Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

No sugar. No salt. No fats. And NO alcohol. I loved it on the retreat. Detox of the soul
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The Independent Online

Palm Beach - Belly Surfing

I sat down opposite my friend Amanda Love - (no really, that's her name, and it gets worse: her middle name is Gaye - she wasn't born Love, she married into Love) - and said to her very earnestly: "I know why I have been unhappy most of my life."

She took a deep, compassionate breath, lifted her brow and said: "Why?"

"Because I don't eat enough fruit."

She looked at me in stunned silence at the simplicity behind my reasoning, and banged her head against the desk in dismay. With that we started to laugh. I was curled up on the floor, tears running down my face, screaming: "See! See! What did we have for breakfast this morning!"

All she had to do was say the word "mango", and it all started over again, a 20-minute giggling fit - not bad for two women in their forties! It's fantastic to let yourself go and not hold back. Laughing must be one of the best things in the whole world. And I swear to God, the tears came from somewhere else! As if they have been trapped inside from before we knew how to laugh, locked up in part of us that wasn't truly formed.

The next time I cried I was doing a yoga class. The yoga teacher said it was good for me to cry - to release trapped anger, toxins. I have just spent a week in a health retreat, The Golden Door in the Hunter Valley, (where all the wine comes from). I've never done anything like it before in my life. Mutual friends thought Amanda was insane even suggesting we go there. No caffeine. No sugar. No salt. No fats. And NO alcohol. Up at 6:45am. At 7am, a 6km hike around a very beautiful golf course set in the Australian bush. An extreme landscape created by man and nature. A whole family of kangaroos posturing by the 15th hole, God they are cute, especially the little ones. They have dark rings around the eyes and do really sweet movements with their hands.

I loved it on the retreat. My head and body getting completely clean. Detox of the soul. My mind being emptied of all pressure, all responsibility, apart from the responsibility to myself. This is the longest I have ever gone in my life without a cup of tea, and last night I went out for the first time in two weeks.

Mark Hix is in town. He is cheffing at The Bayswater Brasserie. The food was fantastic, but my head nearly exploded when I ate the caramelised rhubarb with mascarpone custard. I had a crazy sugar rush and nearly fell off my chair. Mark nearly fell off his when he saw I wasn't drinking.

Christ, the alcohol thing is tricky. It's everywhere. Part of my detox treatment was to go to a hypnotherapist. I lay down on the couch and explained my drinking pattern to him, saying I didn't want to get drunk anymore. He said I had to release the anger and let the light in. Amanda said she wanted to laugh more. Together we are a social nightmare! But the amazing thing is, all this stuff works. It's setting up a routine and a mental objective. In my life, I have 24 hours of pure Tracey time. There are no rules, no one to tell me what to do, and I only have to share if I feel like it, so it's hard to set a pattern. But now I feel so much stronger. I don't feel so alone. In fact, I feel I need to spend more time alone. I am enjoying the clarity of thought. Getting up at 7am, pounding the pavements of Sydney in my shorts and baseball cap, blending in like I belong with myself.

I wanted to go on the health retreat to lose weight. If anything, I have put it on, but I do look about five years younger. The anxiety has gone out of my face. The lines are only half as deep. My eyes are really bright. My voice sounds light and happy. My skin is glowing and my urine is like tap water.

But have I got the willpower to keep it up? Sadly, probably not - I need about another three months at the boot camp. Change is a very hard thing to do alone. And yes, it's true, you have to start off with the core. I went to my doctor a couple of months ago for a medical. After all the tests, he said if I dropped dead tomorrow, my epitaph could read: "Better than average at 42." He said I was a damn site healthier than when I first walked into his surgery 10 years ago. The anorexic, brandy-swilling, chain-smoking Tracey.

It's funny when we are young we really don't give a toss what we do to ourselves. It's like we are invincible. And then one day suddenly you look in the mirror and you realise another person stands there. An older version of the one before, and sadly you know the girl is never coming back.

Today I am afraid to go back to London. I want to stay here forever, with my friend who keeps me laughing, where everything feels safe and clean, where my mind isn't corrupted from the pressure and stress. A place where I can walk for miles and miles happily, without even a "hello", and my only challenge is to make myself feel better, and eat more fruit. Everything's worth a try! Miss you. Love Tracey.