Alison is the author of The Addict in Aisle 7, an elite athlete and a recovery warrior. Her success comes from rising above the ashes and the pitfalls of addiction, including drugs, alcohol, work, food and people pleasing. These addictions inspired her to take hold of her own journey, quit using external validations to fill her deep wounded soul and use fitness, community, hard work and accountability as her catalysts for change. She also helps women quit shaming themselves and stepping into their fullest potential.
Eating the Forbidden Food and Beyond
From what Alison remembers as a little kid, she was fed differently. Certain foods were off limits to her but available to others in the household. This would cause her to secretly go downstairs at night when everybody was sleeping and start eating all of the “forbidden things”. The desire of wanting something she couldn’t have just took over and she started binging during the ages of 8 to 10 years old.
Entering puberty where her body started to change, she was the first girl in fifth grade to wear a bra. At the time, she didn’t understand what was happening and why the boys in her school were teasing her or flirting with her. For a young girl this was a very confusing time. She started to rely on food to squash those uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, angst and teenage-hood, and eventually drugs and alcohol entered the picture.
She went to an all-girls’ private high school with a class of 42 girls where she felt out of place and felt like the ostrich in the group. Drugs and alcohol were an instant place to escape. Soon thereafter, at 15 years old, she transferred to a big public school and went from 42 people in her class to 500. This would be a shock to anyone and while in high school she started trying more drugs including pills, ecstasy and heroin. At the time, she actually paused her eating disorder for a bit because she was so numb with those substances. When she got sober at 18, it came back with full vengeance. She compared first getting sober like walking like a baby giraffe and everything was coming at her. It was all extremely overwhelming! This overwhelm led her back to food. This habit perpetuated itself leading into full addiction. It started with an innocent, “I don’t have time to eat lunch today,” followed by all the compliments she was getting about her appearance which just drove her further into her compulsion. By the end, she was only eating one meal a day and she couldn’t stop binging once she started. It got so bad that she clogged her pipes and threw up mid-sentence involuntarily.
At 18 years old, she went off to college and of course, kept partying. She had a realization that she might have a problem when she started noticing that other students in her class were barely getting into drinking and smoking pot for the first time. Alison, on the other hand, was snorting heroin off the table. When she came home from college one day, her parents found out about her alcohol and drug abuse and threatened to take away her horse riding, something very dear to her heart. She was a huge horseback rider and to this day she still credits them with saving her life. She thought to herself, “Okay. Thank God for a high bottom.” Alison then began to go to therapy and went to her first 12 step program recovery meeting in October. She remembers staring at the ground and feeling like chopped meat right on display. Most of the people at the meeting seemed like they weren’t a day under 60 years old! After the meeting she laughed and drank herself into a blackout for the next 10 days. She bounced back from that afterwards though and officially became sober from drugs and alcohol on November 11, 2003. Alison then went to a second 12 step program, this one oriented toward food recovery. She credits this group and the power of the program with saving her life.
Love/Hate Relationship with Horses
Alison started riding horses at three years old and they felt like an extension of herself. Everyone that knew her, knew that she was the horse girl. That’s just who she identified herself as. She began teaching others at the age of 16 and started her own horseback riding business at 20. She had about 25 horses and 50-plus students. She felt rewarded as the business grew but it was definitely an exhausting 8 years for her. Alison truly believes that horses changed the course of her life but today she doesn’t share that same passion she once did. She still acknowledges they are spiritual in nature. She acknowledges the beauty in a 1000-plus-pound body that is so fragile, gentle and powerful in nature all at the same time. But she has had a love/hate relationship with them.
Today she says she hates them but she doesn’t really hate them. She just took a pause from riding them which has lasted over five years now. The reason she went from loving horses to having a bittersweet relationship with them is because she turned this passion of hers into her business and livelihood which caused her to lose her passion. It happens with entrepreneurs more frequently than one would think. When Alison realized her heart just wasn’t in it anymore she sold the business, hung up her boots and walked away. She is so grateful for that experience and without them, she doesn’t know if she would have ever gotten sober. She had poured her life into riding and teaching. It took up most of her time. While in college, she had two horses near school, was riding every day and competing, and this would keep her out of a lot of trouble and helped tremendously in the recovery process. Looking back Alison is so glad she had something to hang onto to get sober that she cared about more than herself. It instilled a sense of discipline and responsibility that has helped her in building a sober foundation.
Replacing Addictive Patterns with Positive Habits
Being an addict and struggling with an eating disorder, Alison went through the gauntlet of emotions from anxiety to self-hatred to shame. For her, shame was the heaviest emotion to process. It’s such a difficult emotion that is hard to identify when someone is in it and some people don’t know they are in it. She felt a genuine disgust for who she was as a person and always felt a sense of brokenness, like she couldn’t get anything right. She had a fundamental belief that she wasn’t worthy and that she wasn’t good enough. When Alison looks back on her life and the people she has “let down” or “disappointed” she realizes she did the most damage to herself. During the thick of her addictions, she would deny this. This denial then became her default reaction to life. When she finally realized that she was in fact causing herself harm, she told herself that she knew she would have to get right with herself and treat herself better. She learned from the hardships and now treats herself with love and respect because she realized she is worth it.
When she first got sober, she initially thought feelings would kill her, especially the bad ones. She only wanted to feel good but knew she couldn’t block negative emotions. They must all be let through and processed appropriately. She now views herself as living proof that she won’t die when things are bad. She would take that written inventory every day as a kind of proof for her to know, “Okay, I felt this yesterday and it passed. I now have tools that I can use. I can call someone. I can write. I can pray. I can walk. I can go to a meeting. I can do something constructive with it.”
When you grow up with addictive patterns of behavior, they tend to transfer into your career as well. Alison is now able to recognize that all of her assets are also her liabilities. She’s always been one to work hard and hustle towards her goals. She’s not afraid to put in the hard work. The positive side of her competitive nature is that she was able to create a business from the ground up and just kept working towards building it. It never occurred to her that she couldn’t. She just kept putting one foot in front of the other. When she thought of an idea or a way to make money, she pursued it wholeheartedly. She was relentless to gain success. She also applied this same character trait into her athletics. This is her asset. The downside to this is that sometimes she doesn’t know when it’s time to let somebody help or when it’s time to pass the torch. Now, she really honors this and doesn’t deny others the opportunity to lend her a helping hand. When you let people in who can actually help you, you can actually grow as a person for the better.
One positive thing that came out of all of this though is that Alison became really active. She started running and lifting. Eventually she incorporated a nutrition and hydration plan in her life as well! She went from being an anxious smoker who was on and off meds, to someone who was running and lifting and prioritizing fitness into her life. Today, fitness is super important to her and she embraces her tendency to be competitive with it. Over the years, she has filled her time with things like fitness, races, traveling and writing.
Alison’s Advice & The Importance of Community
After everything Alison has been through and has experienced, she has a story that she knows can benefit others also struggling with similar addictions. She can remember exactly where she was, how impossible she felt the journey ahead was going to be and how she was all alone. Now she has an experience that she can share with others and provide them hope, “I promise, if you just borrow my experience for half a day, you will believe that you can do the other half of the day on your own.” It reminds her of what it can be like, what she doesn’t want it to be anymore and of how far she’s come. She loves being a support system that others can trust and count on for help.
Alison’s shared the following advice for others who struggle with an eating disorder is:
“Do not be afraid of recovery. I really thought that recovery meant I’d be fat and that I’d have to give up my athletics. I’d have to give up my autonomy around food, or I’d have to eat things that I didn’t want to eat. So, I would say don’t be afraid of recovery, and ask for help.”Alison Haase
For Alison it was a lot of IOP-type group therapy, psychotherapy, retreats, eventually 12 steps and most importantly becoming a part of a community. The importance of building a community of people around you who get it, who are striving toward the same goal as you is of the utmost importance in recovery. From an eating disorder perspective, she can’t stress community enough, because unlike letting go of drugs and alcohol, which people can avoid forever if they want to, you can’t avoid eating. Food is truly non-negotiable. Food is in your life every day multiple times a day, so you’re essentially taking the dragon out and walking it every day. Adding a community has been enormously helpful to Alison. It’s simply not enough to just go to a 12-step meeting and find a sponsor. You have to really dive in and make a big effort. For Alison, she has a plan. Always answer the phone because someone may need help. Talk to a lot of people who support her through the ups and downs, and meet up with people in person to continue building that healthy lifestyle, one day at a time.
Connect with Alison
Check out Alison’s blog, iseektruths.com where she posts a blog a week featuring her daily thoughts derived from her experiences as they occur on a day to day basis. She talks about how most encounters are now simply another opportunity to try again, to do it differently and to learn whatever lesson presents itself. She intends to shed light on things that some may find uncomfortable, speak the truth and share in a way that others might relate to so that everyone can navigate through life together, perhaps a little bit more easily.
She is the author The Addict in Aisle 7 which can be purchased on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle. Alison’s story mainly focuses on how she suffered from an eating disorder called Bulimia which means she was binging and purging. Whenever she would go on one of her escapades to the grocery store, she would say to herself, “I’m going to Aisle 7.” She didn’t know what Aisle 7 was, but Aisle 7 encompassed all the food that would numb her out the best way she knew how. After she had been in recovery for a few years and had stopped participating in these behaviors, she just alludes to Aisle 7, “Stay away from Aisle 7,” and then if something pops up, it’s Aisle 7. The Addict in Aisle 7 is a perfect alignment for all the things that caused her to use and helped her recover at the same time.
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