How My Alcoholism Took Me to a Bali Raw Food Retreat

How My Alcoholism Took Me to a Bali Raw Food Retreat


wellness retreatWhen I drank alcohol I had no personal boundaries and life was my giant comfort zone. I sought out romance and adventure. I loved to “go for it!”

Now that I’m sober, I’ve learned that my “romance” was more like a series of sad hook-ups and my “adventures” mostly involved going places I’d never been with people I didn’t know.

But I still have a desire to “go for it,” to experience something extreme, to go to great lengths to feel great.

In sobriety, I’ve “used” many things for this purpose—coffee, tea, sugar, TV, people—you name it. I’ve even misused health treatments, like when I flew to Bali for a 10-day raw food and juice cleanse retreat. Why? Because I’m an alcoholic, I like to use stuff to feel better. And to be honest, it was pretty fun.

At six years sober, I had a really stressful job that ended badly. Meaning, I got fired. Even though a lot of people got fired that day, I didn’t like it. It was depressing, plus I felt depleted, beaten down. Since I couldn’t go do the logical thing you do when this happens, you know, get super wasted, I looked in the opposite direction. I wanted to do something super healthy.

I wanted to get away. I’d heard Bali was amazing, but what would I do there? I’d had a passing interest in ‘raw food’ and it seemed like the absolute healthiest way you could eat. The principle idea is that because the food is never heated over 180 degrees, it maintains its nutrients and enzymes which gives you extra good health. I live in LA, which has several raw food restaurants where they craft “rawsagna” and “rawchos,” dishes made only from treated raw ingredients that taste in the realm of lasagna or nachos, provided you haven’t had lasagna or nachos in quite some time. I even had a vague thought once of “maybe I’ll become a raw food chef when none of my other dreams work out.” Just keeping it extreme.

Next, I did what any truth-seeker does. I Googled. Turns out there was a retreat where for five days, you eat and get trained in making raw food, then for five days, you just drink raw juice. And it was happening in Bali in a few weeks. And they had one slot left! Was it a sign I should go? Sure, why not?

Bali is beautiful! I rented an open-air hut on a rice paddy, got a motor bike and settled in for the retreat. It wasn’t until I’d gotten there that I questioned what I was doing. I’m seriously not going to eat “real food” for 10 days. What? I had never done a cleanse before. Not for one day, much less 10. I’d tried a few times. I’d had a juice for breakfast, then got hungry sometime around noon and ate lunch. So this was going to be really different. But it’s not extreme unless it’s extreme, right? I was excited to go for it and try to get high on health!

Day One was awful. We didn’t get breakfast, then lunch was late, and dinner consisted of a raw food version of “mashed potatoes and gravy” made with cauliflower and black sesame seeds. I don’t want to judge, but if I were to judge, I’d say it was disgusting.

On the second day, my body kicked into high detox gear, which felt like getting the flu. My sinuses drained, supposedly because my body was detoxing dairy. It felt like getting an ear infection. Fun!

A ton of feelings came up so I was crying constantly. This happens when you stop eating sugar, dairy, meat, soy, grain, cooked food, and, you know, everything all at once. I was aching, snotting, and bawling. Detox is rough. All the toxins in the body depart and they kick you in the balls on the way out.

On Day Three, I got my first colonic. Shit got real. Literally.

Our raw food instructor, Amy, had taught us about the gut and none of it was good news. Apparently, most people who’ve eaten a Standard American Diet (meat, cheese, bread, sugar, etc.) have acidic systems. I’m from Texas, so I had it big-time. We take the Standard American Diet, add chili n’ cheese, deep-fry it and smother it with barbecue sauce. I’m country-fried acidic. Well, this crazy acidic gut creates a breeding ground for, um, well…parasites. And these can show up in colonics.

When I hoisted myself up on the table, the colonic lady asked if I was comfortable. I assumed this was rhetorical, as I was helping her insert a hose deep up my back-side. Then she told me to “just relax” as she pumped in water and irrigated my guts. No problem.

She said I was “releasing” pretty well. It’s not something I’d thought to be proud of, but okay. It’s a compliment, I guess. Then I wasn’t releasing. Then…something happened. I felt a little bad, nauseous, then suddenly felt much better. I asked if something had happened and was told that a worm just came out of me.

I’m sorry, what? A worm just came out of me!

I’m not going to lie. This was a surprise and a bit of low point. I guess it was because a fucking worm came out of me! What do you do? Do you ask to see it? Keep it? Name it? Take it fishing? I had no point of reference for a badonk-a-donk worm-birth.

And this was only the third day! How bad was it going to get? And did I just have that one worm, who jumped ship first chance he got? I assume it was a “he.” Or am I full of lady worms? That seems worse. Like, there should be a code, “Ho’s before being a parasitic infestation on your gut lining.” Am I so infested with worms, that this was the beginning of many? Am I just like, a worm piñata now? It was horrifying. But I actually felt better.

Next up, I had Ozone therapy. I’d never heard of this treatment and it’s not legal in the US. These are two reasons I wanted to do it. Plus, it was administered by a cute Englishman named Barnaby. Three. That’s three solid reasons to try it. And supposedly it’s super healing and cured him when he was at death’s door.

The principle behind Ozone therapy is that it helps turn an internal acidic system into a healthy alkalized system. Oxygen is O2. Ozone is O3. That’s one more, isn’t it? It’s like, “This Oxygen goes to 11!” It gets shot into the body, and the extra O electron latches on to acidic Hydrogen atoms and converts them, healing the body from within, on a cellular level. That’s the theory.

How does this gas get pumped into the body you ask? Good question!

You get hooked up to the gas machine, then a tube pumps Ozone into one of your body holes. Either your ears, rectum or, if you have one, vagina. Ladies’ choice! I’m not much of a decision maker, so I went all three at once. Go big or go home, right? Extreme!

But first, you get a coffee enema. Did I mention that? The reasoning is that you don’t want to pump a lot of great stuff into you, while there’s old stuff in the way, so let’s clear it out. Like a garage sale in your butt.

So, I’m halfway around the world, lying on a cot, half-covered in a sarong, looking up at this Englishman with manly broad shoulders and a boyish grin. He looked like Sting, if you hadn’t seen Sting for a while. Ozone blew up my womb like a balloon, streamed into my ear canals, and soared its way though my back door. And I thought, “I have really gone a different direction from my drinking days.”

I got other treatments that week, like cranio-sacral massage, acupressure, vaginally absorbed goat yogurt probiotics, and bio-energetic feedback. I danced wildly at a Kirtan, and even had a session with a sex therapist, which is another story. I got through the five days of just juice without cheating once. And I earned my certificate as raw food chef. I did everything I could think of to feel amazing, to be completely healed.

On my last night, I lay in my hut watching the sunset across the rice paddy, listening to geckos, and breathing the sweet air of Bali. I felt amazing. My body coursed with nutrients from fresh, raw food. Toxins had fled. I’d healed from the inside out. I knew I’d found the answer and was completely healed.

I was wrong, of course.

When I got back home it was Thanksgiving, and I ate. And I remembered that cooked food is awesome! And so is pie. Pie! And like I’ve done many times in sobriety, I realized that there isn’t one great answer to life. There are ups and downs no matter what. So I get to keep trying stuff like this, and discovering things that feel good, knowing (though often forgetting) that happiness always lies somewhere in the middle.


About Author

Laura House is a sober writer and comedian. She was born in Grand Prairie, Texas, educated at the University of Texas at Austin, and lives and works in Los Angeles. She's written on the sketch show Blue Collar TV, and half-hour sit-coms including The George Lopez Show, Mad Love, Loosely Exactly Nicole, as well as the Emmy-winning shows Samantha Who and Mom. In addition she has developed four original pilots with ABC, FX and Nickelodeon. She currently works as a producer on the BAFTA-winning BBC series, The Secret Life of Boys. She performs at recovery shows all over the country. She recently performed at the NA world convention in Orlando. Her album Mouth Punch is available on all platforms.