Father Martin's Ashley

Father Martin's Ashley

By The Fix staff 03/24/11

A non-denominational Maryland facility founded by a Catholic priest, this respected rehab serves up more than spirituality and the Big Book. Clients say the food here is like manna from heaven.

Father Martin's Ashley. Photo via
Location : Havre de Grace, Md.
Phone : (800) 799-4673
Price : $22,000
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes
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While genteel Chesapeake Bay vistas unfold in their back yard, the serious, professional staff of Father Martin’s Ashley (and their equally grown-up clients) tackle a focused, intense study of the 12 steps as part of a traditional, spiritually based treatment program. From six in the morning until nine at night—when the 78 white-collar lawyers, politicians, and celebrity clientele roll into bed—stern spirituality is the name of the game.

The Maryland drug rehab facility's fine reputation precedes its current incarnation. Located at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, the sprawling plantation was once owned by famed Maryland Senator (and McCarthy foe) Millard E. Tydings. In 1982, Ashley’s namesake, the late Father Joseph C. Martin, took up residence at the plantation and, to celebrate his 25 years of recovery, the next year opened the mansion’s doors to alcoholics in need of guidance. ("Ashley" comes from the Old English term for "ash meadow"—which is appropriate, considering the center's aristocratic, tree-lined campus).

The popular priest, who died in 2009, was an addiction lecturer for the State of Maryland when, in 1972, the U.S. Navy videotaped one of his talks—the first of over 40 educational films he made that garnered a wide audience, and helped Martin achieve near-cult status amongst a certain demographic of Jesus aficionados, recovering alcoholics, and their families. His written works and videos have been deployed at all levels of the federal government—especially in the military. “He was a very charismatic, very dynamic, and compassionate person,” reports a grad who was at Ashley when Martin was there.

The program still closely adheres to Martin’s time-tested approach, which means that this isn’t a spot for those looking for cushy time by the pool. “They were very strict with regards to particulars like phone use, and only allowed one family day per month,” recalls an Ashley grad. No music or outside reading whatsoever is allowed, making those rare phone calls and family visits the only substantial source of outside contact—save for face time with the Almighty. To ensure that a rogue client doesn't spoil Ashley's sober tranquility, the campus security division is acutely attuned to client behavior, and poised to bounce anyone who, says an alumni, “loses focus.” (Curious, Chris Farley, a former client, made it through his whole term.)

Father Martin's Ashley has a more or less evenly mixed-gender population and imposes few restrictions on co-mingling, aside from gender-specific residence buildings and assigned seats at mealtime; still, it’s not exactly the sort of place that appeals to those interested in hooking up. The few hours during the day not dedicated to 12-step group instruction or individual therapy are spent studying the Big Book.

While the Maryland alcohol and drug rehab facility is non-denominational—and welcomes clients of all religions—its Catholic roots are still in evidence. Both its present and former CEO’s were Catholic priests, and the “commissary” sells religious tomes alongside coffee mugs emblazoned with images of Father Joe's jovial visage.

Befitting its old-school history, the rooms here—which generally house three clients apiece—are genteel and homey. A team of industrious housekeepers keep the premises glowingly clean and the staff takes care of laundry, so clients can save their energy for working out in the gym or indulging in more recently added activities like yoga, meditation and (for an extra fee) massage. Meals are well balanced, nutritious and offered in substantial portions: breakfast usually consists of a standard eggs-and-pancakes buffet while lunch and dinner is a choice between pasta, meatloaf, fish, chicken and the like. A former Father Martin's Ashley client who happens to be a chef raves that the meals were “unbelievably well put- together.”

When patients near “graduation,” Father Martin’s Ashley counselors arrange the logistics for each client’s aftercare, and host a smorgasbord of alumni events at its main campus (including a $1,500, three-day conference) in addition to connecting grads for periodic alumni meet-ups at a smattering of churches and public libraries on the East Coast. To encourage attendance post-treatment, clients receive e-mail invites but no phone calls. With over 40,000 alumni and counting, the staff can only do so much to encourage each grad to show up. Perhaps Ashley expects God to do the rest.

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