Simon Jones sobriety year for ACTS
I'm going to be be raising money for Active Cancer Therapy Support ran by Susan & Robert Olifent by not drinking alcohol for the next year. Find out more about ACTS here http://cancer-acts.com/
Robert & Sue do great work through Active Cancer Therapy Support organising monthly seminars where they bring people together to share some of the most cutting edge research and knowledge surrounding cancer to help inspire them to do their own research and make healthier informed decisions.
I've been a heavy drinker for the last 20 years and since my father, Tony Jones got diagnosed and died of cancer and chemotherapy, 4 years ago, my drinking increased.
At the same time I was learning about how to treat cancer, boost the immune system and heal the gut, which is what inspired me to start ...pr@xis?.. PROBIOTICS. Ironically, at the same time my alcoholism got worse.
I was hypocritically running workshops about optimum gut health and fermentation whilst simultaneously drinking 20 units of alcohol a day, destroying my gut health as a result and putting myself at risk of the same fate that took my parents lives. I was promoting an anti-cancerous lifestyle whilst living one.
This year I decided that enough is enough and not only am I going to stop drinking alcohol for a year but I am going to learn as much as I possibly can about alcoholism, addiction and how we can learn to overcome using various different approaches.
My aim is to share my journey to help inspire and empower people to take more control of their life so they can achieve their goals and fulfil their potential.
Thank you so much for supporting Active Cancer Therapy Support, myself and everyone else that will benefit on this journey. I'm so grateful to all of the wonderful people that I know in my community that are so kind and willing to reach out and support myself and others to achieve great things. Thank you. x
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.
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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.
To many maybe this wouldn't be such a big deal but for me it has been. Since April, due to various distressing personal circumstances, my drinking shot up from about 16 units a day (Which is more than guidelines state a man should have a week) to about 25 units a day, which is stepping way over the line of physical dependency.
For the first time I was experiencing heavy shakes, cold sweats, spasms, headaches and severe anxiety when around other people. If I drank these symptoms would fade away, for a short while, then return until I drank more.
For the last 7 days I've been prioritising eating nutritious food, being active, taking various supplements with CBD oil, drinking loads of water, doing lots of expressive writing whilst doing what I can to visualise this following 12 months as being the most potent, profound and important of my entire life. I'm shedding skins whilst drawing the curtain on what over recent years has been an increasingly messy dress rehearsal for the rest of my precious life.
I'm taking this opportunity to raise as much money as I can for Active Cancer Therapy Support ran by Robert Olifent & Susan Olifent who do absolutely crucial, life saving work to support people affected by cancer, spreading cutting edge information on prevention and treatment.
If you can spare £1, £5, £10, whatever you think this cause and my efforts are worth, then it would be so deeply appreciated. Lives will literally be saved which is priceless.
Massive thanks, love and respect to all of you that have been sharing your kind words of encouragement, reaching out to me with offers of help and support as well as your messages of gratitude and respect.
We're all in this together, let's thrive!!! x