In September, I turn 55-years-old

It’s hard to believe. I often hear others remark, “I thought you were in your 30’s.”

Phoenix - Blossom and BeI’ve been reflecting on this reality and the steps I have taken on my healing journey. Ironically, I burned the candle on both ends and was exposed to less than ideal situations in my first score. The bargain I made was to live to 21 or 28 at max, like Jimi, Janis, and Jim.  After all, “Only the good die young.” Right?

While I was afforded the building blocks required for optimal health, I also encountered some internal and external obstacles along the way. For years, I fought against myself. There was a part of me that valued health and life, searching for the holy grail, and another part that explored the edges, pushing life to the limits on this physical plane.

What’s my secret?

Pro: Good Genes

My ancestors mostly lived into their 80s and 90s, and even one grandmother to 100. They immigrated from Europe. And, even though they experienced emotional and physical hardships, they grew up on traditional foods, valued physical movement and work, had tight familial bonds, and were not exposed to many of the harmful toxins found nowadays in industrialized countries.

Life Before Birth, by Arthur Janov explains the importance of our parents’ lifestyle decisions and the impact they have on their offspring. So, my soul picked wisely, a good constitution and lineage to drop into. I think this is a big one!

Con: Modern Life

This was the age of the Marlboro man and my parents both smoked before and after I was born. It was also the age of soy formula, no breastfeeding, white sugar, white flour, sugar cereals, margarine, nitrates, sulfates, bleaching everything, aerosol hairspray, alcohol mouthwash and aftershave, chlorinated water (especially the indoor pools that I trained and swam in competitively for ten years), sugar juices, Pepsi, overuse of antibiotics, minimal to no environmental protections, lead, Chemlawn, and all the other fake foods. Uhhhh, Not good!

Pro: Oldest Child

Because I was my mother’s first pregnancy, I acquired better nutrition in utero than my siblings. Dr. Weston Price in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration showed in his research that the oldest child typically had a stronger constitution, larger bones, and less dental cavities.

Parents are found to be more worn out physically, emotionally, and nutritionally further down the line. And, they often relax their commitment to health and attention-giving due to responsibility overwhelm as the family grows. Darwin would agree.

Con: Non-attachment

Dr. Spock counseled our parents to let us cry it out, suggesting that coddling a baby would surely spoil us rotten. We slept in cribs alone in our rooms, longing for healthy touch and connection. We missed out on the ever so important “In-arms phase” of childhood, when we naturally bond, build trust, and gain confidence and autonomy. Jean Leidloff in the Continuum Concept notes in her research with Amazonian babies that these deviations from the continuum are major contributing factors to addiction, narcissism, boredom, sexual challenges, depression, anxiety, disease, apathy, and failure to thrive. Yikes!

Pro: Good Nutrition

I grew up on hearty, high-protein, high-fat meals. We shoveled it in and were encouraged to “Eat! Eat! Eat!” We ate stuffed cabbage with ground beef, roasts and potatoes, goulash, chicken paprika, gallons of whole milk, lox and cream cheese, heavy cream and butter, pickled herring, pork chops, eggs, and eggnog. We ate our steaks and burgers “still mooing.”

Dad bought whole sides of beef or pork at the butcher to feed us all season long. We ate the organs, fat, and skin. We turned bones into stews, broths, and gravies. Nothing was low-fat and nothing went to waste. We were frowned upon if we didn’t lick our plates clean. Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions sheds light on the benefits of this life-giving diet. Nourishing foods for life!!

Pro: Active Childhood

When I wasn’t in school, I was outdoors. We played hard before class, had three recesses each day plus gym twice a week, and played until bedtime. We played every kind of ball imaginable. We walked, skateboarded, and biked everywhere. We swam all summer, mowed grass, raked leaves, shoveled snow, and washed cars. We scraped paint, sanded, and screwed in screws by hand. We played in the creeks, in the rain, in the mud, in the snow, in the autumn leaves, under the stars, and in the baking sun. We rolled in the grass, wrestled, and climbed trees. We foraged wild weeds, bugs, and berries. We hunted rabbits and squirrels. We fished for crawdads, bass, and blue gill.  Spending time in nature and exposure to her many microbes are life giving! Research says, Farm Kids are Healthier.

Con: Mars in Scorpio

Before I turned 16, I made the proverbial deal with the devil. Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll! My anthems were “I Can’t Drive 55,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “We Are the Champions,” “Born to Be Wild,” and “Voodoo Child.” Late nights living on PBR, Boone’s Farm, dope, and whisky hampered my health. Asthma, allergies, dry skin, cotton mouth, UTIs, binge eating, nausea, and massive hangovers. Obviously, this was not the path to becoming a centenarian.

There was a part of me that needed to explore the edges and take risks. There was also an angry and confused part that didn’t like my reality and was looking for a way out. I’m sure I stunted my health and happiness exponentially during this time. It’s a wonder I’m still here. Unprocessed anger drives up cortisol levels and does major damage according to Gabor Mate in When the Body says No. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. And, oh god, let’s not discuss the relationships that I couldn’t live with or without.

It’s looking bleak for our main character.

Luckily, I had a wake-up call, “Phoenix, it’s time to grow up, show up and be a Dad.”

1994: My Healing Quest begins

Phase 1: Letting Go

I stopped self-destructive behaviors immediately. I began psychotherapy, got a sponsor, went to twelve-step meetings, and quit drinking and drugging. I made amends to myself and others. I began working out, eating according to my body type thanks to Dr. Sunil Joshi, and I moved to the woods.

I began Transcendental Meditation, grew my own food, did a rite of passage, joined the Mankind Project and other men’s groups, and did ShadowWork and breathwork. I learned Marshall Rosenberg’s Compassionate Communication and did Neurofeedback.

Phase 2: Clean Living

My lifestyle began to mimic the seasons and cycles of the day. I smashed my alarm clock, parked my car, Give Up My Glasses for Good, by Nathan T. Oxenfeld, and drank and bathed in springs and creeks. I chopped wood and carried water. I avoided fluorescent lights and unnatural fiber clothing, furniture, and bedding. I slept with the windows open. I stopped eating packaged and preserved food and switched to buying only fresh, organic.

I slept at least eight hours each night. I stopped using soap, only putting things on my skin that I would be willing to put in my mouth. I removed my mercury fillings, switching from fluoride to clay and coconut oil toothpaste. I began to explore my own natural healing skills, with some help from Honey, Mud and Maggots. I co-created a farm homestead at Earthaven Ecovillage intentional community.

Phase 2B: Self-Love

I began to let go of unhealthy relationships, my fear of abandonment, and my longing for love, with the help of Co-dependence Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families and Many Roads, One Journey, by Charlotte Kasl. These programs gave me my emotional and physical life back. I began following my heart and doing volunteer work, and I entered into an uplifting relationship.

I enrolled in Laurel Mamet’s Inner Focus Energy Healing School, and began to trust my intuition and a few spiritual teachers like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn. I developed a relationship with my Higher Self. I read Love Without Conditions, by Paul Ferrini, Ask and It Shall Be Given, by Ester Hicks, and Seat of the Soul, by Gary Zukov.

“People who matter don’t mind, and people who mind don’t matter.”

Phase 2C: The Primal Diet Lifestyle

I read and embraced We Want to Live and Recipe for Living Without Disease, by Aajonus Vonderplanitz, the creator of the Primal Diet. Eating strictly raw meat in 2001, I began the process of manufacturing robust new cells, rejuvenating my body from the inside out. I still maintain these healthy habits, which include eating raw meats and fats, raw dairy, raw honey, and celery juice daily.

I take tons of  hot Epsom salt baths. We go for walks each day. I sleep well. I avoid toxins inside and outside of my body as much as possible. There’s been no trace of my asthma and I haven’t developed any new dental cavities in over twenty years. My skin is soft. My hair is thick and silky. I’ve never had a flu shot, a tetanus shot, or any vaccine as an adult. I still have my tonsils, my appendix, and all the organs I brought with me into this world. I don’t take any medications or supplements and I avoid X-rays, hospitals, and radiation as much as possible. I can’t remember the last time I had a major detox. (Detox is what most people might call “getting sick”.)

Phase 3: Skill Building

I went back to school to be a relationship and growth coach at Higher Alignment, Linda Starwolf’s Shamanic Breathwork and Jerry Donoghue’s Inner Presence Coaching. I got certified in Reiki, graduated from Asheville School of Massage and Yoga, took a bold step to change careers, and opened Blossom & Be Wellness Retreat with my wife and business partner, Avyanna.

I think these milestones are a big key to my overall health and wellbeing. Forgiving and loving my creative self while dropping the idealization I had of myself and others has contributed to my emotional recovery. Doing work that I love and having friends and a companion who ”see and get me” creates oxytocin that affirms and supports me on so many levels.

“Oh, Oh, the Places We’ll Go!” -Dr. Seuss

Phase 4: Complete Reopening – No restrictions

This month, I had a physical exam for a life insurance policy. The paramedical was astonished. She said, “I’ve never seen, in all my years, test results this impressive.” I was approved “Super-preferred” with the lowest premium. Seems like I created my own insurance policy.

I have a deep peace and a stronger relationship with my inner knowing. I’m still in love. I still do work I love. I feel like I’ve made major strides forward modeling healthier choices for my children and the next generation. I’ve become the dad I wish to be. Dr. Pottenger’s Cats showed us that it can take three generations to achieve optimal health. As in planting a chestnut tree, our grandkids shall one day reap the harvest.

So, to what do I owe my youthfulness?

Good genes – Physical activity – Nourishing food – Surviving my teens – Desire to grow – Emotional balancing – Loving mentors – Removing myself from toxic environments – Divine intervention – Compatible trail walkers – Finding meaning and purpose.

Today, I have a better idea of who I am, why I am here, and who I serve.

This might be my fountain of youth.

Eat raw meat and prosper,


Related article:  25-Ways You can Harness the Elements to Improve Your Everyday Health
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