Lauren Carlisle is a cheerleader. Not the actual pom pom waving “We’ve got spirit kind,” but an advocate for her new neighborhood. In countless posts on Twitter and Instagram, Carlisle talks about the seemingly everyday and ordinary, tagging each with #mymovetofondren. So naturally, it begged the question: where does this exuberance come from? What drives this obviously passionate and bubbly 30 year-old?

Carlisle grew up in Atlanta. She says moving to Mississippi was a culture shock. At one time, she lived in Vicksburg, Ridgeland, Hattiesburg and, just recently, Pearl. But, Carlisle says, she always had a place in her heart for Fondren. “I’ve always thought it was neat,” she says. “The people here are down to earth, funky and non-judgmental. If I had extra money, I always said ‘Let’s go to Fondren.’”

And so she did. It was about two months ago with a “rough relationship” that was going nowhere. She asked herself why she should stay. The answer? She shouldn’t. Carlisle began searching Craigslist and ended up at Fondren’s Real Estate Solutions, finding the perfect attic style apartment with ceilings of varying height and lots of charm. And, it’s close to her job at Animal Rescue Fund of Mississippi (ARF) where she is a veterinary technician.

Carlisle is still celebrating the move and discovering all sorts of places in the neighborhood she’s never been. But there are some places she’ll never go, places that, for her, could mean life and death.

Carlisle is three years sober. Alcohol was her drug of choice, and, she explains, it turned her into a mean person. With nervous laughter, she says, “I had to quit that.”

From Kittens to Twitter to God

In 2011, Carlisle found four kittens on her door step. She reached out to ARF’s Elizabeth “Pippa” Jackson, who gave her milk replacer formula and taught her how to care for the animals. It may be what kept her on the straight and narrow. She goes a step further. “That’s actually what completely changed my life and made me go back to school to become a vet tech,” Carlisle says.

“When my ex-boyfriend was working out of town, I had an excuse to drink,” she explains. “I was unemployed, and I prayed for direction. Then I found the kittens.” Carlisle says she bottle fed them and did everything it took to help them grow up. It was the boost she needed to grow up, too.

AA meetings behind her, she relies on a community of social media friends to provide encouragement and support. Using the hashtags #AA or #XA, Carlisle can tweet when she is facing temptations and get an immediate response. “We call it ‘A meeting in your pocket.’ I’ve gotten plugged in with a really good group somehow,” she explains.

Carlisle has found a new world in Fondren and even a new love. She and boyfriend Forrest walk the neighborhood discovering “new to her” spaces everyday. One such place was North Ridge Church, meeting in the Woodland Hills Baptist Church family life center. “I kept passing by and I kept praying about it and praying about it,” she says. “Every time I drove by, I felt I needed to go there. I love it! I’m really plugged in and am volunteering.” She says God is number one in her life and that she’s tried going at it alone. “I couldn’t do it by myself.”

People, she says, may be surprised by her alcoholism, but it’s no secret. “That’s what got me sober, someone being vocal about it,” she explains. Carlisle says her friends admire her courage. “They send me messages saying they have started getting sober themselves because they see what I have done.”

Carlisle recounts a recent teaching from North Ridge Pastor Eric Smith. “He was using the terminology ‘God rescues us.’ Rescue? That’s what I do. I rescue animals and nurse them back to health. To think about God doing that for me: That’s exactly what he did. He picked me up out of Hattiesburg or Jackson, drinking way too much. I can identify with that. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be now and it’s awesome.”