6 months ago today I took a final swig of cider before pouring the rest of the can down the sink and vowing to not drink another drop for the following 12 months. My motivations were many but put simply I’d had enough of alcohol and it’s ill affects, on myself and millions of others, on so many levels. I wanted to challenge myself to do something which I never thought feasible whilst raising some much needed funds for a charity very close to my heart. I am now 6 months in to being sponsored to stay sober for a year to raise as much money as I can for Active Cancer Therapy Support ran by Robert and Susan Olifent.
If you would like to sponsor me and help fund this life saving work then here’s the link
For the better part of the last decade the only thing that I’d been consistently failing to cross off my elaborate weekly to-do lists had been ‘No midweek drinking’ then a point came where I’d casually drop into convo with close friends that I was an alcoholic. The last 5 years I had experienced a series of relentless traumatic events starting tragically with my fathers untimely death which gave a push to my excessive drinking as it slowly snowballed up to 26 units every day without fail until enough was enough and I knew I had to stop.
The roots of addiction
Like so many, I was self-medicating against various pains, anxieties, distresses, sensitivities, regrets, sorrows and losses. Trauma and addiction go hand-in-hand and as I’d learn from the research I’d immerse myself in, neoliberal corporate capitalist society generates mass collective trauma on so many levels. Not only does it provide an assault course of obstacles preventing our various holistic needs from being met but it proactively profits from the process. By consciously cultivating distress and dissatisfaction within society it lays down the perfect foundations from which consumer commodities can then be advertised as the solution to whatever problems we face.
As we all know deep down our happiness isn’t dependent upon buying more stuff. Once our material needs are met our wellbeing depends upon other needs – mental, emotional, social, spiritual, eco, etc -being met. Unmet needs breed stress which we seek to relieve ideally immediately. So we self-medicate. We self-medicate with drink, drugs, sex, food, porn, shopping, gambling or whatever else will deliver the short term dopamine hit to provide the relief we seek. The more that our needs go unmet the more pain we feel and seek escape from. Most of us are addicted to something or other for these reasons.
Radical Recovery & Holistic Healing
Before October 8th rolled around I did a little bit of research into overcoming addiction and prepared my approach. I decided I’d take the opportunity throughout the year to educate myself about overcoming addiction with the hope of helping myself and others. It would be a year where I would aim to improve my health holistically, which entails cultivating my health physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, ecologically & spiritually. I also wanted to take actions, no matter how small, to tackling some parts of the root of the problem of addiction. One of the main negative affects this society has is disconnecting us: from each other, ourselves, nature and the fulfilment of our various needs. Any actions that assist our reconnection I think are important. For me radical recovery is about striking at the root of the problem, taking action collectively within our communities to transform society so together we can thrive.
But what might that look like? Where would I begin? As someone who had ironically been running regular gut health workshops whilst facilitating a small probiotic food and drink project I’d oft repeated the increasingly parroted mantra heard in such circles that ‘All disease begins in the gut!’ ‘All health begins in the gut’. As a part of my holistic approach towards sobriety with support from my nutritional therapist friend Lucy Kay, I would aim to heal my gut with probiotic fermented food and drinks as part of a nourishing nutrition protocol. I would also focus on an increase in healthy physical movement, practises that improve my emotional and mental health, prioritising of quality social relationships, contributing to my community, cultivating my sense of spirituality whilst aiming to live more ethically and sustainably as a part inherently interdependent with a much wider ecological whole.
For the last 6 months I just took it one day at a time, one month at a time, initially just committing to not drinking booze, taking supplements, trying to get more than 3 hours sleep and making subtle changes to my eating habits. Then come November I was aiming to get more exercise, to eat 50 different organic wholefood’s a week, spend quality time having purposeful conversations with best friends, reading and writing more, spending time in nature, organising community events, seeking therapy to deal with the childhood trauma of losing my mum at 3 years old alongside various other steps towards my healing in a holistic manner. Each month I’d either broaden or deepen the healing, adding new layers or tweaking processes of the protocol. With each day that’s passed the more happy and fulfilled I’ve felt. I feel healthier, more energised, confident, courageous and engaged with the beauty, purpose and meaning of my existence than I ever remember. What follows is a summary of some of the changes I’ve made in each area.
To heal the gut I’ve been incorporating fermented probiotic vegetables into my diet and increasing the amount that I drink probiotic fermented drinks like kombucha and Kefir. Another gut healing super food is bone broth which I’ve been consuming inconsistently. I’ve been increasing the amount of organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs and healthy fats that I’ve been consuming yet have still been getting caught out far more regularly than I’d like and succumbing to take aways and crap food out the house. For the following 6 months I am going to be much stricter on my commitment to organic whilst significantly upping my intake of probiotic and prebiotic foods, bone broth and relevant supplements.
I’ve really valued doing more healthy movement. I say healthy movement rather than exercise because not all exercise is healthy movement. I believe it’s important to understand how we’ve evolved and are designed to move. I bought some barefoot shoes which are much better for us than ordinary shoes and trainers, done a handful of early morning runs and been walking 10’000 steps most days. I’ve been mixing up bits of qigong, yoga, swimming and cycling each week. I also started Capoeira which I find challenging but really healing, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. I’ve committed to a triathlon in September, a Ben Nevis climb in June and am looking forward to also trying rowing, climbing and doing more wild swimming and weekly park runs as well as a qigong and yoga retreat over the summer.
Mental & Emotional
I’ve been writing in my journal daily as well as the odd blog post, reading voraciously for research, starting each day with Headspace meditations, using the Companion anxiety reduction app, writing daily gratitude lists, weekly EMDR therapy with Talking Mental Health as well as a Compassion Focussed Therapy with Jo Fretwell to help with attachment issues. I’ve been engaging with creative expressive writing therapies in the form of rap whilst taking part in the Derbz On The Map project as well as writing bars for a collaboration for my dear friend Dathan Horridge’s SHRUSIC project. Potentially the most important and effective activities I’ve engaged with that’s benefited my mental health is the quality time I’ve spent with my closest friends and wider community.
Connection is key to overcoming addiction. Johann Hari quite famously in certain viral social media circles poignantly proposed that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety it’s connection. He explained Bruce Alexander’s notorious Rat Park studies to starkly illustrate the extent. With this in mind I have been very conscious to make purposeful plans to catch up with close friends, doing things which I find nourishing and enjoyable. I have been unapologetically selective making sure I avoid any disempowering, discouraging or depleting people, no matter how much I might love them. It’s important we can learn to assert boundaries when in recovery, avoiding toxicity in all it’s forms whilst also working on our own shortcomings and toxic tendencies, hence my commitment to enter therapy double whammy a week style. It’s important that we ask ourselves challenging questions surrounding who we are, who we want to be, who we want to spend our time with as well as the affects we’re all having on each other. We are all interconnected and interdependent and we can’t escape the ripples we all spread. What’s going to be the affect of each ripple and how powerful it will be when it hits depends upon how close you are to the person spreading it. We can choose wisely if we want.
It seems strange and inadequate separating and categorising these different areas of holistic healing as they are all overlap and are inherently interconnected. The more I commit to my individual healing, therefore practising loving myself, the more I am contributing to the health of others and the whole. The more I do things in ways that contribute to the wellbeing of others and the whole the more I am committing to my individual health and wellbeing. The more healing I do the more it feels as though my awareness regarding the interconnected nature of everything increases. I feel naturally motivated to improve my community, to act out of compassion for my brothers and sisters suffering, striving to improve their lives, seeking salvation in whatever form, out of a sense of solidarity, side by side, with an awareness that the freedom of one is bound up with the freedom of all, that an injury to one is an injury to all and that we all depend upon each other. I am consistently the beneficiary of their compassionate acts towards myself and the wider community which serve to remind and inspire our interdependent action, solidarity and sense of responsibility towards reciprocation for each other.
This outlook informs various activities that I’ve engaged with collectively over the last 6 months from the work we do with …pr@xis?.. PROBIOTICS to the community events that we organise as a part of THRIVE. We’ve promoted and attended protests, community meals, fundraisers and other excellent events and actions for social or environmental justice organised by various groups. As a part of …pr@xis?.. PROBIOTICS myself and the team lovingly produce the highest quality, ethically sourced and produced, 100% organic gut healing probiotic foods and drinks whilst myself and Lucy Kay run various gut health and fermentation workshops around the shire. A load of us pulled together to make the THRIVE Festive Fair? happen raising £500 for Padley Group homeless charity as well as the THRIVE …pr@xis?.. PROBIOTICS 3rd Birthday Bash raising £300 for Active Cancer Therapy Support and we also organised a series of weekly THRIVE empowerment events open to all in the community. There is a Mens Mind Gym, Women’s Power Circles, Nutrition Workshops, Community Feast, Growing Together and more every month. We have also just set up a THRIVE allotment space for communal use too.
The next six sober?
I’m so excited. I’ve never felt better in my adult life. I feel so much more confident, relaxed, content, positive, excited, inspired, compassionate, understanding, energetic, optimistic and motivated. I feel as though the last six months have provided a profound silver lining and light at the end of what’s been a very bleak black tunnel I’d been stumbling down.
There are loads of things I’m looking forward to happening over the next 6 months so what follows are a few off the top of my head before getting some kip and actually cracking on with making it all happen. Before I bounce I’ve got to give love to my friends who have been so incredibly kind and supportive throughout this last 6 months. There’s no way I would’ve been able to thrive quite how I have without their encouragement and help. Tis the reason I insist on writing the word ‘together’ after the word ‘THRIVE’ so often. We are a social species and our survival depends upon us cooperating. We’re living through some of the most testing times ever known by our species and if we’re going to survive then fortunately it entails building, creating, organising and breathing life into new worlds that place the needs of our people and planet before profit thus allowing us to THRIVE, together! To be able to rise to these challenges we need to be well.
Some motivating goals for the next 6 months
– Raising £5000 for Active Cancer Therapy Support
– Talk at spirituality and health conference
– Organising …pr@xis?.. PROBIOTICS as a successful sociocratic workers cooperative
– Facilitating more Gut Health & Fermentation workshops
– Supporting ecological activism and social movements (Extinction Rebellion, etc)
– Action For Happiness course
– Seeing Gabor Mate speak live in London
– Seeing Sandor Katz live in London
– Completing a triathlon
– Climbing Ben Nevis- Performing at Padley Fundraiser for Hairy Dog
– Going to Permaculture workshop in Alfreton
– THRIVE @ Belper Food Festival
– Dancing to Craig Charles Funk & Soul night
– Going on holiday to Skye & visiting permaculture project
– Going on holiday to Cornwall & visiting Eden project
– Qigong retreat- Organise Participatory Action Research workshops
– Being writing spoken word and rap release
– Plan C Fast Forward anti-capitalism festival
– Belper Goes Green Stall- Ferment Festival
– Support Swap Dont Shop event
– Recording and hosting more THRIVE podcasts and radio
– Promoting & helping organise THRIVE Men’s Mind Gym
– Promoting & helping organise THRIVE Nutrition workshops
– Promoting & helping organise THRIVE Community Feasts
– Promoting & helping organise THRIVE Growing Together
– Growing and working on the THRIVE allotment
– Organise month long THRIVE Festival
– Begin writing book ‘THRIVE OR DIE’ Radical Recovery & Holistic Healing
If you would like to sponsor me and help fund this life saving work then here’s the link
Massive love, solidarity and respect.
Thanks for reading
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