In my life, every time I have faced a transition I have experienced fear and anxiety. What will happen next? How will my life change? Will I be able to rise to the occasion and become successful? Will I fail? Will people accept me or like me? Can I make a real contribution to this new chapter in my life? Will my painful past eliminate me from the running? Can people accept my history of addiction and recovery and will they respect the work I am doing to give back hope, love and encouragement to other addicts. Will I be harshly judged and then discarded as damaged goods with a high-risk factor?
There have been several key transitions in my life. Due to my father’s business career, our family lived in England from 1964 to 1970, my ages six to twelve. There are six kids in my family and all of us were anxious, fearful and excited about moving to a foreign country. In England, I was the “Yankee American” and there was a fair amount of teasing and ridicule. The English students came to respect me for my success in becoming the captain of the under-eleven rugby team and playing soccer as well as for expressing my temper. My last name is Allison and there was one kid who repeatedly taunted me, calling me, “Allison in Wonderland”. One day, when I had just turned eleven years old, the other kid was insulting me again, and I hit him so hard that he was passed out before he hit the pavement. He never bothered me again.
Academically, the British were at least a year ahead and so I had a lot of catching up to do including learning how to speak Latin. I achieved O.K. grades and loved the religious education class where we listened to the teacher tell the Bible stories about Jesus. Jesus became my hero way back then.
After six years in England, it was time to come home to the United States and I could not wait. I had the same anxiety, fear and excitement that I had when we journeyed to England, but knowing that I was going home, made it sweet. I came back to sixth grade and I remember the kids calling me a “limey” which is slang for an Englishman, since I still had a full English accent. The coach at the grade school in America advised my mother to get me involved in sports at the school as soon as possible, since this would help me to assimilate into American culture and help me to make new friends. I joined the tag football team and did well, earning the accolade “Bullet Bob” for my running speed and enthusiasm. Academically, I did very well, bolstered by the British education.
The next major transition was from grade school to high school. I spent an entire year getting myself psyched up to perform well in both high school academics and sports.
By the time I entered my freshman year in high school I was roaring to go, thanks in part to the prayer life I had developed in grade school. I remember when I joined the Freshman football team, I was the left tail back and I had to memorize dozens of football plays. I used to lie in bed and ask Jesus to review the plays in my head, so I could visualize them so when I stepped onto the field itl would be automatic to me and I could just focus on running fast and dodging the defensive players who were trying to kill me.
So my success and my decisions during the high school transition, was made possible by my faith and relationship with Jesus and also “psyching myself up” and raising my expectations of myself, so I could excel in both sports and academics. I achieved an A- average for all four years of high school and I was in four sports: football, wrestling, tennis and soccer. Importantly, by the time I graduated from high school, I was addicted to both alcohol and marijuana and this was the beginning of my life of addiction.
High school to college was the next big transition. One observation I have is that going from high school to college, I no longer had as close a relationship with Jesus that I had during high school. The drugs and alcohol that I was consuming served to block that relationship. I was acting mainly on self-propulsion, but I would later discover that self-reliance does not work. I repeated my high school experience with excellence in academics, but in college I was not in any organized sports. I was always looking ahead to the next transition, which after college was graduate school in business.
Competition to get into the top business schools was fierce and I worked hard in college to achieve almost perfect grades. I accepted an offer to attend a top MBA program. I lasted a year and half and then dropped out for mental health reasons. I thought getting a graduate degree would solve all of my problems and assure me of a successful business career. I was wrong.
I just wanted to be a salesman and did not have the passion to attain a graduate degree. I was ill prepared for pursuing the graduate degree because I really did not want to do it, but I was being influenced by my father, who thought it was a magical foundation for success.
Looking back, I should have had a long talk with my spirit to figure out what I wanted to do. What was my passion? Was analytics and numbers something that I wanted to spend my precious time doing, or would I prefer to help people directly and make an eternal impact on their lives?
Times of transition can be scary and the fear can paralyze us. I am having faith that God is watching out for me when my hope is weak. I have faith that Jesus will love me as he always has. Jesus will lead me to the right path.
There have been other very intense life-changing transitions. For over 20 years, I was addicted to alcohol, marijuana and cocaine and I ended up homeless on the streets of Denver, Colorado for one year. That was a huge transition which almost took my life.
The next transition saved my life. While homeless and living out on the streets, in Denver Colorado, I found a small electrical utility closet that I could open with a plastic comb and then lock the door from the inside. Life on the streets at night was dangerous and deadly. Homeless people were being killed by members of the Skinhead gang. They were killing people in order to earn entrance into the gang and homeless people were easy targets.
Here is the transition that saved my life: I woke up one morning in that closet and immediately felt the physical pain of pancreatitis from alcohol poisoning, mental pain in the form of over-powering fear and anger and a loneliness that I could feel like an aching pain in my bones. I was right on the edge of losing all of my hope and desire to live. I was terrified. My hands trembled and shook. I was like a wild animal who had been cornered and was ready to strike out. I was defeated by drugs, failing physical health and extreme mental stress caused by alcohol addiction. I was either going to live or die. I had reached the ultimate transition.
In desperation, and consumed by a vicious fear, and with just a spark of faith, I called out a most powerful prayer. Like a drowning man reaching out for a life-line, I shouted out: “Jesus Please Help Me!” This was the surrender that made my new life possible. Miraculously, two days later, I found myself in a group of 25 other addicts at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota.
Jesus had helped me to bridge the gap between death and life and I began my new life of sobriety, sanity and joy in 1998. Jesus brought me through this most dangerous transition. My life is completely different today. because of the Grace of Jesus Christ, I have 22 years of sobriety, a beautiful wife, a son and a peaceful home in a quiet neighborhood along with two West Highland Terrier dogs, and two awesome grandchildren. Most importantly, I am honored and humbled to be helping other addicts to recover and to find a new life. I have had opportunities to do public speaking, telling my story to high schools, treatment centers and AA meetings. Jesus is my solution.
Every addict will experience important transitions during their addiction and their recovery. One of those important transitions is knocking at the door right now. For each of you– graduating from outpatient treatment. We can prepare for our important life changes by learning from our past mistakes and writing down our short term and long-term goals and asking someone to be our accountability friend to keep us on track to accomplish our goals.
After all, if we fail to plan, we plan to fail!! Each of us will create our new lives either for the good or the bad. We can choose lives that are dominated by fear, selfishness, isolation, desperation and a loneliness we can feel in our bones. We can choose to help others or we can return to a fear-filled dominated life . We can choose to surround ourselves with new sober friends or return to the hell of our pasts. Remember, we are the architects of our lives. We are not victims. We are captains of our own destinies.
Remember, that three of the most dangerous threats to your sobriety are loneliness isolation and the environment that we choose to live in. Please choose wisely and protect yourselves from loneliness and isolation by making new sober friends. We are the architects of our reality which we build by the choices we make. Important life transitions can make or break us and we can decide what happens.
We are all like sailors in a shipwreck lost in a raging sea. We have survived the storm and we have been saved from death and now we are brothers and sisters in our new lives. Pass it on!
I have published a book, “Saved By The Prince Of Peace—Dungeon To Sky”. The book tells the story of my addiction and my recovery and it gives hope, encouragement, faith and love to the suffering addict, who might think that he or she cannot recover.
”My life is a miracle and I owe it all to Jesus.