Allie Armbruster Bennett (J.D. ’20) climbed from the depths of addiction to graduate summa cum laude from the College of Law. With five years of sobriety under her belt, she’s more determined than ever to prove she was worth taking a chance on.
WHEN SHE WOKE UP IN PIEDMONT HOSPITAL OCT. 7, 2015, Allie Armbruster made some promises to herself: This time she was going to get her act together. This time she was going to stay clean. This time would be the last time she would overdose.
With a future now as bright as ever, she’s keeping those promises.
On Oct. 6, nearly five years to the day after a near-fatal heroin overdose landed her in the hospital, Allie Armbruster Bennett — as she is known since being married in August — completed the Georgia bar exam. And she has a lot yet to look forward to.
She’s planning to start her new job in January at the Atlanta law firm of King & Spalding. She’s hoping by then to be admitted to the Georgia Bar Association as a practicing attorney.
She is working to build a career she wasn’t sure just a few years ago would be open to someone like her: a convicted felon with a history of addiction that had claimed nearly a decade of her young life.
But since deciding to do the work to stay sober, Bennett has had no shortage of reasons to make sure her past is just that — the past.
“I’d had about six months sober when I relapsed in 2015, and I’d been using for about a week when I ended up in the hospital,” Bennett says. “I had been doing better than I’d done in seven years, and when I overdosed, I think that was the first time that I really felt like I had something to lose and I didn’t want to lose it.”
So, in 2015, she began her recovery with the help of a sponsor, 12-step meetings and regular yoga practice. After earning the bachelor’s degree she’d put on hold years before, she took a chance on applying to law schools. She was wait-listed nearly everywhere, except at Georgia State, which took a chance on her.
On Nov. 7, Bennett was hooded in a small ceremony at the College of Law attended by her biggest supporters and those for whom she has every reason to stay the course: her mom, dad, stepmom, sister and her new husband. Setting out to make “Georgia State proud of its decision to let me in,” Bennett graduated summa cum laude, with highest distinction.
“I didn’t even know if I was going to live to be the age of 30 and now there are so many things I get to experience that I didn’t think were going to be possible,” Bennett says. “I know that I can’t have any of these things that I’ve worked so hard for if I don’t stay sober. As difficult as this year has been, there have also been a bunch of amazing things that were only possible because I’m sober, and that keeps me going.”
Read more about Bennett’s journey in “A Life Worth Fighting For” from the summer 2018 issue of the magazine.
Top photo by Gregory Miller
Graduation photos by Shay Richards