International journalist, author, and addiction recovery advocate, Shannon Egan of Salt Lake City, debuts her first memoir: NO TOURISTS ALLOWED: Seeking Inner Peace and Sobriety in War-Torn Sudan. Her story is set in Khartoum, Sudan where Egan worked as a freelance journalist for IRIN News of the United Nations from 2004-2006. Following this, Egan wrote for the United Nations Population Fund in New York City and reported on issues that affect women and young people during humanitarian crises, such as sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence.
Despite her success, Egan struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for nearly fifteen years. Her book is dedicated to the person still struggling with addiction. She hopes that by sharing her story readers will find purpose and meaning in their own struggles and know for themselves that recovery is possible.
"Today, I have nearly five years in recovery, and I'm not just sober, but I'm happy, healthy, and thriving both professionally and personally. I've come a long way considering that in 2011 I woke up in a jail cell for the third time in my life with a horrific hangover, still slightly intoxicated, and refusing to believe that I had an addiction problem," Egan says.
Egan currently works as the Development and Communications Director for USARA, Utah’s statewide Recovery Community Organization, and as a Recovery Advocate for the National Recovery Movement in order to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction as well as barriers to sustaining long-term recovery.
She says she left for Africa at the age of twenty-five in order to escape Utah's unique religious culture where oppression and persecution against non-Mormons is still very prevalent; Utah is the only state with a Mormon majority and a majority population belonging to a single church. In Salt Lake County alone there are over 500,000 members, four temples, six missions, 174 stakes, the Tabernacle Choir, the Mormon Prophet, and most of his twelve apostles--all packed into 740 square miles.
Egan grew up in a Mormon household and says as a young person her desire to seek God differently than the predominant religion caused great heartache. "At times, fear-based messaging, manipulation, and control were used to promote religious dogma in attempt to get me to conform. After years of being bullied and ostracized 'in the name of God' I turned to drugs and alcohol in order to cope.
"This is not just my story but the story of many. Through my work for Utah’s recovery community I come across many individuals who are suffering from similar wounds. Our addiction recovery rooms are filled with Mormons and ex-Mormons hiding in shame and secrecy because they've been broken by religious persecution and are afraid to speak out."
As of 2014, Utah ranks fifth out of all fifty states in the number of opiate-related overdose deaths. This number is higher here than the national average and increasing exponentially: in Utah, more people are dying from drug-related deaths than car accidents and firearms.
"By sharing my story, I hope to facilitate a positive conversation around addiction and religion throughout the world, and specifically in Utah, where a substance use epidemic is wiping out my family, friends, and community members at an alarming rate. It’s time for our community to address these issues lovingly, compassionately, and in support of our spiritual differences."
No Tourists Allowed is a story of self-discovery leading outward. From her fight with alcoholism to the global media system that often puts in jeopardy the lives it wants to protect, Shannon sings of despair and celebration, relapse and recovery, and learning, finally, to love the unlovely.
Egan is available for interviews and appearances. For booking presentations, media appearances, interviews, and/or book-signings contact email@example.com