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Mardi Gras a troubling time for former addicts

Mardi Gras was once difficult time, until a woman, originally from Tennessee, had an idea.

NEW ORLEANS — And those who struggle with addiction, say parade season is one of the most difficult times to be in recovery.

People recovering from alcohol and drug addiction say, “Taking one is too many, but 1,000 is not enough.”

They know they need to change the people, places, and things in their lives to stay sober.

Mardi Gras was once difficult time, until a woman, originally from Tennessee, had an idea.

Elaine Tang remembers a Mardi Gras past, before she got clean and sober.

“It was the hardest time. I was blacked out, and a good Samaritan brought me to the hospital and I was like kicking and fighting all the nurses. I was fighting the nurses, handcuffed to a hospital bed, getting my stomach pumped,” said Tang, 35, who went through the Avenue Recovery Center program.

She, and boyfriend Garrett Potts, say getting treatment at Avenues Recovery Center was life changing, and lifesaving.

“It gave me an opportunity to build a life that I didn't have, to escape from my addiction was based on escaping reality  and basically I made my life unlivable,” said Garrett Pitts, 42, who also went through the program.

Ashley Duncan Soriano is the coordinator for those who have gone through the Avenues Recovery program. She's seven years recovered herself, and started hearing from clients that Mardi Gras was a stressful time and too much of a trigger to use again.

“I didn't get sober to be miserable, and so one thing that I tried to encourage my alumni to do is have as much fun as possible,” said Soriano.

“You walk down the street and everyone's drinking. There's signs for beer and liquor all over the place. I thought that's it. There's no more fun. I'm never going to have fun again for the rest of my life,” Potts remembers thinking. 

So last Mardi Gras, Ashley had an idea.

“And so I thought what if we all went together. What if we just got a group of people and we went together,” said Soriano.

And so the Mardi Gras Sober Safe Spots were created. One is on the Orleans parade route on St. Charles and Napoleon, and the other is on the Jefferson parade route on Veterans at Causeway.

“It's a place where I can have fun and be around like-minded people, like I don't have to feel the pressure to drink,” said Tang.

“There's no pressure, just a bunch of folks having fun. It's good clean fun, and the second is to show people that we do recover, to show people there is a way out,” said Potts.

“They get a little nervous. That's OK. We got you. We're going to go together as a family,” said Soriano.

And Ashley says there's another benefit to the Sober Safe Spots. Last year, it inspired people who feared taking the first step to get treatment or to sign up for help.

It is open to all people who are in recovery with any program, from February 10 through Carnival Day on the 21st.

Here is a link to Sober Safe Spot locations:

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