26 Trips to Rehab, Yet Wellness was in the Wild

Cover 📸 credit: Chris Crerar Photography
Profile 📸 credit: Ella Lucy

I grew up in a little Australian town by the seaside. Idyllic really. In my Catholic primary school years, there was a knowing that I naively thought was universal. I liked girls. And I was rather partial to my PE teacher. It was exciting and joyful and natural to me. Back then, it was still illegal to be gay in Tasmania. Acceptance was not in fashion. So, I buried that part of me deep down until the age of 26.

At 15, I was handed a sugary Sub Zero bottle or three at a friend’s party. For the first time, I felt free. If I was going to have to kiss boys, this was the antidote to get me through. Problem is, I began turning to alcohol for every negative emotion to come. If life got too hard, my bestie was there waiting to fill my cup with the self-worthiness I lacked.

I took off on a full tennis scholarship to America at 18. I loved my time there and the beautiful Americans I came to know, who invited me for the likes of thanksgiving in Texas when the turkey was too big for the oven. My real drinking career began on return home, when I no longer had my tennis player identity. My life became suitably well soaked in alcohol.

My first trip to rehab was in 2008. It felt foreign and hideous. How could I have landed here? I must hold some record … I would follow this up with 26 rehab admissions. I’m not proud of this. In fact, only those close knew of the rehab revolving door. I share only because, if I can find true freedom from alcohol, anyone can. After all, I’ve jumped the fence and escaped rehab, I’ve been rushed to a New York hospital by ambulance (not recommended, coming with a $AU14,000 bill), and reached a blood alcohol level of .6, unable to breathe on my own. I woke up on a ventilator to hear the doctor say “you shouldn’t be here.” He had a point – Amy Winehouse didn’t make it at .4. It left me wondering that perhaps I should be here. That I have something to give. As someone who loves life and has never considered bidding it farewell, my drinking drew me awfully close.

I believe every path to wellness has its place – from AA to rehab – they just weren’t for me. It’s about finding the right fit. I tried AA meetings in dark rooms out the back of churches, huddled away from society like broken souls. A good friend had success in these circles, she even found her husband in the fold. Yet, I’d sit beside the electric radiator, sipping instant coffee wondering why I wasn’t in a yoga class. On occasion after AA, I would go straight to the bottle shop.

Though I accepted I had full blown alcohol dependence, I saw no point announcing to the group, “I’m Alice and I’m an alcoholic.” It wasn’t about denial; it was about a lifelong label. It didn’t sit well, nor hint at a hopeful future. It wouldn’t be until I came across This Naked Mind in America, founded by Annie Grace who has helped millions, that I realised others felt the same way about labels. In rehabs, I could no longer handle sitting in sterile rooms, doing group therapy beside the likes of a mother with cuts up her arm who no longer wanted her children. As I stared down into my ‘mindful knitting’ I wanted to cry for her. Following attempts with AA and $800-900/day rehab, I made a controversial decision. I said no more.

Thankfully, I’d managed to maintain a writing career, working as a destination journalist for Tourism Tasmania and later freelancing for glossy magazines, launching Tailored Tasmania and authoring more than 10 books. I even built a little house that featured on Grand Designs Australia – described by the TV host as my love letter to Tasmania. Behind that shiny exterior, those close to me knew I was hurting, stumbling and doing my best to survive.

I made the bold (and rather awkward decision) to return to my childhood home where it all began. I knew I had a tool kit that had everything I needed in it. I just needed time to sharpen my skills and trust myself. There was one dear friend in the kit that, aside from family, has had the most profound impact on my recovery and that’s Chris Raine, founder of Hello Sunday Morning.

When I hopped on the HSM site in 2010 and saw positive words spill across my laptop, punctuated by imagery of surfers and ‘the good life’ on the other side of alcohol, I’m certain happy tears streamed. After all those dark rooms and wayward dim paths, I saw a glimmer of what life could be. I was so profoundly moved, I hastily tapped a thank you email to Chris for founding a platform fuelled by hope. I shut the laptop. As if I’d hear back.

Turns out Chris is a lovely man. He not only wrote back, but years later was down in Hobart Town for a Vodafone Conference and invited me along to talk … I repaid him with a trip to CrossFit in the freezing rain where he powered through the session as I was given my trusty broom stick for squats. Chris might never truly know the impact of his blog-turned-internationally-significant-platform, but for a Tasmanian who had knitted her way through 26 rehab stints, it was the first time I connected with a vision and community. I knew it was my way forward. I also believe it’s played an integral role in changing Australia’s drinking culture.

It was my stepping stone for greater discovery. On the HSM website I came across This Naked Mind, the author Annie Grace, another pivotal character in my return to Alice. The moment I turned on her Audible voice, I kept repeating “that’s me.” She’s taken me on a journey of shifting unconscious beliefs – it’s delivered genuine and lasting freedom.

Back in my childhood home in 2019, I changed everything about my life. I leapt into the HSM community, signed up for Annie Grace’s intensive course, and took a giant dive into the ocean. As the person who rarely jumped in (aside from one Christmas Day when I was thrown in fully clothed by my brother for ruining another family Christmas), I was hooked on cold water therapy. I’d continue 150+ days through Tassie’s chilled, churning waves … washing away a past life and re-writing a new one.

I won’t say I’m better. But I will say a combo of HSM, Annie Grace, Wim Hof Method cold water/breathwork, gratitude, wilderness, good food/sleep/exercise, good company and two-plus litres of water daily has become my recipe for wellness – a blueprint that ended a rehab legacy stretching from 2008 to 2019. I’ve not needed rehab since.

I realised recovery didn’t have to be a slog. The discomfort of having your bags searched by a nurse was replaced by the freedom of sunrise ocean plunges. After 20+ years of trying to find an answer, I felt it my duty to share a path that broke me free from alcohol’s shackles. Because no one likes to take years to find an answer. I don’t promise it’s a fix-all. But I do know it’s my proven recipe and it can be tailored just right for anyone who is ready.

The more I timidly began to share the concept with others, the more empowered I became. I mined the world for experts who spoke to me, and injected their insights into daily life to see what resonated. An addiction doctor in Sydney said he’d hop aboard right away, tourism leaders smiled with anticipation that Tasmania could become the epicentre of wellness and friends admitted their own struggles. Though I shook at the thought of sharing my own story, I decided it might just turn the two-decade sh**show into a positive.

I don’t know about others, but when you finally put your hand up for help and Australia’s burdened health system pops you on a waiting list, it’s disheartening. Though that system has taken me far, it turns out many of the answers were within. It just took the right road map. When this is in place, change can happen in a moment. I want to share my golden finds so none of us feel alone … after all, a wise Johann Hari shared in his Ted Talk that “the opposite of addiction is connection.”

Washing Dad’s car one day, I decided to call it the Wild Wellness Method, with plans to share my learnings across Tassie retreats and multi-day walks in 2022.

59 Comments

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  • So proud of you Alice. You’ve created such an empowering alternative to rehab through Wild Wellness. There’s something to be gained for everyone getting amongst nature, engaging in the Wim Hof method, journalling and practicing mindfulness and gratitude. It really is for everyone and I’ve seen first hand it’s already having an incredibly positive impact on people’s lives. Following on from the launch and my experience last month I have felt so rejuvenated and inspired to continue engaging in these enriching self care rituals. So a heartfelt thank you for shaking things up and providing the holistic care that so many will benefit from for many years to come.

    By Claire Barbača
    |
    September 1, 2021
    • Thank you so much Claire Bear!! It was so special to have you along on the first Wild Wellness adventure. Means so much. Big hugs to my favourite sis sis xxx

      By Alice
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      September 18, 2021
  • What a wonderful story of recovery. I wish you, and those who join you on this special journey, a lifetime of fulfilment, happiness and success.

    By Linda
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    September 4, 2021
    • Oh thank you so much Linda – that means so much. I wish you well also and every happiness. Alice 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 18, 2021
  • Wow! This is so inspiring! I love your recipe! and can’t wait to see The Wild Wellness Method unfold. Thank you for sharing your story. 🌺

    By Diane
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Thank you so much for your kind words Diane – much appreciated! Alice 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 18, 2021
  • This is a great story Alice…thanks for sharing it! Really, really inspiring.

    By Olivia van Dijk
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Thank you so much for your kind words! Alice 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 18, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing Alice, I hear you. I’ve chosen my own roadmap too, and wellness and nature are huge components. Hopefully one day I’ll get to experience a pice of your wild wellness method. All the best in living your best life!

    By Rebecca
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Alice. You are brave to be so open and naked in your struggle, and journey to find freedom from what kept you there. What a kindness and gift to share your learnings with the world so that others may find freedom from their darkness and community to embrace, lift up and inspire. Be proud of yourself xx

      By Alexandra Williams
      |
      September 6, 2021
      • Thank you for your beautiful and supportive words Alexandra. So kind of you to share these. I wish you well, too and SO appreciate your note here 🙂

        By Alice
        |
        September 18, 2021
    • Hello Rebecca and thank you so much for your supportive words. So wonderful that nature plays an integral part for you as well. You can reach out any time for our upcoming 2022 walks. You’ll find all the details at https://www.wildwellnessmethod.com/ and feel free to email direct with any questions to alice@tailoredtasmania.com – would love to have you down in Tassie 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 18, 2021
  • I found my connection in animals- mainly horses! Now I support others with ‘Connection with horses’ . Humans couldn’t, wouldn’t support me and regulate me like horses can!! Thanks for keeping this at the front for me!! Great read on a Sunday morning whilst lying in bed!!! Hangover free I might add!! X

    By Tarnya
    |
    September 4, 2021
  • I found my connection in animals- mainly horses! Now I support others with ‘Connection with horses’ . Humans couldn’t, wouldn’t support me and regulate me like horses can!! Thanks for keeping this at the front for me!! Great read on a Sunday morning whilst lying in bed!!! Hangover free I might add!! X

    By Tarnya
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Ahhhh beautiful horses. All we need to do is find ‘what works for us.’ We are all so individual and I’m thrilled to hear you’ve found your wellness and peace in horses and are now helping others to. How special 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 18, 2021
  • Wild Wellness sounds Wonderful! Planning a Tassie walk in the next 2 years. I’m 2 years alcohol free now and love a good walk, knees permitting. Thanks for sharing. Go you good thing 😊

    By Trina
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Thanks so much for sharing your amazing good news story! I like you find nature so healing.

      By Emily
      |
      September 4, 2021
      • Nature is such a healer 🙂

        By Alice
        |
        September 18, 2021
    • Ohhh you must come down to walk in Tassie. So special and well done on two years – amazing 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 4, 2021
  • What a beautiful and honest story. Please sign me up for the first multi day walk. Wild Wilderness resonates perfectly with me.

    By Lizzy
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Oh hello Lizzy and thank you so much for your supportive words. You can reach out any time for our upcoming 2022 walks. You’ll find all the details at https://www.wildwellnessmethod.com/ and feel free to email direct with any questions to alice@tailoredtasmania.com – would love to have you down in Tassie 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 18, 2021
  • Well done and all the best going forward!

    By Clare Felton
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Thank you so much 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 4, 2021
  • Wonderful story. You brave thing – wow!

    By Catherine Johnson
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Much appreciated! 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 4, 2021
  • Your story is heartening. Go you for persisting with looking after yourself and thank goodness the .6 didn’t kill you!
    Thanks for being an inspiration 🙏🌻🐝

    By Wildbeejan
    |
    September 4, 2021
  • I’m trying to go AF so in two years time I’d love to go walking in Tassie, on the “Wild Wellness method” 🧡 good luck with the venture.

    By Sandie
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Oh you must get to Tassie … the walking is next level amazing … especially the Three Capes Track that we just walked 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 4, 2021
  • Thank you so much for sharing your story , your write so well & it’s a joy to read your tale of wellness & the truth of what your life was & now is . I feel like you’ve sent me another message to get into that water which is on my doorstep . I take it so much for granted having been lucky enough to have had it across the road my entire life .Instead I wait until 5 .00 pm to have a glass of wine after doing yoga !! How mad is that ? I know I need to stop I’m not living my best life . I’m not even trying . Thank you

    By Tracey Dixon
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Hello Tracey. Thank you for your beautiful words. I grew up by the ocean too and thought my brothers and sister were mad surfing through winter … I’d always be the one in three layers on the sand. Discovering the power of cold water and nature has been life changing … it was the ‘hit’ I used to crave from alcohol … delivered in a cool blast state change that has me feeling amazing all day. Thank you for sharing Tracey and good luck taking the dive 🙂

      By Alice Hansen
      |
      September 4, 2021
  • A multitude of thanks for telling your story. It brings tears of joy to be guided to your wild path. I am blessed to have found you with such a timely impact….after many building blocks to finally discover my only choice is to follow the wellness fork in the road. I had spent my lifetime running away until I woke 3 months ago.
    HSM, Annie Grace, and Holly Whitaker guided me to here 🙏.
    Jo
    4 Sept 21

    By Jo Aspinall
    |
    September 4, 2021
  • Thank you for sharing your journey.. I was AF for 9 months and felt wonderful. Through a few difficult situations I relapsed.. Just can’t have that first drink!!! Now I am ready to make the change again this time forever..Reading your story is a inspiration and really helps. Also yesterday I found out my girlfriends brother is now in palliative care age 65 years old the cause from alcohol addiction.. Very sad 😔 Enjoy all the wonderful things you are doing and Thanks again… 🙌😊

    By Marsha
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Hello Marsha – thank you for sharing a little of your own journey. Nine months is amazing work and I’m so sorry to hear of the palliative care situation. I knew every drink was taking me in a direction I didn’t want to head – like you I can’t have the first one without a slippery slope. I sure feel free on the other side! It may feel hard to quit, but continuing was SO much harder. Wishing you well 🙂

      By Alice Hansen
      |
      September 4, 2021
    • Great reading your story I am AF for only a couple of weeks then have a couple of drinks beat myself up for doing so then repeat this circle all over again just can’t seem to stop completely good luck to you will try yet again
      Gill

      By Gill Farren
      |
      September 4, 2021
      • Keep trying Gill. I don’t know how many Day 1’s I had…until I reached a point of deciding no more. There was too much good on the other side. We can all find that freedom. Good luck to you also 🙂

        By Alice
        |
        September 6, 2021
  • I’m in detox at the very moment. Everything is telling me to stay but all I want to do is leave. I want a drink, I’ve got the drugs ready to go. I’ve swum each morning and now I’m sitting outside in the rain just because I can’t go back into those sterile walls where they tell me to be bored and watch TV. I want to be outside, I want to treat it with nature and not with groups of people on pleather chairs who are not like me. I feel for them, I do.. but they’re not me. They don’t want to be outside.

    By Sarah
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Hello Sarah. I hope you enjoyed that rain falling. I feel for you – there were many times I struggled so much being within those white confined walls. Sometimes I knew I had to sit through that pain and angrily do a little more ‘mindful knitting.’ But I knew my true answers to freedom were within….and out there in nature…and just diving into the good life that was waiting on the other side of addictive chaos. I wish you well on your journey. There are bright days ahead 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • Looking forward to the day I can book this retreat. Thank you for being brave and taking what you have learnt to help others.

    By Clare Wood
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Hello Clare – thank you for your kind words. There are lots of retreats and experiences happening in 2022 (including in Vic!) so be sure to check the Wild Wellness site for details. It would be great to have you here in Tassie 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing your story Alice. I’m 8 months AF and This Naked Mind, the Wim Hif Method and nature have definitely helped me. Luvved reading yur story.
    🧡🧡🧡

    By Kate Johnson
    |
    September 4, 2021
    • Hello Kate. Thank you so much for sharing. Isn’t This Naked Mind and Wim Hof the best? How wonderful that we’ve found similar paths….not just incredible help on the journey but incredible fun as well!!! Finding true freedom doesn’t have to just be about hard work….if we inject joy in it we’re more likely to stick to it. 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • “I won’t say I’m better?”

    ????

    By Mark
    |
    September 5, 2021
    • I choose not to put pressure on myself by saying I’m 100% better forever. There is little point. I choose to celebrate the day … and every day that I am well and happy. Like today 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • I too experienced the ‘mindful knitting’ moment surrounded by people I couldn’t relate to, and went straight to the bottle shop after leaving every admission.

    I have found my people fortunately through 1 particular AA Home Group, supplemented by Russel Brand’s take on the 12 Step Program. 6 months AF and it’s ridiculous how much better my life has become, built firmly around that key theme of Connection.

    Whether it is HSM or your excellent sounding approach, there is a plan that will work. The trick is finding it and embracing it.

    Good luck with your journey.

    By Andrew
    |
    September 5, 2021
    • Hello Andrew. Thank you so much for sharing. So glad you have a home AA group with ‘your people’ and I loved reading Russel Brand’s take on the 12 Steps…he had me laughing out loud and equally provided a powerful path forward. You’re spot on…it’s about finding your path and running with it. I spent so long searching for it and it turns out I still can’t knit to save myself. It was never going to save me!!! I wish you well on your journey also 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • I’m very interested to read about Wild Wellness Method. I too tried many different paths to my AF life now, from reading many many books, AA (which made me feel even more hopeless and helpless) but was a shining light for my father, abstinence and then finally Annie Grace! It took me many tries and many years but finding Annie Grace was my beacon. She helped me understand alcoholism and made me feel l could attain an AF life. I read her books, l watched her videos, l did her courses.
    I have been AF for nearly 4 years now. The best decision l ever made!
    HSM is my maintainence program. It inspires me to continue living and pursuing an authentic way of living.
    Im coming back to Tassie in 2022…and looking forward to spending my weekends walking in the wilderness. Good luck with the Wild Wellness Method. Its so important to have options to AF living as we are each on our journey.

    By Sarah
    |
    September 5, 2021
    • Hello Sarah – how wonderful that you too found your freedom through Annie Grace’s approach. Isn’t she incredible? I actually spoke to her a couple of weeks back on her podcast – such a thrill to talk to my AF idol!!! Enjoy your time in Tassie, soak up that wilderness and thanks so much for sharing your story. Alice 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • Thank you for bravely sharing your story with the world Alice. You are an inspiration… always have been. And it’s so great to see you’ve found your groove x

    By Chris Crerar
    |
    September 5, 2021
    • Ah Chris – it’s a pleasure to know you and it was such a treat to share the Three Capes adventure with you. There’ll never be another first one and it was an absolute cracker. Thank you for your belief in the Wild Wellness vision! 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • Oh Alice I’m so proud to be a new member of your amazing family. My trials and tribulations fade into insignificance besides yours. What a wonderfully uplifting story and so beautifully and simply told …

    By Anne McEncroe
    |
    September 5, 2021
    • Oh Anne – no ones trials and tribulations can fade – they are each just as relevant and real in all of us. Your journey is one of such stoicism that I can’t imagine walking myself. So wonderful that you’re part of our fam x

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • Thank you Alice.
    A beautiful and honest piece of writing.
    Glad to have met you. 😊

    By Gabrielle Earnshaw
    |
    September 6, 2021
    • Thank you so much dear Gabrielle. You are such a delight and I look forward to seeing you about the peninsula no doubt. Alice x

      By Alice
      |
      September 6, 2021
  • ‘My return to Alice’… one of my favourite parts in this beautifully raw read. X

    By Leah Clark
    |
    September 6, 2021
    • Ah – thank you. It’s nice to return!!! Big hugs to you xx

      By Alice
      |
      September 18, 2021
  • Hi Sarah,

    I really loved your post.
    I recently came out of my first rehab stint after battling with the bottle for more years than I’d like to admit.
    Although I’ve not had a drink since leaving, I felt very challenged by the whole approach. I threw myself into the experience, which included external AA meetings. I kept being told 90 meetings in 90 days or else you will fail. The whole AA approach didn’t sit well with me and I found myself being hugely critical of the content in the therapy sessions at the clinic. I was really alarmed to find out that I was pretty much the only person at the rehab facility (104 beds) that wasn’t either a returning client or hadn’t previously been to another facility. It really made me question the program and got me thinking about what was wrong with what was on offer. Upon leaving, my feedback form was incredibly long and detailed!

    I have looked at your Wild Wellness website and think that what you’ve created is outstanding. It’s so nice to see that someone is offering an alternative to the stuffy clinical approach in order to address the problem. I hope to join you one day soon on one of these fabulous retreats.

    Congratulations and all the best.

    MJ

    By MJ
    |
    September 8, 2021
    • Alice, not Sarah!!! Sorry!

      By MJ
      |
      September 8, 2021
    • Hello MJ – thank you for your very kind words and your honesty. I trust that the traditional model is a fit for many but I also trust that my 27th time wasn’t going to be a fix. I had to do something radically different. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to be well but equally, I found such ‘freedom’ in the Annie Grace approach….true freedom rather than white knuckling it until the next craving or stressful moment in life inevitably hit. I hope you find a happy and successful path forward and would love to see you here in Tassie (and Vic in 2022) some time in the future. Wishing you well on your path forward and take good care. Alice 🙂

      By Alice
      |
      September 18, 2021
      • Thank you for your insight, brought up in a home where alcohol was how you coped it has been something I have turned to when the going gets tough. Admitting it in a room full of strangers is not where I want to go with this but I am aware this is my vulnerable area that I visit now and then.

        By Patricia
        |
        November 15, 2021
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