Hi, my name is Alison. I’d like to think I’m a recovery rock star: recovering attorney, recovering athlete, recovering former-married-person, recovering Catholic, recovering meat-eater, recovering (yet PROUD) Floridian, but most importantly, a recovering alcoholic. Yikes, I put that out there quickly, huh? That’s how I roll. I’m actually super proud of my recovery today. I spent so long hiding everything about my life - I refuse to hide any longer. My sobriety date is August 3, 2012 – a day that for me is synonymous with my rebirth. The very short story about why I am here writing today is that I was a raging alcoholic who was in the process of torching my life to the ground, and I came way too close to drinking myself to death in my early 30s. Grace exists, though, and I was randomly chosen to find recovery. And I say random, because I believe I am no better or worse than anyone out there, alive or dead, drinking or stone sober. I’m just damn lucky. Really damn lucky.
Through recovery, I started to relearn how to live my life without my crutch of alcohol. And while going through this process, and really starting to feel better physically, I woke up one day and realized I literally had NO IDEA who I was any longer. It sounds so ridiculous, but at age 33, I didn’t even know what my favorite color was. Did I prefer to vacation in the mountains or on the beach? Did I like to take walks? What kind of books did I like to read? Do I prefer comedies, dramas, or documentaries? What kind of clothes do I even like to wear?? Then on to the more terrifying questions: what do I stand for? What do I want to do with my life? What is important that I get done during my short time on the planet? What is my purpose?!?! And and and and...it was like I passed out drunk one day, and woke up the next as a child in a 33-year old’s body, having to re-learn what makes me tick, what intrigues me. Honestly, I didn’t even know where to start. I spent a lot of my early sobriety wandering aimlessly, because, often when I’m scared or don’t know what to do, I become an ostrich. Yup, I stick my head in the sand. Old habits die hard, I suppose. People who came before me kept telling me that I was “exactly where I was supposed to be” and “in God’s time,” and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to piledrive these people into the ground when I heard this sh#t. But I’ve come to realize that they were right.
Sure enough, little by little, as I cleared out of my alcoholic murk, I started to learn little nuggets about myself. I discovered that, after an entire adulthood of not liking anything sweet, I became a sugar addict (as many recovering alcoholics do to replace all that sugar we had unknowingly been consuming!). Ask any of my friends. I spent my entire first year of recovery eating gummi peach rings, donuts, and Diet Dr. Pepper for breakfast. I’ve calmed down on the sugar since (slightly), but I now love dessert and feel incomplete without it! I learned that I actually hate wearing high heels even though they supposedly make your legs look better, and guess what – I’m not doing it anymore – they hurt! I learned that I feel most like myself in my cut-off shorts, tank tops, and flip flops. #florida. I learned that while I had spent my whole life with my nose in a book (English Lit major), that in early recovery, I just didn’t have the attention span for it, at least temporarily, and that broke my heart a little bit.
As these minor epiphanies appeared to me, I was clearing the small, easy rocks that had been blocking me from knowing who adult sober Alison was. And as I became more solid in my sobriety, I started yearning to move the bigger rocks - the rocks that were blocking me from figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, my true purpose. As much as I yearned, I still had no idea where to start. So after more time with my head stuck in the sand, I decided that nothing changes if nothing changes, and I needed to take some action. After all, life is more than just sand! I ended up in therapy for depression (for the fourth time in life, but for the first time sober). I am simplifying this A LOT, but through talking to my therapist, and being asked to think about myself as a child and what was it that really intrigued me back then, what had I always dreamed of doing, what used to make me happy…and I had it. I HAD IT!!!
When I was a young child, my parents used to order me what I called “animal cards” – they were basically double-sided flash cards with a picture of the animal on the front, along with the name, a map pinpointing where the animal could be found, and the back went into detail about that animal’s traits, diet, habitat, etc. They came in a container that reminded me of a tackle box, and I must have had hundreds of them. I was OBSESSED with my animal cards, especially with the exotic animals, which were typically found in exotic locations, which then piqued my interest in these far-away places. From the time I was five years old, all I wanted to do was go to Madagascar because it’s the only place in the world where I could see an aye-aye in its natural habitat. This love of my animal cards led to my next childhood love story–me and my atlases. To this day, I haven’t met an atlas I didn’t fawn over. I collected them, scrutinized them, planned everywhere in the whole wide world that I would go when I was older – traveling became my fantasy as early as age seven. India, Borneo, Mozambique, Ethiopia, the Pitcairn Islands…the more exotic-seeming, the better! We couldn’t travel when I was growing up because my family couldn’t afford it. I decided that whatever I did when I grew up, it would have to be something where I would make enough money to be able to afford to travel the world. That was the plan.
And in part, I succeeded, but all the while was circling the drain. I went to a prestigious Division I university on a full athletic scholarship, which is where my drinking began to noticeably take its grip on me, but I was still able to function well enough to graduate college with a great GPA and was accepted into a top-tier law school. Looking back, this all amazes me, and I don’t know how I managed to succeed during those years – because I was playing a dangerous game with alcohol the whole time. For most of my life past age 17, I was hanging on by a mere thread, unbeknownst to everyone (even myself for a long time). I became an attorney and continued my destructive path, leading a double life, and I became more and more deeply unsatisfied with my path. Year after year, month after month, my alcoholism began to tighten its grip and eventually started to strangle me. My dreams of chasing aye-ayes in Madagascar and traveling the world started to fade and eventually became a distant memory, something that would never be. Almost another life unrecognizable and unconnected to what my own had turned into. The bright-eyed, passionate, nothing’s-gonna-stop-her-from-getting-to-Madagascar girl was gone, or buried under so much guilt and regret and rage and tears and booze that it didn’t seem like I could ever find her again. At the end, I only drank alone, and when I drank, I went on Facebook and scrolled through the feeds of my well-traveled friends and would ugly-cry about how I would never get to follow my dream of traveling the world. I couldn’t, I was too chained to my cups at that point – a jail cell that I couldn’t, and at times didn’t want to, escape.
Except, as I said before, I got damn lucky. I was gifted a second chance at life, my recovery. And with this second chance, over time, I have been able to dig that bright-eyed, passionate, nothings’-gonna-stop-her girl out from underneath the ashes of my alcoholism and breathe the life back into her. That girl is me. Alison from ashes. And I am now living my passion of traveling around the world, one trip at a time, while I continue to rebuild and nourish my every-growing life. In the past 4 and a half years, I have been to Puerto Rico (twice), Canada, Italy, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, and India – and have Morocco booked for March 2018. And for my birthday in Autumn 2018, I am aiming to go to…Madagascar, FINALLY!
And that’s what I want to share. A message of hope, a message of recovery, and moreover, a message of finding that passion which drives us. That thing that lights us up from the inside out, that puts an accidental smile on our face by even thinking about it. And then taking action to live out that passion – do not let it die on the vine, it is too precious! My passion is going way off the beaten path and meeting the people of the word, sharing food and tea and laughter, learning about their history, their families, and their culture. I love traveling solo. It is absolutely my favorite thing to do. Through my adventures, I have learned that there are no strangers in this world, only friends.
I would love to be a full-time traveler at some point in the future, but that is not the plan for me right now. I have a very demanding and fast-paced career, which I am really enjoying, and it affords me the opportunity to take a couple big trips per year. I will share my travel vignettes (past and as they occur), as well as sharing the very long version of my alcoholism (at some point), what happened (my stories), how I found and keep my recovery (life), and what moves me (passion). My hope in writing this is that by sharing my story of almost complete self-destruction-turned-living the life I believe I was meant to live, I can instill hope in others where there may be none. I had lost myself beyond all recognition, and I was on the fast track to dying way too young. But through recovery, I was able to find myself again. I didn’t think it was possible. I believe that I was born to wander, to travel the world and never stop exploring - it is the love of my life. I’m thrilled (and terrified) to be sharing this with you, and if it helps just one soul, it will be worth it.
P.S. – My favorite color is purple!