Read about Fiona Redding, her journey to sobriety and how she created The Happiness Hunter
When I was a kid, some of my fave memories were when Mum, Dad and I, sometimes accompanied by my older brother, would take our family dog for a walk 'around the block'. The block is now full of townhouses, like the movie Pleasantville but with less Reese Witherspoon. The block used to be farm land and old run down drive in. The only buildings you'd pass once you veered off the main road was the General Store run by Deirdre, where we'd buy our milk and stamps, and the nursery which, for a teenager, I was quite fond of walking around. I've been told I'm an old soul. Which I think is code for liking old people stuff like walking around nursery's. I'm okay with it though, so don't feel bad for thinking that.
Walking was a family past time. We'd walk 'around the block' with the dog, our gorgeous Rottweiler Keesha (RIP), or stack our weekend full of bush-walks in the Blue Mountains, I didn't realise it at the time, but it's been ingrained into my being and it's been my default for years. If things are too much, I just go for a walk! If I'm in a confrontation and I want to stop myself exploding with rage, I just tap out, press pause and walk it off. If I feel lost, I go for a walk. I always have. I always will. But never so much than when I stopped drinking.
One thing you notice when you stop drinking is you have a lot more time on your hands. Funny how I used to think I was too busy to look after myself, yet the answer was to stop wasting time getting wasted. In fact, when I first stopped drinking I was terrified of being bored! Ha, I have to laugh at that now, there is no boredom when you are present in your truth. And at first, I thought about drinking all the time, so to distract myself for the mild FOMO I went for a walk. At first it was 20 minutes, and then it was hours because I found my love for it again. It helped me process my thoughts, it made me feel better, it made me not want to go back to drinking. It gave me clarity, it birthed ideas and it helped with my happiness.
When you stop drinking, whether it's for a little or a long time, you will have more time on your hands, so I took it to the streets. Kind of like in the dance movie, Step Up To The Streets. I walked. I got up earlier because I went to bed earlier (and I wasn't hungover or dehydrated). Sure, some mornings I was half asleep half around the new block I walked but I felt good and other mornings I just didn't want to go but you now what? Sometimes you have to tap into your character instead of your comfort. And once you start feeling good, it's addictive. Like alcohol, but way better for your brain health. No-one made a regrettable choice after an hour of walking!
Walking became my 'thing' again, so did F45 but that's another story. And no matter how much I lift bro or sweat it out in a gym session, making time for my 'thing' is what brings me clarity and calm. When I am calm, I can do the work. When I can do the work I get the results and I'm not talking about losing weight or building lean muscle mass. I mean life results. You know like publishing books, or renovating houses. Or just being an awesome wife and a pleasant human to be around.
I'd read walking has great physical health benefits, and that's kinfd of I discovered it had amazing mental health benefits. My brain is so loud, it really doesn't stop. I have creative ideas that wake me up, I am in an almost constant state of mild anxiety about how to not let anyone down, I want to achieve and change the world, my world. When you have an active brain, it's hard to be quiet. It's tough to stop the thoughts and arrest them to being in the present. I think I have lived most of life 5 seconds in the future having a panic attack right now about a hypothetical that usually wouldn't play out as the horror I imagined. This also why I used to drink alcohol. Just to stop. Just to numb. Just to quieten the mind and be able to finally for a few moments relax. And as much as yes, having a drink can take the edge off, the damage it does to your internal system is insane. It stops your brain functioning properly, it shuts down your neural pathways and sends your central nervous system into overdrive. That's usually why you wake up at 3am after a few too many drinks with a dry throat, a pounding headache and a racing heart. Then the panic rises and you feel awful, so, really not a great solution in the end. It took me a while to figure this out.
The relax that I thought the bottle used to give me, I found in nature. What also strikes me as concerning is how much we think alcohol does for us. We think it relaxes us, but it doesn't. We think it'll somehow change our situation but it doesn't. We think it our companion but it's not.
I much prefer the mind being quiet. The thoughts coming and then just going and it all began with walking. As you do a thing more you get better at it, I've replaced my gold medal winning drinking performance, with a walking habit. But not just walking to let off steam. Walking and being here, now, present. Seeing what I am seeing. Feeling what I am feeling. Smelling the air. Stopping to take it in. When you surround yourself with nature, it's hard to feel anything less than a small miracle.