Monday October 8th and my year of sobriety began. I was determined to get off on the right foot, implementing what I’d learnt in the lead up, withstanding withdrawal symptoms whilst mindfully nourishing my body, mind and spirit in ways that were going to keep me dry and sane. It was the anniversary of my father Anthony Jones’ death. Thanks to the gorgeously supportive Jenny Todd I was driven to his resting place in Spondon where he was ritualistically remembered in a way to help strengthen my resolve. I didn’t want to disrespect the memory of him nor my mum Mary Jones who had both been carried to the grave by cancer too soon. Avoiding my own diagnosis was one of a myriad of reasons I was knocking the grog on the noggin. As a result of the changes I was making the month that followed was punctuated by pleasure and pain in relatively equal measure. The alcohol withdrawals, cravings, shakes and headaches left me fiending at times yet were soothed by various nourishing moves made in healthier directions.
Thanks to Lucy Kay & Sara Brunskill’s wise advice combined with the kind generosity of Dena Smiles, Gav Sibbald, Matt Wynne, Lew Winter & Mel Lowe I was fully stocked up on supplements and organic food. I had Milk Thistle, Vitamin B Complex, Magnesium & CBD Oil and had filled the fridge & cupboards with loads of food from Sound Bites & Trinity Farm. Dena made a Kilner Jar full of Chick Pea batter which I made gluten/wheat free flatbreads with. I also consumed probiotic fermented veg, Kombucha & Coconut Water Kefir daily to help heal my gut and restore balance to my alcohol inflicted microbiome. At night time I was tucking into almonds, bananas and herbal teas to help me sleep, which in the early days became my biggest challenge. To conquer daytime hunger cravings I’d snack on avocados, free range organic hard boiled eggs & 100% dark chocolate, which also helped give my mood a lift. The results from the microbiome test I had on September 11th predictably informed us that my gut was in need of repair and so hyper healing bone broth also became a part of the protocol. As my plan was to make drastic holistic lifestyle changes I decided to have a DNA test at the start and end of the 12 month period to see if my genetics were in anyway affected by these changes. I eagerly await the results which come today, November 21st.
I knew that overcoming alcoholism would entail much more than just changing my diet. Exercise, sleep, meditation and much more would be a part of the puzzle but as a radical who wants to get to the root (‘radice’ = root) of the problem I must ask what would dealing with the underlying causes entail and look like? In his popular TED talk, author of Chasing the Scream & Lost Connections, Johann Hari poses that ‘the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection’. What does this mean? Connection to what & why? This is a question I’ve spent a lot of time over recent months pondering and shall enjoy attempting to answer as more pass. For now, to me it means considering the ways in which we’ve been disconnected or separated from the fulfillment of our needs. I have known for over 20 years that the trauma of losing my mum at the age of 3 had a profound impact upon me which significantly contributed to my alcohol dependency, this however was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been thinking about the various ways that I’ve been disconnected from others, from nature, from my sense of spirituality, from myself and more? It begs the question: what wider social and political factors might be contributing to this ‘dislocation’ and what would it mean to reconnect, to rebuild, to renew these broken bonds? These are just a couple of key questions at the crux of the quest.
It’s easy to overlook the affect our immediate private and wider social environment can have on us. In the first week following my last swig I decided to completely change the layout of my bedroom moving my bed, bookshelf, chest of drawers and whatever bits and bobs accompanied them. In the 8 months I’d lived there that space and any happiness that might have happened upon had sadly been overshadowed by anxiety, depression, stress & an embarrassing mess dominated by wine bottles and cider cans. A total fresh start was needed. I dug out old posters of events that I’d organised and blu tacked them on the walls, got a new desk and flipped just enough amateur Feng Shui in the place so that I could relax. As a motivating reminder I decided to buy a nice glass Kilner Bottle that I’d use as a money box, which currently plays host to £440 worth of £10 notes that I would’ve previously given to the off license each evening in exchange for my medicine. Sleep had been a huge problem. For 3 months I was getting no more than 4 hours a night which is seriously detrimental to one’s physical and mental health. I would never feel able to sleep before 2am and leading up to that time I’d be drinking to try and drown whatever concerns were swimming around my unsettled mind. Thanks to my dear friend Anthony Jacquin, a world class hypnotherapist, I was given a hypnotherapy session that led to my sleep rapidly improving. That alongside the various changes I made with my diet, exercise and spending more time in nature, I thankfully now shut my eyes about midnight and get at least 7 hours sleep.
One of the most important and enjoyable activities that assisted me abstaining from my addiction to alcohol throughout October was organising the THRIVE health, wellbeing and empowerment month. Working together with others to share empowering skills, knowledges and experiences whilst cultivating new relationships and a deeper sense of community is a deeply fulfilling process. All of us have an innate desire to not only connect and cooperate with others but to also contribute to our community. The vast majority of us are naturally compassionate creatures that feel a deep sense of fulfilment when we help others, as well as a desire to contribute to a purpose that’s greater than ourselves. In order for us to be truly fulfilled it’s important that we align our actions with our deepest values and sense of purpose, aiming to live congruently and aligned with what we believe to be right. We are all aware on some level that this particular type of society doesn’t make it easy for us to do this. Deep down we know something ain’t right. We can feel the echoes bounce about our bones. We know the rat race is wrong, that living just for the weekend is an insult to our precious days, that working underpaid shit jobs we hate to make capitalist fat cats fatter whilst we scrap for consumer crumbs and crap isn’t meeting our deepest needs, longings or desires. We know it’s making us ill on many different levels in many different ways. It’s cancerous. It’s turning many of us into addicts and one of the key’s to overcoming addiction is reconnecting with what REALLY matters to us most.
There are few things that have affected me more than losing both my parents to cancer and so by taking this opportunity to raise money for Active Cancer Therapy Support, which is a cancer awareness project I passionately believe in, I feel fulfilled. I feel as though I am making an important decision that is in line with my deepest values, a decision which is adding meaning to my sobriety and helping to strengthen my resolve. With this in mind I want to thank everyone that’s so kindly sponsored me so far. Thank you, also, for taking time to read this. Everyone’s encouragement really means the world to me and has made such a massive difference. I can now honestly say that l look forward to the months ahead as I continue to dig deeper to tackling the roots of addiction and enjoying action towards it’s solutions.
Alongside all of the above I have found it deeply enriching and purposeful to be dedicating focussed time to documenting my journey whilst stepping well out of my comfort zone and planning to write a book about radical recovery and holistic healing. I’ve been doing lots of reflecting on my own personal experience whilst also researching addiction and related issues – From gut health to the good life, recovery to revolution, sleep, movement, meditation to corporate globalisation and more. Here’s a list of books that I read in October. I shall keep sharing my findings and reading lists each month.
The Good Gut – Justin & Erica Sonnenberg
Happy Food – Niklas Ekstedt & Henrik Ennart
WTF should I eat? – Dr Mark Hyman
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Dr Gabor Mate
The Spirit Level – Kate Pickett & Richard Wilkinson
The Globalisation of Addiction – Bruce K Alexander
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober – Catherine Gray
Chasing The Scream – Johann Hari
Lost Connections – Johann Hari
How To Quit Without Feeling Shit – Patrick Holford
We THRIVE, when together!!!