Published September 26, 2018

I Wouldn’t Have Wanted to Work For Me, Then I Went to the Summit

I am the President and CEO of The Willow Center, a certified outpatient treatment provider and counseling center focused on assisting individuals and families as they find their way back from substance use disorders and other life circumstances. As someone in recovery, celebrating 14 years of sobriety, I am very passionate about showing people what is possible in their own lives.

When I started this organization, I had nothing to lose. But as we started to grow, fear started to creep in.   It wasn’t until I attended the Summit for the first time in 2016 that I realized I had been leading from a place of fear. I was projecting it onto my staff and was not supporting them the way I should have been.  I had been very critical instead of fostering their skills and focusing more on their assets as contributing members of our team.  Truthfully, I wouldn’t have wanted to work for me!

For me, the Summit was life changing!

The Summit has shown me that my influence matters; my leadership matters; the lives I touch and the lives of their families, really matter.

Attending the Summit gave me an opportunity to grow professionally as a leader and personally as someone who is trying to lead more like Jesus in an organization that cannot identify as faith-based due to receiving government funding.   My fear, both internal and projected, wasn’t helping my organization. Because of the Summit, I started to lead for God and I saw things start to change.  I felt God say that He would lead me in every stage of our business.  I was reminded that I am an agent and that God’s plan is bigger than mine.  Even if plans didn’t go like I thought they should, everything would still be ok.

After the Summit I implemented several things.  We are still a work in progress, but we are taking steps forward. These are a few of the things I learned:

  1. I gained confidence to lead from who I am. I am a counselor at heart. Before the Summit I didn’t understand how important it was for me to own my leadership role and to grow in that role. Now I’m embracing my leadership and my team understands our direction.  As a result, we’re well run, and we’ve developed a culture and energy of collaboration and investment.
  2. We started to seek out ways to continue to grow and become “uniquely better”. Inspired from Andy Stanley and his 2017 Summit talk, I decided to hire an executive coach to help me become a better leader.  If I hadn’t attended the Summit and made that decision, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
  3. We are embracing our grander vision to break the stigma of addiction. As a result, more people seek out our services. When people walk out of our doors, they know they are loved. We, as an organization, got better and because of that people in recovery are also getting better!  There are 23 million people in recovery in the US, so we want to open more centers and address this very real need in our society.
  4. I’m giving myself and my team grace. I used to beat myself up about everything, but then I was reminded that God knew what he was doing when he put me in this role.  I have more confidence when I remember to receive His grace.

There are so many ways that people who remind me why we do what we do.  People are reunited with their families.  People have found purpose and meaning. It keeps me going when I see the light return to their eyes.  When we can help one person struggling with addiction, we can help their entire family.

The Summit has shown me that my influence matters; my leadership matters; the lives I touch and the lives of their families, really matter.

About the Author
Ashley English

Ashley English

Founder and Executive Director

The Willow Center

Ashley S. English founded The Willow Treatment and Recovery Center August of 2012 with the intention of providing a place of healing for those seeking relief from addiction and other life issues. As a person in long-term recovery, with over 13 years of sobriety, it is her belief that there is hope for each and every one of her clients and that recovery is possible. Ashley understands firsthand that people are capable of designing their dream life and reaching their fullest potential if given the right support system and accountability. The staff members at The Willow Center are willing to walk with their clients every step of the way. Ashley has been working in the field of addictions since 2004 and has facilitated programming throughout every level of care in the treatment continuum. She is a licensed addictions counselor and certified life coach with a specialty in working with substance impacted individuals. Not everyone who comes to The Willow Center has a substance use disorder, but they all have experienced negative consequences from their use. She is committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with her clients and assisting them in navigating though the challenges they are overcoming in their lives. She is focused on restoring or redesigning a life worth staying sober for so each of her clients can find value in what they are doing.