ASHLEY Perkins and Lalita Burton, the founders of RecoveryLife, went from drug addicts and alcoholics to sober business partners aiming to provide others with easy access to rehab.
The two women have gone viral on social media as they promote their clothing brand, where the money will then be used to provide other addicts with opportunities to better themselves.
Talking to The Sun exclusively, the two best friends revealed that it all started when they formed a friendship when Ashley was just 12 and Lalita was 13. They bonded over their broken homes.
Lalita said: “My mom was an addict, so there was a lot of abandonment trauma there. And like [Ashley’s] mom also left, and her dad married a girl that was just a couple years older than us.
“So just feeling like we weren’t being seen and heard. And yeah, we had no supervision.
Ashley continued: “My dad would text me and say ‘Excuse me, the only reason that you have a phone is so I can just make sure that you’re alive. So I know I’m doing my job.’
“So his job was just to keep me alive. It was not to understand my emotions. He’s a changed man, but yeah.”
Due to their situations at home, Lalita and Ashley began numbing their pain with alcohol and drugs.
But their blooming addiction affected them in different ways: Lalita dropped out of the ninth grade, while Ashley excelled and maintained straight A’s.
“So in this in this time, too, we’re all getting arrested for certain things. Petty thefts, trespasses, a couple of house arrests. And we don’t care,” Ashley said.
By 18, Ashley had gotten her first DUI after being in and out of jail since the age of 14.
Meanwhile, by 19, Lalita had been two rehabs, had been arrested three times, and had been given probation three times as well.
After traveling all the way to California to visit a boyfriend, Lalita stayed for over 10 months after he got her hooked on heroin.
This whole time she had been on probation in Florida following a petty theft, but “I gave no f**ks,” she told The Sun.
Her running away to another state caused her to have a warrant out for her arrest yet again.
Once she came back to Florida, all charges were dropped but she had lost Ashley as a friend, who claimed she was too toxic and a bad influence.
“We were just in our own selfish addiction world,” Ashley told The Sun.
“We just separated because we were doing two different types of drugs. It’s a different lifestyle. Doing heroin and being an alcoholic can be very different, while both are isolating.”
By the age of 21, Lalita was stripping, shooting up drugs, and pregnant with her first child.
“I used the whole pregnancy because I’ve had two abortions and two miscarriages before I got pregnant with my son,” Lalita admitted.
“And the doctor told me on my last miscarriage that I would not be able to carry children.”
Because her doctor had told her she would miscarry no matter what, Lalita didn’t think it was worth getting clean. She also did not receive any prenatal care until she was six months along.
Much to her shock, she was able to carry to term and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, who had no trace of drugs in his system, despite her using the whole time.
“Meanwhile, I’m having a drug dealer bring drugs to the hospital, and I’m shooting them up in my IV and taking the pills,” Lalita admitted.
“That’s the really hard truth that people a lot of people addicts to this day will still not admit. There are thousands of mothers who do that every day.”
Following her testing positive for drugs at the hospital, Lalita was forced into rehab, which she graduated, after DCFS opened a case against her.
After she finally got sober, Lalita cut all ties with Ashley and their crew of friends.
“Except we didn’t know how to hang out without it. If that was her life, I genuinely did not know. We used to sit there and go ‘What do other girls do?’ The sick part is we actually couldn’t understand,” Ashley admitted.
Sadly, it wouldn’t take long until Lalita fell off the wagon again and was “back to the streets, stripping and using drugs.”
After having a third child (her second had been stillborn), Lalita was sober again and seemed to get her life back as she worked, had a family home, but one drink “was the beginning of the end.”
“I lost custody of my kids after that and it took two more years to get clean again,” she admitted.
She not only lost her kids, but she lost her home, her cars, and was living in trap houses while selling drugs.
At the end of 2015, the now-certified life coach moved to Las Vegas while also being on the run from the cops after grand theft auto charges and possession of drugs.
In Vegas, she was arrested for petty crimes and fraud, where she went to jail, and inside found out she was pregnant.
Still, she was not able to stay clean again – but her wake-up call? Her oldest son’s father had overdosed and passed away.
“I had an epiphany then because my son had lost his father and if I didn’t get clean, he could also lose his mom. He would have no parents and my other two kids would not have a mom,” she revealed. “I took a bus from Vegas to Florida, pregnant, and detoxing for three days.”
The last day Lalita used was August 27, 2016, and was finally able to regain custody of all her kids two years later.
At the same time, Lalita had her fourth son “completely clean.”
Unlike Lalita’s teenage years, Ashley decided to go to college to keep up the pretense that she was still ok.
During her college years, Lalita jumped from job to job until she settles down at a country club.
“After totaling a car my parents had given me while drinking and driving, I bought a brand new one, and in just one month, I got in a terrible accident,” she admitted.
While working at the country club, Ashley drank on the job with customers while also taking sips from her own stash in her purse.
Following a fight with her boyfriend at the time, she got in her car, and “that’s a lie I told myself for a long time, but I said that I was simply moving my car,” she admitted.
“I was driving, I was wasted, and I smashed into a mom and a daughter,” she told The Sun through tears. “By the grace of God, they don’t die because I missed their door by like two inches.”
She explained that the mom did end up with injuries that required surgery, while she also sustained a broken nose among other injuries.
However, the only thing she cared about the time was getting the alcohol out of her car because she had previously been arrested for driving under the influence.
Following this accident, she developed chronic alcoholism and found ways to fool the breathalyzer in her car.
“I was drinking from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep,” she revealed. “I would drink two or three beers with you, but I would be secretly taking shots of vodka the whole time.”
By 2016, Lalita had been getting better but Ashley was only getting worse.
“When it gets chronic, you get very sneaky,” she claimed. “I was in a spot where I felt like I had nothing, but I did have something and it was recovery. I just did not know it yet.”
At this point, a sober Lalita reached out to Ashley and tried to help her get clean. And she succeeded at staying clean for just a few days.
After getting clean, she thought she could drink without losing control, but that did not happen. She had relapsed yet again.
“The second you drink again, it’s a demon, it’s over,” Lalita admitted as Ashley revealed she and another girl got drunk with one bottle of vodka.
The personal trainer was able to get clean once more but sadly, relapsed yet again during 2019’s Hurricane Dorian.
“This relapse, I go to drink, I’m sick, I’m dead, I’m instantly poisoned. I was blacked out and throwing up throughout the hurricane,” she admitted. “I’m now homeless and living in my car.”
During a final car accident, Ashley – who had developed psychosis due to her alcohol intake and was on her way to Lalita’s home to try and get clean once more – imagined she had been rear-ended by another car and proceeded to flag down the cops.
The cops figured out almost instantly that she’s intoxicated and arrested her. But instead of booking her into jail, she is admitted into a psych ward after she had threatened to kill herself.
That was also the last day that Ashley drank or used drugs.
RECOVERY LIFE IS BORN
During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the two women came together after they discovered that they, along with other addicts, were feeling restless due to the lockdowns.
“Lalita calls me and tells me that we are just going to start a clothing line,” Ashley revealed. “We started this after we tried to buy actual t-shirts for recovering addicts and they were all novelty shirts.”
In just a matter of weeks, they started a whole new business that they trademarked as RecoveryLife, a typical slogan used in the rehab community.
Their business took off after they began promoting their brand on TikTok, where they have gotten over 225K followers.
“The clothing, we want you to wear something that makes you feel represented and we want to make a financial impact in the recovering community,” Ashley revealed.
“We want to open halfway houses for women where they can bring their children, we want to make scholarships for people who can’t afford rehab or who have just come out of jail, and lastly, we want to stop people from landing in jail because they are addicts.
“And that’s why we sell clothes. We want to make an actual change.”
RecoveryLife doesn’t just offer clothes, but you can also join them every Tuesday for recovery meetings.
If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).