My name is Ashleigh, I am a Canadian living in the Turks & Caicos Islands with my husband and five amazing rescue dogs. I have lived here for nine years and while I was once a city girl from Toronto I am now full of island peace and stillness and I couldn’t be happier to be surrounded by such beautiful turquoise waters each and every day.
My story begins really back to when I was a teenager… but I am going to start with sharing when my recovery began and not just recovery from alcohol and drugs, but recovery from my self imposed oppression. I spent so much of my life not feeling good enough, feeling depressed, anxious, an emotional roller coaster and really never able to settle on much of anything. I changed high schools, I changed Universities, I changed jobs, I changed boyfriends, I moved cities, countries, apartments so many times I can’t even count. I moved apartments in foreign countries multiple times even, I just couldn’t settle. At the time I didn’t feel like any of this was strange, there was always a reason, an excuse, but realistically I was continuously running from myself, something we all know is impossible.
When I made the decision to move to the Turks & Caicos, it felt like yet another moment of running away but to be honest, it was different this time. I had been living and working in downtown Toronto in advertising and media for years, an industry that brings a lot of drinking, nights out, events, clients, and partying with it… this soon turned into what I did, it became my habit. While I may not have been drinking every day when I did drink I went full out! I did have periods in the past where I took breaks and didn’t worry or think about alcohol but over time it became a must and that is when things really got out of hand. I don’t like labels, I don’t believe I am an ‘alcoholic’ what I do believe is that I needed to heal and face all of me, after years of ups and downs, binge drinking and partying way too much in Toronto and on an island full of booze, it was finally time to face myself.
2. How long were you addicted & what? How did it change your life?
I would say that I was ‘addicted’ or had issues with alcohol, pot and cigarettes since I was a teenager, running after the high that alcohol or pot gave me, the high that I felt I needed to get through life, I loved being social and partying so very much, it was when I felt my best. I entered a period later in life where alcohol led to cocaine, I was stepping up my high and with that came greater come downs. It changed my life in so many ways, I felt like I could conquer the world but I also despised myself at the same time. Isn’t that what alcohol and drugs do to us? As we continue to chase that high the come downs become greater and we then chase that high even more… until we break. I had to go through this intolerable experience over and over again to fully and completely break. I am not saying I was using cocaine constantly because I wasn’t, there was even a time when I stopped for three years. However, alcohol and drugs changed my life by ruining my entire being, my thought process, my patterns, my negative outlook, my self hatred, my depression, my anxiety, the more I drank, the more I was feeding the demon inside of me.
3. What was the breaking point for you to get clean?
The breaking point for me was when I realized just how much harm I was causing, not only to myself but also to those around me, mostly my husband. I was so selfish in our relationship, in the beginning of our marriage and over time I was unbearable to be around. In the past, I had never really been accountable for my actions because I lived alone, I surrounded myself with drinkers and partiers and really that was all I cared about for a long time. My life had no substance. It was when I looked at my husband one day, while in my doctor’s office, while finally acknowledging and admitting that I had a problem that things really hit home, and hard. The walls came crashing down on me and I knew it was time. I was so desperate to be healthy and happy that I was willing to do anything to make that happen.
4. How did you get clean and how long have you been sober for? What was the hardest part for you about recovery and how did you overcome it?
I got clean by taking things one day at a time via AA online. I got a sponsor online, I dove into the steps, online meetings and service work with full force. I worked with my doctor on my mental health issues. At times I still questioned if I had a problem until finally I realized that I wouldn’t be immersing myself so fully into AA if I didn’t have a problem. My willingness to get better was beyond committed. While I am not a part of the AA community anymore, I hold it very dear to my heart because without it I would not be where I am today. I will be 4 years sober on September 24, 2017, hooray!
The hardest part about my recovery was losing almost all of my friends and the shifts that happened in my relationships, even writing this write now hurts my heart just a little bit still. Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of support in my early sobriety. I don’t blame anyone at all, it just happened this way and it was fucking hard and it hurt and I was sad, very sad for quite some time in my early recovery. I overcame it by realizing that my true friends were the ones that were still there for me, my supporters, if I had two real friends that was much better that a sea of fake friends that didn’t care for me or my well being. I have my husband who is my best friend, who believed in me each and every day and still does despite all that we have been through. We have to face some really hard truths when we get sober but when we do we come out stronger than we ever thought possible. We meet new amazing people that are open to new possibilities, that care, that are intrigued by life and are excited about living.
5. What is your motivation to stay clean? And how did you do it?
My motivation to stay clean is how amazing I feel, even on tough days, and although I don’t hold the negative memories in my head anymore, I keep that tiny bit there, just enough to remind me that I NEVER want to live that way ever again.
As I mentioned above I began my recovery with online AA (because at the time we didn’t have AA meetings on the island) and also because I think I was a little bit scared to enter the world sober, so online felt safe. I transitioned away from AA, really I think I outgrew it and was ready for more, ready to feel more, not to stay stuck in the ‘powerlessness’ mindset of alcoholism because I don’t believe we are ever powerless.
I sincerely had no clue what to do with myself, my life, and that was hard too. I was in constant frustration as to what was next while knowing that I had to be patient and trust that all would happen at the right time… and it did and it has.
During this time of what felt like a ‘waiting period’ I spent a lot of time volunteering at the local SPCA and to be honest in many ways it saved my life too. I was really nervous to put myself back out in the community sober, especially on an island where it can feel like drinking is the past time everywhere you go, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it is the land of perpetual summer and sunset drinks. I am a huge animal lover and there is a large stray population here that needs help, to be able to be a part of this gave me a sense of purpose. Not to mention the women at the SPCA have become a little island family to me and I always hold a place in my heart for them and for the animals. While I don’t volunteer like I did in the past I do my best to help when and where I can while building my personal business. This brings me to my next shift in my recovery and where I am at today.
I began studying at McMaster University online to become an Addictions Counselor, I wanted to know anything and everything. I have also completed a Recovery Coaching Program, I am currently part of a business Mastermind group with 8 other amazing women all with unique and diverse abilities. From all of this my personal coaching business was created: ‘Turquoise Heals, Inspire & Ignite Recovery’. I stay clean by helping others, by giving back, this is what it’s all about, this is what has awakened me to my amazing life. Helping others to understand that they are never alone is my passion.
6. For someone in the same situation as you who wants to get clean, what would you want to tell them?
I would tell them that if they can think it, dream it, feel it, then they can do it, as long as their intentions are pure. Dream big and know that a path exists in order to bring it to light. If you can get clean you can do anything! Truthfully. Once you are clean a whole new world opens up to you, one that is absolutely magical. And ask for help, absolutely, you cannot do this alone, don’t try to, this is so important.
7. What is your life’s moto?
The goal isn’t to be sober, the goal is to love yourself so much that you don’t need to drink. Be the change you wish to see in the world, live your passion.
Thank you so very much for inviting me to be interviewed with Begin Recovery, I am so very appreciative.
Ashleigh Simonton is the Founder and Creator of Turquoise Heals, Inspire & Ignite Recovery.
Ashleigh is originally from Toronto, Canada and has been living in the Turks and Caicos Islands for nine years, (alomst) four of which she has been gratefully sober. She is blessed to be surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, she simply could not ask for a better setting to heal and to help others.
Ashleigh’s personal path of sobriety has led her to love living a clean and healthy lifestyle with clarity, authenticity and truth. Her passion is working with others in recovery in order to help them recognize and maintain the true light that shines within them.
Her professional and educational background includes studies and employment in the areas of; Sociology, Anthropology, Community and Ethnic Studies, Teaching English as a Second Language, Advertising, Marketing, Event Planning, Tourism, Addiction Studies, Recovery Coach Training, and a whole lot of learning through yoga, running, meditation, health and wellness, world travel, her dogs, and life experiences.
Ashleigh is a Certified Addictions Counselor and a Certified Recovery Coach, with some spirituality sprinkled in for good measure.
If you are interested in joining this event, or contacting Ashleigh for a one on one session, or you simply want to learn more about Turquoise Heals you can find and follow Ashleigh at:
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