So you had your health scare, now what?

We are happy to include this thought provoking article from our guest blogger, Michael Groves of

You thought it would never happen to you and now you just had the shit frightened out of yourself. How are you going to respond now? Many people encounter a health scare before changing their lifestyle. This can act as a catalyst for change, it can be a great motivator to change or eliminate bad or dangerous lifestyle habits.

Now before it sounds like I’m condemning anyone – I was wild myself. I did stupid things and I suspect you did too. We all know Irish people have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, cigarettes and food. Just look around and you will be surprised at the amount of overweight people you will encounter. Obesity is a major problem along with alcohol and tobacco use.

None of this is new, we always had heavy drinkers, problem drinkers. We always had smokers, overweight and unhealthy people, but we are encountering these problems at a much younger age and they are lasting for a longer period of time and there are more people presenting themselves for treatment now. This puts pressure on the healthcare system, which, of itself, is already over stretched in trying to keep people healthy. However in my book, responsibility for our well-being rest completely with ourselves. This is a good thing, it means we have control.


For years I had been treated for arthritis in my knees, feet, wrists and hands. Pain control was the best I could hope for. My own mother was crippled with the same complaint. Whether it was through my DNA, bad luck or lifestyle (having played football and running for years) I’m not sure. However, after years of pain control by medication, then a major side effect – the lining of my stomach was damaged and this resulted in excess acid being produced. Because the valve into my stomach had become weak this acid would lodge in my Oesophagus, which resulted in damage to the tissue. This caused me problems eating or swallowing.

My condition became so bad I needed to see a specialist. Little did I know he suspected cancer because I was completely unaware of this threat. Luckily for me everything checked out clear although I have to take medication to control the acid build up. It took time for my Oesophagus to heal itself. I still have to be careful – but it really never bothers me unless I stop taking my medication and if I forget for some time, then my own body reminds me with discomfort that I need to get back on track.

A funny thing happened that complemented my recovery. I had been managing a Drop-In Center here in Bray, Co Wicklow for some years when one Monday morning, after opening, an alcoholic who would visit our Center asked me why it was OK for me to drink but not for him. I explained that I was not a problem drinker nor had I a problem with my use of alcohol, but that I had been out on Sunday with my wife. He said that when he smells the alcohol off my breath it makes his recovery harder.

I was not about to let someone blame me for their relapse. That day I gave up alcohol for a seven year period. I never missed it, never thought about it but it effected my relationship with my wife. I no longer wanted to go out for a drink, while I was no longer drinking. For a period we drifted apart. Now this was not an issue of us stopping loving each other, rather it was just we never seem to have the same intimate social connection couples have who go out together. And if I’m honest, I did miss telling her she looked great and how much I loved her, when not drinking – so she missed out too.

The Drop-In Center closed down and I had more time to reflect on the things that were important. Being closer to my wife was top of my list. I began socializing again and over time I became comfortable drinking again – just as before, as a social outlet and for enjoying my wife’s company, for complementing her and for sharing a good time together. However, that period of not drinking gave time for my Oesophagus to heal, so unknown to me it was a blessing in disguise.

So my own health scare – my seven year dry spell gave me time and space to make changes to my physical, mental and emotional well-being. In some ways these events have led me to where I am today and I look around at the amount of people I knew, played football with, ran marathons, drank with, hung out with and who have all passed away and I’m truly grateful for being around to tell my story.

So what’s the point of this blog? Well it’s to say the following:

  • Remember it’s never too late to change your bad or harmful lifestyle habits.
  • Don’t wait until you have your own health-scare before doing something about your well-being.
  • Don’t take your well-being for granted. Your body is not a machine, it needs looking after.
  • Don’t think in the here and now, instead think long term.
  • Make changes now and feel the benefit long term.
  • Remember ill health is no respecter of age.
  • You’re never too young or too old to make a difference to your well-being.
  • Never under estimate the benefit of exercise, rest, meditation – moderation in everything and you will also need good luck.

Quality of life will always supersede longevity of life – and when you’re healthy, both physically and mentally, then you will be better able to enjoy life to the full. You’re only going to get one shot at this life, so it makes sense to be smart and look after your body. Start now because this may be your last chance.

Michael Groves

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