At 15, Dubliner and self-described tomboy Alison Canavan was entered into a modeling competition by her mother. It marked the start of a whirlwind career that found her traveling the globe, featured in the pages of international fashion magazines, walking runways for leading designers, and living the high life in cultural hubs like New York City, Paris, and London. But there was a shadow of sadness following her, which had emerged in her teens and haunted her throughout her twenties. And it was made worse by the nonstop partying lifestyle she threw herself into, with alcohol her drug of choice.
When she drank, she says, “I felt free, I felt good, I had confidence, and I had no worries.” Drinking soon became her obsession: when she could drink, how much she could drink, feeling remorse about something she’d done while drinking—that is, when she could remember what had happened. She tried to stop on occasion, including by attending AA meetings, but couldn’t admit she belonged there. As the years wore on, her “lows got lower,” she recalls. She began relying on Xanax “just to leave the house and get on the subway,” and took Valium to sleep. “Whenever I felt an emotion, I swallowed it with a pill,” she says.