by Chris Dillon
My mid-life crisis hit me the day before my 40th birthday. It happened outside a Nespresso shop in Newmarket about 10am on Friday 21 September 2012. How can I be so accurate? Because ten minutes later I found myself in a Porsche dealership. I went out for a coffee and the next minute I was questioning my entire existence, having three conversations in my head with three very different characters!
There was the 4-year old constantly asking questions… Why is my life like this? Why am I here? Have I achieved anything so far? There was the evil me who just kept saying “Don’t worry, just buy a new car and everything will be different”. There was also the guy who did everything he could to help everyone else so he didn’t have to face up to his own demons! I will always remember this one moment as the day the demons came calling.
I had certainly spent the first part of the year making positive changes by way of personal training. While my physical fitness was much better, I had plateaued and, to be honest, it was my head that needed the work more than my body. I had struggled emotionally for four years since my divorce (certainly not helped by owning a company whose main market was the wedding industry) and a subsequent relationship had also ended. Put simply, it was not the life I’d always imagined.
I had a successful company, some wonderful friends and moments of absolute joy…but those moments were very rare. Always the life of the party, the dark times would strike when alone. I don’t think I’d slept properly in years.
So that was me…in a nutshell. Pretty messed up, to be fair, and very conscious it was time to make some changes.
Then, out of the blue, I was asked by a friend (who happens to own this magazine) if I would like to spend five days at a retreat on the Gold Coast. I grabbed the opportunity.
My apprehension grew as I read the fine print in the information pack. The rules were clear – No smoking (I smoked 25-a-day), no alcohol (while not a big drinker I certainly like a wine or rum now and then) and finally… no sugar. I figured sugar would be the easy one, the drinking didn’t worry me too much, but the cigarettes ‘cold turkey’ gave me the sweats!
The next thing I knew I was standing at the reception of the Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, having smoked my last cigarette before leaving my accommodation on the Gold Coast. I had bypassed duty free and thrown my lighter in a rubbish bin.
Sharon greeted me and the very first thing she asked was, “Chris, did you bring any cigarettes with you?” To my negative response, she beamed a smile and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll help you through this. Anything you need just ask.” That was the end of my apprehension, and the start of the most incredible five days I can remember in a very long time.
I had read up on the ‘optimum wellbeing’ program I was about to undertake. It talked about the wonderful food and activities and of course the day spa. As a totally metrosexual guy, I was excited about all three and, being pretty fit, a few walks and a bit of stretching sounded good. A bit of ‘manscaping’ never hurt anyone.
At the first meeting every aspect of my week was planned to provide an optimum experience. I soon realised there was so much more I could gain from this place. I signed up for some counselling, blood analysis (yes, they have on-site blood screening) and, although I didn’t know it at the time, by the end of the week I would be talking to horses. No, I didn’t go mad!
So, let me briefly tell you about Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat – and may I point out that every aspect I am about to breeze over is world class. I have never been anywhere that is staffed by such an incredible group of passionate, professional and talented people. They truly care about you as a human being. They live the life they preach, and it’s a good life. They are genuinely friendly, absolute experts in their fields and they impart knowledge freely and wisely. From the front of house, to the activity experts, the restaurant team and the behind-the-scenes staff, every single one of them treated you as though you were the only person that mattered. It was self indulgent, and I loved every moment.
The facilities are amazing and the accommodation perfect. The food was beautiful and honestly prepared, designed to give your body everything it needs. It was a highlight of my stay.
The early mornings were filled with breathing exercises, stretching and fitness, something I have continued with at home. Mid-mornings included education, and the afternoons involved pampering in the incredible spa. The Hawaiian massage and “rockupuncture” were incredible. Then it was time for dinner and sleep. No TV… no phones … it was bliss.
If you’d asked me before I embarked on this journey if I expected changes to my body and mind in such a short time, the answer would have been…No! Yet in five short days, my body started working again. You will understand what I mean when you experience this yourself. I slept … I truly slept.
The sugar detox turned out to be much harder than giving up smoking, but I have kept the sugar at bay and my energy and sleep patterns are fantastic as a result. I am certainly not a complete convert to the Gwinganna lifestyle. I have takeaways now and then, I go out for a wine and I still have moments of stress, but I now have tools to deal with these things.
During my stay I never felt like I was being judged. Everything was optional, which was empowering, and that is how I choose to live my life right now. By choosing what is best for me. The biggest change has been a wonderful new relationship with someone I have known for a very long time.
Me! I can honestly say I actually love me. I am at peace with my past and looking forward to my future.
Was Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat solely responsible for this wonderful change in the way I feel about myself? Hell no. It took a lot more effort on my part and a focussed approach. But I will say this – those five days at Gwinganna were the catalyst I needed. It was the break from the responsibilities of my life that gave me the opportunity to work on “ME” in an environment so beautifully designed to encourage change.
Oh, and about talking to horses, I don’t want to tell you how this changed my life, but please assume it was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had. Equine Experience is the program name. If you get the opportunity, take this one with both hands.
Gwinganna, thank you for everything. I will be back!