How Beekeeping Helped One Woman Overcome Addiction, Loss

By Victoria Kim 09/13/17

"It gives me that thrill that I enjoy. Instead of heroin, I open a beehive."

A female beekeeper in apiary

Every individual has a unique experience with addiction—and for those who overcome it, their path to recovery is just as unique. 

For Ali Washabaugh, a woman living in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, her path led to beekeeping. With 20 months sober, the self-proclaimed hippie found her calling with the “bees and berries.”

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” she said, according to Herald-Mail Media. “I’m still me and love excitement. When you crack open a hive with 60,000 bees that can kill you, it’s exhilarating. It gives me that thrill that I enjoy. Instead of heroin, I open a beehive.”

In the two years since she answered a newspaper ad for a beekeeping class, Washabaugh now operates an apiary. “I did not care, when something just clicked. I thought there has to be something more. I didn’t know what,” she said.

After 10 years of using, Washabaugh is open to the new challenges that will come with sobriety. “This has not been easy being clean,” she said. “I’ve been in the middle of nowhere. I have no driver’s license. I have to rely on my family to get to work. It’s not easy, and it won’t be. But it’s worth it.”

Washabaugh not only struggled with drug use herself—she lost her brother, a military veteran, to an overdose of prescription meds. “It blindsided us all,” she said. “It can happen to anyone.”

Finding her passion has made all the difference for Washabaugh’s recovery. “I found something that I love. Not only does the beekeeping give me something to do with my free time, but also I’m helping the environment,” she said. “I’m educating myself. I’m learning.”

She notes that everyone has a different outlet for fun and fulfillment—what keeps one person sober may not work for another. “It’s not a cookie-cutter disease. One thing will not work for everyone. It is whatever an individual needs,” she said. “That’s what the community needs to be focused on, the individual.”

Having something to be passionate about is the key to a successful recovery, Washabaugh offers. “They need to find something that they love, that they’re passionate about,” she said. “That they want to get out of bed in the morning for. That occupies their minds so they don’t think about drugs.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr