Time to Flourish

My Name is Paul, for more years than I care to remember I had been using alcohol to soothe my tormented soul

Once upon a time there was a rag tag bunch of misfits, people who had made a habit of taking the wrong turn in life. Once their bodies and minds had had enough torture through their owners unwise decisions a moment of clarity befell them, “I have had enough” they all said “I’m going to change my ways”. Wise people from the big house surrounded by Buddleia agonised “how shall we help them”? “I know” said someone in the back, “let’s give them a knife, an axe and a scythe and teach them how to make fire!”

Don’t worry this isn’t the preface to a Stephen King novel you can come out from behind the pillow now. My Name is Paul, for more years than I care to remember I had been using alcohol to soothe my tormented soul. After surviving a stroke and being told my arteries in my legs will only allow 70% of their normal blood flow I knew I had to change my ways if I wanted to see my grandchildren grow up. My doctor suggested that I give up drinking with the help of drug and alcohol services, in my case the Together service, part of EDP Drugs and Alcohol Services.

I was encouraged to and shown how to cut down but I soon chose to kick the habit all together. I was sent to a treatment centre and enjoyed a medical detox. No really, I did enjoy it: I finally woke up after a 30-year sleep and it was amazing. There followed group therapy, counselling and other new activities like drinking tea, remembering yesterday and talking to people.

One thing I learned, but was already known to the keepers of the Buddleia, was that I had forgotten how to connect with nature, I had lost my grounding. So it was declared: “these lost souls will learn to flourish in nature. That’ll teach ’em!”

The kind people from the National Lottery and Sport England donated a sum of money to get things started and the head Buddleia Guru asked the gentle people from Devon Wildlife Trust if they could teach us how to teach nature stuff. Quite an intimidating idea must have been for them. All those people with dirty raincoats and brown paper bags wondering around their woods? But they gave us a knife, an axe, a scythe, some cotton wool and a flint thing that makes fire grow.

Off we went into the woods like the seven dwarfs. Each Friday for 5 weeks we went to the woods, we cooked bacon and made tea on a fire we had built, we made shelter and cleared some brambles. We built steps in the slippery woods, we made friends with cows and we made an elder whistle to annoy each other with. So many things we did and so much we learned.

I think I can speak for us all, we feel better, more connected, more in touch with the boy I was before I took the wrong turn.

My legs ache and my Mrs is tired of muddy trousers, but it has been so refreshing for me. I pledge to keep doing it. I will lead other people into the woods so that they too can find themselves. I am so grateful to all the people I have mentioned here and to others that I feel I can never adequately thank them. The best I can do is to pay it forward.

Paul – Flourish in Nature volunteer

Have you got some walking shoes  and a bit of time to spare? Shall we go for a walk? Let’s swap your bottle or your gear for a flint and a bacon roll. flourishinnature@edp.org.uk

Flourish in Nature is an EDP initiative supported by Active Devon, Devon Wildlife Trust, The National Lottery, Sport England, and the University of Plymouth .

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