And once again, our paths crossed and we found each other catching up once more. (Surprising huh?) Only this time, I had a 10 month old and an almost 2 year old- and Ivy had a newborn. I was no longer drinking, and Ivy had fought to navigate her own path of healing and was celebrating being clean from all substances including nicotine.
Ambersong Outreach began in August of 2022 as Ivy neared one year of sobriety. From the very beginning of our organization, I was reaching out to Ivy regularly and asking her questions, and getting her insight and feedback- Ivy being the incredible human she is quickly expanded our reach and without even asking her to, she extended our questions to others she knew in recovery. This gave us vital information on which programs to prioritize, guidance on developing successful programs that the public would be likely to utilize, and has contributed to the direction and passion that guides all we do. Not only that, but she also helped us develop our online communities and was our very first group leader! Sounds like a lot for anybody, especially someone who recently became a mom and is navigating the first few years of recovery. And it is, we have been blown away by her determination, responsibility, and dedication to building a healthy life for herself. But even more so, in her selflessness and vulnerability in sharing her story, being open about her trials and triumphs for no other reason but in hopes that it will reach those still struggling with substance dependency/SUD's. She is one of the most genuine, resilient, bold, compassionate, and capable individuals that I have ever met. How she does it? I'm still unsure, but I regularly hear her opening up her weekly NA meeting with the statement, "We can only keep what we have by giving it away." and I am astounded at her bravery, and the pride she has within herself. Because I know how far she has come. and I can only imagine all the work it took for her to get here.
So, finally it's January of 2023. My phone dings, "Ivy Group" *3 text messages.* A familiar feeling washes over me, only this time more nostalgic. Parents that were always trying to tell us what to do have since been swapped with children of our own. Frozen pizza rolls are no longer acceptable for dinner, somehow in all of the chaos we both learned how to cook (well sort of), and having to be off of our phones by 10PM has now turned into, many days, being one of the few times our phones are checked, and messages get replied too. In between changing diapers and paying bills, I find a moment to check her message.
A photograph and a message that follows.
"I went to my first in person meeting since getting clean today, and finally got all of my key tags! 1 more month and I'll get my grey key tag for 18 months." And of course, if you know me then as you'd expect- I start to tear up. Being witness to others recovery always strikes so close to home. I get to tell her how proud I am of her, and how proud I know Amber is of her as well. Her wish came true, she gets to see Ivy sober, healthy, and most of all, happy. When asked if I could share this online, without hesitation she said of course.
I asked Ivy what would she say to someone who is still battling addiction and her response was as follows:
"There is another way, and there is a life where you can be content on a day-to-day basis with yourself, and with your life. No matter how far you've gone, no matter what you've done, there is hope and there is a better life out there if you want it & are willing to work for it."
She continued on to share more, giving insight on her battle with addiction and how she initially began her recovery journey,
"I was in my addiction from 14 until I was 22. I had gone to three different inpatient rehabs in the span of one year before I was even 18 and multiple outpatients. None of those things worked because I wasn't willing to give up the people I was around, and I didn't believe that I deserved or was worthy of something better. Nobody could convince me that I was worth recovery or anything good, really. Everyone deserves happiness, and everyone deserves to love themselves and the life they are living. My untreated and self medicated mental health was a BIG factor into my addiction. Until I was ready to accept the help people were trying to give me I wasn't going to be able to get better. I had to finally make the decision to put ALL of those people, places, & things out of my life for good. Once I was willing to let go of EVERYTHING I knew & have faith & willingness, then I was ready and able to get clean."-Ivy Group
Three days later, Ivy and her son Stryker joined us to celebrate my children's 2nd and 3rd birthdays at Dirty Daves pizza parlor. A place I hadn't gone since Amber passed away, but where we use to go for family birthdays- a tradition Amber started when her daughter/my niece Mariya turned one. I've found days like this extra difficult without Amber, as things I always thought she would be here for now happen without her. I debate canceling, I cry all morning, but the spiderman princess party must go on. I arrive, hoping It isn't apparent I've been crying all morning. I tell myself not to think about Amber, and remind myself it's about my kids. I still want to cry. Ivy arrives, she looks incredible, it's the first time we've seen each other in years, then here comes lil man waddling behind her. My heart is filled with joy and pride, I'm reminded that recovery is possible and I can just imagine how happy Amber would be to see Ivy today. She hugs me, and I become a little less angry at the world. I no longer felt like crying, in fact I end up so busy having fun and catching up with everyone It doesn't cross my mind who's missing. Ivy has always been a very centering person, she's one of the few who are just grounding and comforting in times like this. A decade later, and so many things have changed- besides our bond.
Today, I am filled with gratitude despite the odds. I read a post a while back that said grief lasts a lifetime, so we must find new things to fill our lives with and those things are the only way to make the grief a little bit easier to carry with us. Although life has turned out far from what I imagined it would be back when I was 14, I know in many ways that has also resulted in some of the most beautiful parts of my life. I get to witness Ivy's recovery journey, and I get to share the journey of motherhood with someone so close to my heart. Above all else, our kid's will get to grow up as lifelong friends- and I have faith that they will never have to endure much of what Ivy & I have. I find comfort in knowing that if they ever do, there is hope that they will live in a world better equip to support, advocate for, and encourage the healing of those with mental health/SUD's, because of the work of Ambersong Outreach and the many organizations just like ours. And because of Ivy, I believe that stories of addiction can end with hope, the reconciliation of families, and immense pride, like Amber once dreamed of. Because of Ivy I refuse to believe stories of addiction have to end with jails, institutions, and death, and without her story I'm not sure I would've ever believed in Ambers dream after her passing. I can only hope that as more people join us in this fight, the world will continue to change the way SUD's are viewed. Addiction is temporary, but grief is infinite. Be the change today, & maybe, just maybe, your family will never become part of the statistic known as the 46 million+ who identify as having lost a loved one to overdose.
Ivy, I tell you all the time, but congratulations on all of your successes so far. I will forever hold an unbelievable amount of respect, admiration, and love for you in my heart. I look forward to seeing where the years to follow take you, I know that this is just the beginning of all life has in store for you. We all thank you sincerely for being a part of Ambersong Outreach. But most of all, thank you for being the friend I needed, every time I have needed it most. I love you dearly, and I am so fucking proud of you. -Destiny Ramie
Thank you to all of those who have taken the time to read this, and to all of those who are challenging themselves to become more educated, more understanding, and more compassionate.
It all starts with you.