Hello good people!
My first month of abstaining from alcohol has just flown by so thought I’d reflect on what’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride, some days stuck at the cusp of a drop on the ghost train and others a gentle sun soaked bunny rabbit bounce around Gullivers Kingdom. The month leading up to the beginning brought with it it’s own challenges. There was a lot to think about, important precautions to take, foundations to lay and preparations to be made. Each week since going sober has brought it’s own unique, sometimes difficult, often fulfilling and always insightful experiences. My main aim for the first month was to ease myself gently into abstaining whilst trying to address my terrible sleep routine. To achieve this I decided to dip my toes into a holistic approach that took into account the role of diet, exercise, my environment, sleep hygiene and most importantly the help and encouragement that I invited and warmly received from friends as well more unexpectedly from kind strangers. There were a few unpredicted twists in the tale yet I’m glad to report that 36 days down Im feeling better than ever.
I decided back in April after a loved one lost her mother to cancer, which happened shortly after a mutual close friend of ours was diagnosed with a brain tumor, that I was going to go dry for a year. My mother, Mary Jones, died of cancer when I was 3 and my father, Tony Jones, died of cancer 4 years ago on October 8th. My drinking had got increasingly heavier in the lead up to his death and then spiralled in its wake. Ironically, the exacerbation of my cancerous drinking habit increased at the same time as I was setting up …pr@xis?.. PROBIOTICS, running optimal gut health workshops and helping people treat their cancer on a one to one basis. Enough was enough, the hypocrisy was hilarious yet the laughter nervous. The last thing I wanted was a diagnosis of my own, dishonouring my parents in the process, causing unnecessary suffering to those I loved whilst playing Russian roulette with this precious gift. Monday, October the 8th, the anniversary of my Dad’s death, I drank my last drop.
In the 5 month lead up period I was doing a lot of thinking, reading and talking with friends about overcoming addictions and alcohol dependency specifically. My friend Hannah Gilbert who runs Anwyn House, publishing press floated the idea of me writing a book, provided great encouragement and inspired the belief in me that this was something I could do. Combining my passion for probiotics, the role of gut health in treating all health as well as the relevance of wider social & political factors contributing to the root of the problem as well as their solutions, I decided I’d document the process with hope it might help others, as well as myself. But where to begin? An oft repeated mantra commonly echoed in gut health circles, first espoused by Hippocrates 2’500 years ago, is that all disease begins in the gut. With the rise of research into the microbiome and the role played by the 100 trillion microbes that reside in our guts it’s becoming increasingly understood that gut health is at the root of all health, physical and mental. This cultivated my own curiosity regarding the relevance of prioritising on my own gut health as a cornerstone to a holistic recovery plan.
My dear friend and nutritional therapist Lucy Kay kindly agreed to help me by putting together a gut healing nutrition protocol, which included probiotics, various supplements and nourishing foods that would help heal the damage I’d caused. I was also messaged by Sara Brunskill who works for Aquarius Alcohol Recovery team in Derby who went out of her way to provide priceless advice about how to wean down wisely from the 26 units a day I was drinking to zero units in time for my October 8th deadline. In the weeks and days leading up I was struggling with daily withdrawal symptoms such as shakes, cold sweats, headaches and spasms. I was advised to take a Magnesium and Multinutrient complex as well as Milk Thistle to support my liver and a relaxation supplement to aid sleep which my friend Mel Lowe from the Fig independent Health store generously gifted me. In addition I procured some high strength CBD oil from my man Gav and made loads of probiotic fermented veg, Kombucha and Coconut Water Kefir to help heal my gut.
But how could the effectiveness of any approach to healing the gut be measured? Thanks to my experiences running workshops on advanced fermentation and optimal gut health with Lucy I had learnt about microbiome tests. By sending a piece of poo to a posh laboratory one can find out everything they need to know about the different quantities and species of bacterias, yeasts, parasites and the like which reside in the gut. This gives us an overall picture of our gut health, alerting us to potential problems as well as clues towards solutions. I had my first full consultation with Lucy on September 11th which is when I also did my first microbiome test with a view to doing 4 more at 3 monthly intervals to chart my healing progress throughout the year. Lucy also referred me to my GP to have my bloods tested for Vit D Levels, Serum Ferritin, Vit B12, Folate, HbA1c, Thyroid Function, Cholestrol & Triglycerides & Liver Function, which helped inform her plan of action. At that time I was on average eating one meal a day and sleeping for about 4 hours a night. Apart from lots of walking as my main form of transport I wasn’t doing any exercise, zero meditation and my mental health had taken a serious tumble. A physically and emotionally abusive relationship left me a nervous wreck. I felt anxious, paranoid, stressed out, demotivated and depressed. I felt desperate and started to really look forward to making the massive changes ahead.
Monday October 1st marked the start of the THRIVE: Health, Wellbeing & Empowerment Festival I’d organised alongside various friends. I spent that afternoon sat by the river Derwent drinking a bottle of Rose, reflecting on what had been and what I wanted to become. I was scared of the changes I’d committed to making yet relieved that commitment had been made. Whilst watching the water fall I received a phone call from Pamela Gupta who invited a radio interview. We arranged to meet up at Lucy’s house the next day. Once recording she asked me about my motivations, my intentions and my current alcohol intake. 26 units a day. She asked me what that looked like. ‘A couple of bottles of wine and a few cans’ which is 6 times a day more than recommended. The reality hit home as I declared my self-destructive addiction over the airwaves. I knew I wasn’t alone.
I spent my final week as a very heavy drinker trying to wean down, steadily reducing and spreading the units out throughout each day. Then Sunday came. I found it hard to help myself from bidding farewell to my abusive friend in the most excessive of ways. 30 units later at 4am, October 8th, I ceremoniously poured the last half of my final can of lager down the drain. It felt like a weight had been lifted, a crisis averted, smiling to myself, stumbling pissed up the stairs and passing out in bed before waking hazy headed to a fresh start. This is where the real work began and fortunately, thanks to so many people who had shown their support, I had a plan.