The memory of my first drink is fresh in my mind. I was 13 and it was a can of Coors Light, in the winter, in Canada, with my older brother and his friends. I spent the rest of the night throwing up while his girlfriend held my hair back. This was my initiation in the world of alcohol and I carried on throughout high school. There were periods where I wasn’t interested in it at all, but I always fell back to it.
I was either the life of the party or completely isolated and depressed and shut down at home.
A Part of Life
Alcohol was just a part of my life growing up. My parents drank, my siblings drank, my extended family drank, all of my friends drank. That is just what we did. I didn’t think you really could have a drinking problem if everyone drinks! I had fun, I really and truly had fun until something in me no longer had fun anymore. You see, there was always this underlying depression and anxiety that I was ignoring or not coping with or just plain pretending didn’t exist. I worked out a lot, ate well, and took care of myself except when I was drinking. It still feels confusing to me. I wasn’t a daily drinker – I was a binge drinker and then some.
In my 20s I lived in downtown Toronto and worked in advertising. Work revolved around parties, booze, drinks after work. It was ‘normal’ with everyone doing it and no one looked at me thinking, she is hungover at work… AGAIN. We suffered together and laughed about it. I liked being what I thought was the cool fun guys girl chick. The only constant in my life was was change. I continuously changed jobs in the industry, moved apartments frequently, changed boyfriends all the time. Mostly because when they saw hungover Ashleigh full of depression, they could not deal with that – and honestly, neither could I.
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
I also chose men who were huge partiers themselves who were not looking for a real relationship. Although I somehow thought in the back of my mind, each and every time, that this guy was the one.
I was never happy and forever searching for something that would make me happy in the outside world. Not realizing or even thinking that I had a drinking problem.
My Drinking Problem Evolves
As time went on, I bought a condo downtown across the street from my job. My coworkers drank and did drugs like it was nothing and so that soon became my pattern too. As soon as cocaine was introduced into my repertoire, shit really hit the fan. I stayed out all night and then did more of it to feel better. I was not sleeping, not eating properly, essentially fucking myself up to the point of sheer exhaustion and sadness and literally fuckedupness.
I had lost myself completely.
The come downs were so incredibly painful I had panic attacks, flipped out, lost my mind. I called my parents a few times to come and get me so I could stay with them, but I never told them the truth about my drinking problem and the drugs, just that I had bad anxiety.
Eventually, I quit my super toxic job full of fake friends. I decided the answer to my problem was to take a job selling financial information to brokers and to get away from the familiar people and places. The problem was that I was so bored and lonely I just ended up calling them every time I felt that Friday night feeling coming on and so my drinking problem continued on. Finally, I lost it entirely and quit that job, went to live with my parents, slept literally for almost a month and slowly started feeling better.
Change of Scenery
This brings me to where I live now, the Turks & Caicos Islands, and how I got here. One of my brothers lives here -yes, the older brother who gave me my first Coors Light. I came to visit him to shut out the world, drinking a bit but mostly relaxing, sunning, reading, and just keeping to myself. I visited a few more times until I was offered a job here and decided to take it.
I was really ready to move on, I was ‘happy’ for the first time in a long time.
The End of My Drinking Problem
As time went on living in a beach destination world and as I got to know people more, get my footing, make friends, get a life here, my drinking problem vamped right back up again and then some, to the point of pure hell. I finally hit my bottom, as they say. I worked for a woman on a wedding planning team and on the surface it was the perfect job. In reality, the hours were insane and my boss was killing me to be around. When I finally I decided to end my drinking problem, she, like most people in my life, said she didn’t believe I could do it. According to others, I was just taking a break and I would be back. She would ask me to hold her wine at events, she would push drinks at me, which just made me say, fuck that, even more,
I will prove ALL OF YOU, wrong. And I did.
I threw myself into online AA meetings (because there were no in-person AA meetings here), service work, the 12 steps, everything and anything I could do. I got an online sponsor who worked with me through every painful detail and who celebrated all of the great stuff with me too. Without her guidance I believe I would still be lost. As time went on I grew out of AA but I hold it dear to my heart because without it I shudder to think what might have been. I am still in touch with my sponsor, of course.
I ended my drinking problem almost 4 years ago and I can finally say that I am truly happy for the first time ever in my life. In the process of moving to this island I somehow managed to meet my husband, fall in love, marry, act insanely around him and to him, keep him, and thank the universe every day that he is still in my life.
I am in love with me, my husband, my five rescue dogs, my home, and all the little bits of me that I never paid attention to are now getting the attention they deserve through massive self care.
There were some extremely rough times, especially in my first year of sobriety. Depression hit me with vengeance. I have an amazing doctor that supports me through this process, and for that I am forever grateful. My husband is so thrilled to have his wife back, he is my biggest supporter and love. I lost many people on my journey, but I have gained the right ones. Setting massive boundaries with family members and friends that aren’t able to be supportive has helped me as well.
Life Comes Together
Now, I have completed an Addictions Counselling program and I am currently in a life coaching program working with an amazing group of women. They are running their own coaching businesses, we support each other, we love each other, we are sisters. I have started my own business in counselling/coaching called Turquoise Heals, because I was blessed to have the stunning turquoise waters surrounding me while I got over my drinking problem and while I continue my path of recovery.
Share Your Story
We can change. Life is good, I live in gratitude now knowing just how far I’ve come.
While I still may be on this island where drinking is the past time, it doesn’t have to be. I am comfortable with who I am and know where I belong.
As I sit here writing this I am drinking my morning coffee, eating blueberry pie for breakfast, because why not, I have earned this! I am smiling at the opportunity to share my story with you.
Won’t you share your story with others as well?