JUST half an hour of chatting with model, turned wellness coach, Alison Canavan is enough to make you feel that maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your life and how you live it!
The stunning mother-of-one is as positive a person as you’re likely to meet – and the fact that she has come from what she terms ‘rock bottom’ to now embrace life in such an enviable and admirable way makes her influence all the more appealing.
Alison has spoken openly in the past about her struggles with depression, the break-up of her relationship with her son’s father and her battle with alcoholism, but the fact that she has managed to turn her life around – and help others do the same – is what has now made her a leading light in the health and wellness industry.
This month, the stunning Dubliner will turn 40, but instead of dreading the impending new decade, like so many others do, she is as grateful as she is excited about the prospect of what lies ahead.
“I’m here, I’m alive and I’m getting older so I’m hugely excited,” she tells Connect. “A lot of time we live in fear and I, above anyone, know what that is like. I had a tumultuous few years and my 30s were, without doubt, the toughest decade of my life. But since having my son, getting sober and really getting myself up and running again after being broke – financially and emotionally – I’ve really learned how to enjoy life and can’t wait to bring that into a fresh decade.”
Having lived the model high life, partying, jet-setting acrossthe globe from her plush New York apartment and wanting for nothing, Alison’s world came crashing down when her relationship with the father of her son James (now 7) ended. It wasn’t until she moved home to Dublin that she realised she was pregnant – and knew there was no way back for the couple.
She was 32 years old, back living in her family home and really struggled to accept her ‘fall from grace’ as she then saw it. Following the birth of her son – who she considers her most amazing and precious achievement – Alison suffered from post natal depression, but a realisation one day that there had to be an alternative therapy than pills and medication was her key to a new life.
“I was always into wellness and spirituality, but even with that I see now that for years I was lost in the industry and in the high life I was living but really had absolutely no self esteem. My entire value system then was placed on what I looked like and I was always trying to better myself. I was an avoider and avoided being with myself all the time – to avoid loneliness and being miserable.
“When I had my finances, home and security stripped away from me I really thought I could not get any lower, but it’s only now, through counselling and mindfulness, that I realise I actually had everything I needed. I truly believe that mindfulness gave me back my power. It made me look at aspects of my life that I really didn’t want to look at. I now see the world in colour, whereas before I saw it in black and white. I truth, I felt like shit for 20 years, so feeling like I do now is not something I ever take for granted.”
Alison says that in order for people to experience a happier, healthier mind, body and spirit they need to ‘show up for themselves.’ Quizzed on what exactly she means by that, the wellness expert really couldn’t have put it any simpler: “Facing your shit, basically,” she says, laughing at her bluntness. “Letting yourself feel and investigate your emotions, because we have to remember emotions are only visitors and you will not feel like this forever. We need to take full responsibility and work on ourselves and really start to understand the power we have over our own health and well being. You have to sit with your perceived emotions and not suppress them all the time, hoping they will go away, because these emotions will manifest themselves as stress or addiction.”
One truth that Alison took a long time to own up to was her dependence on alcohol – something she now clearly sees was her way of hiding her insecurities and again ‘avoiding’ the reality of how she was really feeling. Now sober over three years, the stunning mom says she was in denial about the extent of her problem for years.
“It kind of became a running joke for many years n New York. I used to drink really heavily and partied too much and I was always the one who was drunk, throwing up and didn’t remember nights out. There was no switch off button,” she recalls. “I had an inability to stop and often asked myself why can’t I just stop and go home like a normal person.
Alison said she knew she had an addiction, but never really wanted to control it. Like her modelling jobs, it was an escape from the reality.
“It was my security blanket in a way. Partying was a relief from real life and I never knew any different for a long time. Looking back now, my quality of life sucked and it took me a while to see there is another way.”
That said, deciding to give up alcohol was no mean feat – especially in Ireland.
“The year I gave up drinking was the loneliest of my life,” she said. “I see every day now, through other people I coach, exactly what I went through. You question whether you can ever again socialise without drink, especially here at home. An addiction brain makes you think in black and white, when the reality is I am now a better version of myself now that I’m sober. I wake up content and feeling awesome every day.”
While getting through her problems and focussing on becoming a better version of herself, Alison wrote a book called ‘Minding Mum, It’s Time to Take Care of you’ in which she focuses on self care for mums.
“The reason I wrote it is because we all need to practice self care and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not selfish to mind yourself. In fact, it’s the most selfless thing you can do because when you take care of yourself, you have so much more of yourself – time, love and patience – to give to others,” she said.
Next on the agenda for Alison is her ‘Full 360 Series’ which comes to Cork on March 25th and Kilkenny on April 15th. It’s the first show of its kind where the sole focus is complete holistic self-care, focussing on health, skincare and wellness ‘from the inside out and the outside in.’
“During the show I will be encouraging people to be their own coach. We are all different and what works for one does not work for another. We need to tune into ourselves and work on our inner world, which will help to guide us in living a better lifestyle,” Alison explained.
“I will look at the health benefits of switching to more natural products with great skincare and household advice and some of my top tips on how to live a more positive, happy and stress free life.”
There will also be talks on meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, natural products, healthy eating tips, stress reduction techniques and much more and tickets are still available on Alison’s website www.alisoncanavan.com
With an amazing zest for life and a more positive outlook you’re not likely to encounter, Alison says it is a privilege to use her life experience to help others. She says she has been overwhelmed by the support of the Irish people and is blessed every time she receives and email or a message from someone telling her how much she has helped them.
“Doing what I do is a dream come true for me and the support and gratitude I get from people I help is what pushes me to keep going. I have been carried along by the kindness of Irish people and I am so grateful for that.”