Michael Alig’s Sober Second Act
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Michael Alig’s Sober Second Act


Michael Alig's sober second actAnyone who experienced the ’90s probably remembers the creepy case of Michael Alig, an influential young NYC nightlife mogul who seemed to have it all…Until he murdered his best friend (and drug dealer), Angel Melendez, seemingly in a cold-blooded, drug-fueled haze.

The Aftermath

Alig went to jail, where he seemed to thrive. He had a partner, took up writing and painting, mentally re-adjusted to greet his circumstances with grace and passion. He finally got paroled, just a few days ago, and was released into a world much different from the club world he’d inhabited and heaped to create in the ’90s.

“Alig effectively destroyed nightlife for many years,” Michael Musto, a friend of Alig’s and one-time accomplice on the nightlife scene, told Paper magazine. “The killing happened during the Rudolph Giuliani era when nightlife was portrayed [by the Mayor]as evil. It became uncool for many years to go out in costume in any way.”

Friends on the Fence

Alig is a controversial figure, even among his friends. They seem split about how much sympathy he deserves, and how much freedom he should earn, and whether he should be welcomed back to regular society with open arms, or…not. In addition to being an apparent drug addict, Alig was a prime example of someone who was, as one acquaintance describes it, “addicted to fame,” which most of today’s teenagers and millennials can probably relate to in this crazy/gross era of reality stars and sex tapes and the Kardashians and people who are famous for no reason at all.

Alig’s former running buddy thinks the former club star will take to the new world of selfies and Tinder like a pro. “If ANYONE was made for the ‘Selfie Generation,’ it’s Michael,” he says. “He INVENTED TMI culture. And while I think he’s going to be shocked by the amount of hate he gets on the Internet, I predict in real life the kids are going to treat him like a conquering hero.…It will be interesting to see if he can rehabilitate his image—if he builds homes for orphans or just goes back to his old ways.”

The Difference Sobriety Can Make

It’s always fascinating to watch someone essentially redo their entire life. And luckily, with sobriety, pretty much all of us are afforded a chance to to do that in a very concrete, legit way. Our personal transformations might not be as sensational or media-ready as Alig’s—from crazed killer to compassionate moral beacon of sobriety!—but that doesn’t make them any less vital or worth appreciating.

PAPER magazine editor Carlo McCormick says, “I hope he doesn’t get stuck being Michael Alig. I hope he can reinvent himself.” I hope so too, both for Alig’s sake and for fellow sober folks everywhere. He’s being given a pretty extraordinary chance to show off the rewards of a clean life. I hope he uses that chance, and uses it well.

Image courtesy of anyviral.com

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and CNN.com. Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.