When Ashley (names are changed to protect privacy) and her husband moved to Charlotte, N.C., it was their second move in a short amount of time.

They had three young children, and Ashley did not know a soul. The stress of moving and caring for children left her feeling isolated, lonely and depressed. After the first move, Ashley started drinking and totaled her car, breaking both her hands. Her husband asked her to seek treatment, but she did not believe she had a problem.

Shortly after moving to Charlotte, she received a DUI, and her husband insisted on her seeking treatment.

"I still did not think I had a problem, but I went into a 28-day program to appease my husband," said Ashley. "It was only after entering the program that I realized I really did have a problem.

"When I finished the program, I was encouraged to attend 12-Step meetings. I found [one] called Sober Mamas, where I met many other women in circumstances similar to my own." The group was Ashley's lifeline as she worked hard to save her marriage and change her lifestyle.

The meeting was started by Susan, who also had young children.

"I could not afford the cost of babysitters to attend a program meeting every day," said Susan. "I thought that surely I was not the only mom out there dealing with this."

After speaking with other interested women, Susan called a church where meetings were already being held and asked if it could handle one more and include child care.

The church said yes.

More than 30 women often attend the meeting.

Through a series of job changes and moves, both Susan and Ashley find themselves living in Chattanooga in the same situation they were in when each of them moved to Charlotte.

"I was sad when we made the decision to leave Charlotte, because I felt like Sober Mamas was just reaching its prime," said Susan. "I was shocked the day Ashley said her husband was interviewing for a job in Chattanooga."

Both women say it is a "God thing" that they are in Chattanooga together. When they arrived and began looking for meetings with child care, they found only one, so they decided to organize a Sober Mamas meeting.

The meeting, scheduled to start soon, will be held at the Downtown Metro YMCA from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Chapel Room. Child care will be provided. For information, go to

If you met Ashley's husband, he would tell you that the change in his wife and in their marriage is a miracle. While many helped her on her journey, it is Sober Mamas who gave her the encouragement, fellowship and connectedness she needed. Ashley is celebrating a year and a half of sobriety. Susan celebrated 14 years of sobriety last week. In the process of seeking to be healthy, she saw a need and did something to make a difference in the lives of many.

Has your life been changed for the better because someone saw your need? This year, look for ways to pay it forward -- just like Susan and Ashley.

Email Julie Baumgardner at