In mid-December, I dashed across the border into Queensland to visit a family-run health retreat dear to my own heart. Somewhere I've been going for years now where it's low-key, quiet, peaceful, family oriented, and all about health.
Why? I desperately needed to simply stop for five minutes and focus on dealing with accumulated stress, adrenal fatigue, burnout and the subsequent impact of 5 years of that - including my goal to deal with the persistent ''baby-weight'' I've been holding onto. No, I didn’t have a physical baby - that's just a metaphor for the baby I never had: a national conversation that became a national charity - and the ''baby'' that took a massive toll on my health.
I need to clarify that it was worth every moment and that it has always been a choice, a calculated risk, and an intentional walk of faith. It was, nonetheless, completely exhausting.
Which is why I always had a deadline in mind, and thank God it finally came during 2020, when my ''SITC baby'' transitioned into OUR national charity and morphed into a healthy, happy, busy, rampaging Toddler with a life of its own. And suddenly (15,000 hours later) we had a whole bunch of cool Aunts, Uncles, and Magical Unicorns getting in the trenches, and support came. And thanks to those who have helped, this exhausted Mama was finally, blissfully, happily allowed to let go of the baby, lie down, and take some precious time off to just stop.
I chose to do an intensive 14 day detox (one of many I've now done) and I focused on absolutely nothing other than giving my worn out adrenals and system in general 100% rest. I seriously did not a single drop of exercise (I normally run 3km per day, or do pilates, or do weights or whatever). I literally only read, slept, steamed, did various detox treatments, and then slept, steamed, read, and rested some more.
Those first few days, I could barely move. I had been relying on caffeine for a good long while to get through the hardest of the fatigue - and I found myself clutching my brain (migraine) along with the dunny-bowl and vomiting like I was back at Uni with the King Of All Hangovers while my body dealt with the shock of going cold-turkey off the coffees.
Yes, that's the truth of coffee for those of us who abuse it.
But I am not even going there.... LOL !!!!
Point is, the sheer weight of what I'd been carrying hit me like a Mack truck and I just went down. Like a wormy goat. As my husband would say.
It took about a week before I even emerged from that intense fatigue.
But, as it does, after a week - the worst had passed, and so had the worst of the inflammation, exhaustion, and toxicity. By day ten, my energy had started to return, my skin was clear, my mind was itchy to do stuff - and by day 14 I knew I was chomping at the bit to head off.
A detox is a powerful thing - and I'd recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone. Which is why I made the decision to sacrifice a bit (more) of my dignity and share a photo of before, during, and after so you could see for yourselves what ''rest'' does. Clearly I am not sharing these because I think the world wants to see a 46.5 year old non-botoxed human up close; but because I don't give a crap about facilitating more unrealistic, fake ''stuff'' and BS around body image.. and because I do give a crap about passing on education around recovery, health, wellness, and to demonstrate, firsthand, how quickly a body will recover, reboot, and heal when given some serious time, love, care and support.
Also, as somebody who suffered an eating disorder for almost two decades, I have now got zero interest in numbers on a bathroom scale and I've got no clue what I did or didn't ''lose'' because that was not the focus. The focus was on rest, detox, and health. Slimming down was just a natural byproduct. It's actually what happens when our poor bodies finally realise they can get out of the constant state of flight or fight and actually rest. I've seen this time and time again.
If you don't know what I am discussing here - please take the time to watch the amazing TED Talk, Rushing Women's Syndrome, by Dr Libby Weaver. She's the scientist. She can explain.
Please note hysterical stupid face in photo 1. I knew I was going to hate it so I had to be stupid or I could never have done or shared this.
S''o, that's me, detoxed and rested. For now. Which means I can continue to give back...''
What I finally understand is that my body is a vehicle - and the engine is my brain. Both are essential tools that need a bloody good grease and oil change & reboot every 500,000kms. It's about that simple. And now it's going to run like a dream for a while. Until I take it over a few rough roads and potholes and no doubt need to give myself an uppercut at some stage in the near future. And I will. Nothing surer.
NOW, allow me to take you back a decade and fill you in on the back story as to how I became somebody who went and ''detoxed'' and why.
Ten years ago when I was first beginning to comprehend the seriousness of my addiction and ongoing descent into chronic alcoholism I read a book that discussed how vital it was for somebody to get their physical health restored / back in order to have the best fighting chance of coming back from booze. (I had no clue that most chronic drinkers are horrendously depleted in essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, for example.)
But it makes a lot of sense, right? And yet somehow I’d literally never thought of this!! I was so busy focusing on just the addiction and the overwhelm that I had never contemplated expanding my mind to ponder health, never mind ‘holistic health’ - including physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health.
As a rural woman growing up in various remote locations, health was rarely discussed. Those who prioritised ''health and wellness'' or dared speak about it passionately were often branded ‘mad hippies'. We've all seen that in action... and God forbid anyone did crazy stuff like wear lycra and ride bicycles for exercise or anything that was a variant of rugby, cricket, polocrosse, and whatever other awesome weekend events we had on the go that were all invariably punctuated by copious amounts of booze ... which - let's be honest - kinda' defeated the entire purpose of the healthy activities beforehand for people like me who couldn't have ''just a few'' and head home.
Hard-living, hard-working, and hard-drinking was all we knew and all we did. Beer bellies and bulbous red noses were a proud testimony to being a fair-dinkum Aussie BLOKE. It was a mark of honour and something a man earned, while alongside them, the women could drink just as hard and pass it off with a wave of the hand and comments of ‘’it’s been a tough week - I earned this reward.’’
It’s just how it went, back in the day for so, so many. Me, most of all. (Not to mention that a helluva' lot of us also smoked like chimneys - because as yet, Big Tobacco hadn’t been called to account.)
We just weren’t (generally speaking) an overtly health aware or health conscious lot. And remember - this stuff is never, ever, EVER said with judgement - which I trust everyone knows by now - but I'll remind you again, in case you forgot. As if I could, should, or would judge. Sheesh.
Anyhow: the point is that the aforementioned book and research and investigating took me down a few wormholes - and I ended up settling on investing in HEALTH as part of my approach to recovery. I booked my 38 year old self in for a lengthy supervised detox and guided plan to assess and rebuild my worn out and desperately sick body - with the ultimate goal of addressing my alcoholism.
I cannot even begin to tell you the resistance I came against from close friends and even some family. The rolling of eyeballs, the dismissals, and the pursed lips and shaking of heads. And you know what? Fair enough, too. I'd historically done a lot of talking and precisely zero ‘acting’ so their scepticism was fully warranted. So I copped it on the chin, and forged ahead quietly. I took out a loan, and took annual leave, and off I went.
All of this was frowned upon desperately, too as ''wasted money'' and ''wasted annual leave'' ... which is funny, because the same people condemning my flagrant 'waste' were busily upgrading perfectly flash 4WD's for the latest year model and at quadruple the investment I was making for an attempt at saving my own life and a bit of longevity.... go figure.
What I learned, experienced, and saw during that month, ten years ago, was a game-changer. Eventually. Eventually is the operative word.... because you see, despite all that learning, proof, and clarity …. I STILL had not come to the startlingly obvious conclusion I was indeed a raging alcoholic.
Why? Denial was still present. And I wasn't yet 'ready' to stop with the denial. I still did not want to be somebody who had to use the ''A'' word. I was still proud, stubborn, and determined that I could beat this pesky problem and moderate. And so it was that I came home all shiny and new and squeaky clean telling everyone ''See, suckers! Told you I wasn't an alcoholic - I just sailed through a month! Look at me go ..... !!''
And predictably, very quickly I became complacent, cocky, and certain I was ''cured'' and thus I proceeded upon my merry, suntanned slim, trim and terrific way, until the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan, and I relapsed in a huge way, a short few months later - and all over some stupid and irrelevant offence.
Basically I had treated and addressed everything BUT my alcoholism.
And so, for another two years I continued on the downward spiral.
Until the day I nearly died and I finally accepted the truth of my addiction and that moderated drinking was never going to be a ''thing'' - and I got serious. In the nick of time.
The conclusion to the ten year story of regaining my life and health is this: there was never going to be a health retreat, naturopath, Doctor, therapist, human, or magical unicorn on EARTH who could fix me or treat my addiction until I acknowledged it was there and met them half way. Cliched as it may be: the first step is / was / will always be in admitting the truth. It really is. Because without the truth, and the acknowledgement of it, there's no starting point.
Call it what you like.
Do it as you must.
It's your story.
What that looks like varies from individual to individual. But it HAS to begin with truth. That much is universally true.
And let me tell you ... for me; once I finally got off those starting blocks, stopped with the BS, and took serious action - the month I had spent all those years ago detoxing, rebooting and studying and learning about nutrition, health, and the body's amazing capacity to heal and repair became foundational to the rest of my life, and remains so, to this date.
And that's why it is that these days; nutrition, health, and some basic principles of health are the cornerstone of my life. They’re a non-negotiable.
But as the images above clearly show, I am no saint either - and it's handy proof and a reminder that if I don't take care and remain vigilant, I am always going to be at risk of overdoing it. So for me, in 2020, it came down to the same old same old choice: I could either sit around whingeing about my pasty-white-inflamed-belly and constant fatigue, or I could get off my butt and do something about it and take action.
So I took action.
I was also able to refresh my knowledge around health, nutrition, food, and more - which I plan to pass on to the members of our private Bush Tribe and charity in Zooms and meetings.
Because the entire purpose of this charity and the ongoing candid sharing of the good, the bad, and the ugly of addiction - is always to show people there is a way out. To educate, to prevent, and to lead by showing, doing, and giving hope.
Country mates : you don't have to be a ''mad hippy'' to value the only vehicle you'll ever truly have (ie, your body) - and you certainly don't need to feel ashamed that you value your health. In fact, I'll tell you a secret ... that tonnes of rural people have followed the same path and been through this same programme at this same health retreat ... but they won't discuss it - because they couldn't be bothered having to explain or justify their choices to others.
If you're interested in learning more about where I went and what I did, go visit my QLD family at Living Valley - and be sure to tell them Shanna and the SITC Tribe sent you. We work as affiliates - and it's essential they know we've referred you. We are collectively raising awareness in the bush - and we want you to be part of the ripple effect!
I'll leave you with a final thought: if you're a massive drinker like I was - have you ever stopped and considered what you spend on an annual holiday on grog, parties, nightclubs, hangovers, and takeaway tucker, cabs, etc etc ?? It's a small fortune, and we all know that to be true. So why on earth do we hesitate to invest in feeling GREAT and giving our bodies a rest, instead of pounding them into the ground even more? Uncomfortable, isn't it.