Stay True.

A Word from our Founder…

I feel so blessed to have had the most amazing experience of my life while in treatment and continuing on through sober living and aftercare. In my late 20’s, I could not stand to look in the mirror. I couldn’t stand to look my loved ones in the eye and see their disappointment in me. After nearly ten years of being broken with addiction, I had the sudden revelation that if I continued the way I was, my life would surely end. The joy that I had once felt for every day had somehow been lost. I was completely consumed by getting and using, getting and using. I had destroyed my relationship with my family, and I shamefully avoided all my friends that mattered most.

I was in a wilderness therapeutic program for just shy of 90 days. At around two weeks in, I began to love the things that once brought me joy. These things were hard to discover, because they had been gone for so long.

I started to draw. I started to play guitar and sing again. I wrote some of my most important journal excerpts of my entire life during this time. I started to let people in. The friends I made there are some of my best friends today. I have seen them become nurses, enter school to get their PhD to become doctors, held their hand after their first child was born and watch them become the most amazing mothers. You see, addicts are not weak. We are not ignorant. We were just at one time sick, but we’re getting better.

My sober living aftercare protected all that I learned in treatment. I was not ready to be on my own. It took me a long time to get as bad as I was, and it was going to take a lot of help to get me out, one day at a time.

Since 2010, I have been sober and getting back what addiction took away from me. I have worked in the recovery field in many areas, including direct care at multiple primary treatment programs, bedside in a psychiatric unit as a certified nursing assistant, and more recently working with clients and families as an admissions counselor for a young adult program.

My life now is something I would have only dreamed of having years ago. The rewards of my recovery keep coming daily. It only gets better and better, and I anxiously await to watch this process happen with the young women of Ember Lodge.

This way of life has become a dream come true. I am forever grateful for my gift of sobriety… but as we learn in recovery, the only way to keep this gift is to give it away.

bekah and jager
Bekah and Jäger
staff photo

About Our Team

staff photo

Sarah Lewis-Fernandez, LCSW, LCAS, CASAC, CT

Group Facilitator

Sarah is a compassionate and experienced therapist. She began her professional work in 1995, specializing in the treatment of substance use and trauma with individuals and families. She has practiced in Brooklyn NY, Miami FL and Asheville NC and maintains licensure in each of these states. Beginning as a credentialed substance use disorder counselor, later gaining an MSW, and in 2007 Sarah became a Certified Traumatologist.

Sarah provides therapeutic support and trauma treatment for individuals and families in an outpatient setting. Due to being in practice for an extensive time, she is able to incorporate a wide variety of evidenced based practices in traditional relationship centered therapy. Sarah is also able to employ TIR and EMDR as effective and complimentary trauma focused interventions. Attachment, boundaries and effective communication in relationships, especially for adoptive children and families that have had crisis, is an integral part of her assessment and treatment process.

Even though it has been over 20 years in clinical practice, she remains honored and humbled by the trust and vulnerability that occurs in the context of the therapeutic relationship, especially valuing the process of witnessing the growth and development of individuals and families.

staff photo

Makayla Lechnowskyj, BSN, CADC-I

Program Manager and Life Coach

Originally from San Diego, Makayla began her career helping others as Certified Nursing Assistant in a Traumatic Brain Injury unit. From here, Makayla obtained her Bachelors Degree in Nursing and worked as a Registered Nurse in Neurological ICU, Trauma, Oncology, and End of Life Care.

Since moving to Asheville, Makayla has obtained her Certified Alcohol and Drug Counseling certificate and currently attends Western Carolina University for her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Makayla believes strongly in a holistic approach to addiction, which combines multiple modalities of support and treatment to heal the body, mind, and soul. Her education as a Nurse has given her an understanding of the psychological and physiological natures of addiction which she strives to share with others. Her own recovery has shown Makayla how long and sometimes dark the road to recovery can be, and that with dedication and support we can all find our way back to the person we are without addiction.

When not working with others in recovery she enjoys paddle boarding, drawing, and indoor plants.

staff photo

Briana Sabaj, L.Ac, MSTOM

Acupuncturist

licensed and board certified to practice Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture and herbal therapy. She is owner and founder of her private practice, Healing Point Acupuncture and Wellness. Most recently, she has created Live By the Earth, a place where people can learn about conscious and sustainable living practices. Briana has been passionately studying, working, educating and training within the natural health field for the last 15 years.

Briana spends quality time helping patients and the community reach optimal health by using tools and methods within the scope of Chinese Medicine, such as Acupuncture, Herbal and Nutritional Therapy, Massage and Bodywork Therapy, and Internal Martial Arts. She also uses Essential Oils, Visceral Manipulation, Healing Touch Therapy, and Tuning Forks. This holistic approach, of not only treating the ‘branch’ of the dis-ease, but the ‘root’ as well, is extremely valuable to restoring balance within.

Her passion and mission is to help connect and guide people on their path towards optimal health and wellness, using natural health-care solutions! She helps patients create action plans using these efficient solutions! This connection and alignment of the body, mind, and spirit is absolutely necessary towards creating and sustaining a healthy and vital life!

Briana has successfully worked with a variety of life’s imbalances! From pain management, musculoskeletal disorders, mental and emotional issues, digestive disorders, maintenance and preventative care. 

In her spare time, Briana loves family and friends time, being outdoors, immersing herself in natural health studies, listening to music and just ‘being’.

staff photo

Katie Gelin

Holistic Food Educator

Katie teaches our Nourishing Recovery class, working with our residents in the garden and kitchen to build an informed, empowered, and creative connection to plants as food. They believe in the inherently therapeutic power of food as an integral part of recovery. Whether delving into the cultural significance of a crop, reviewing its biology, or tasting it’s flavors, Katie involves the learners in every process. They draw on their experience as a cook, grower, and social justice organizer to educate and inspire the folks that they work with. Katie also enjoys making art and spending wholesome time with friends as family.

staff photo

Jenna McLeod

Recovery Mentor

Jenna is a student at Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She has previously worked in the field serving victims of sexual violence as well as offenders re-entry programs. She was drawn to hearing people’s stories as they seek to understand their many identities and selves. Jenna loves providing opportunities for client’s to explore new interests and being a part of Ember Lodge’s open, supportive staff! When she graduates, she aims to continue bridging the body, mind, and spirit through using Somatic and Gestalt therapy with those healing traumas. In her free time she likes to be among tall trees, garden, or sit on porches with a cup of tea. Originally from Orlando, her family lives in Charleston now. She loves having the best of both worlds – the beach and the mountains.

staff photo

Amanda Karr

Senior Program Manager

Amanda is a senior studying Psychology at UNC-Asheville, where she serves as a student wellness coach and the president of the campus Psi Chi Psychology Club. Amanda has a personal history of addiction and recovery that drives her passion for helping others. Through her own journey she has discovered the importance of self-work and practiced with various tools of holistic healing. Amanda is particularly passionate about helping people who, like her, struggle with the co-occurrence of mental health and addiction disorders.

Amanda grew up in a small town in Connecticut and moved to North Carolina in 2014 to pursue her education. She plans to become a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor and attain a Masters in Counseling. Currently she lives a lifestyle that focuses on growth – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. She finds that the key to her successful recovery is to maintain a well-rounded and balanced routine in all aspects. Amanda enjoys journaling, meditation, exercising, and healthy foods.

staff photo

Ashley Butawan

Family Therapist

Ashley was first exposed to the fields of mental health, addiction, and trauma work while working in adolescent residential treatment centers as direct care staff. Through this experience she developed the belief that informs her interest and passion for this work: that human beings are all just trying to feel “okay” and the understanding that that manifests in various ways. From this position she has challenged others to explore how they might show up differently in their lives–by choosing how they want to be, rather than falling back on that which is comfortable and familiar.

As a licensed clinician, she has most recently worked with young adults struggling with substance abuse, maintaining the perspective that an individual’s recovery goes beyond ceasing the use of substances and, instead, more earnestly evaluating the other behaviors that foster one’s experiential avoidance.

Currently, Ashley oversees an adolescent treatment center utilizing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Emotion Focused Family Therapy to assist clients and their support systems to navigate their own discomfort and to develop more effective and grounded ways to communicate and ultimately cultivate more connection and understanding.