Matt’s story: I was searching for more from life, the mountains were calling and booze wasn’t invited

November 2023 | 8 minutes

Matt Phillips, a photographer, musician and tradesmen is now the co-founder of First Light Coffee, the Official Coffee of Dry January®.

Unlike many of my school friends I was late to the party when it came to drinking. I was more involved in mountain biking and cyclo-cross racing, I absolutely loved the training. Being out in the Black Mountains and taking part in events all over the country was an amazing way to spend my youth. At the age of 17 I bought my first electric guitar and joined a band. Then everything changed.

Gigs and hangouts turned into drinking sessions and then the drinking sessions would occasionally include gigs and jam sessions.

Don’t get me wrong it was fun, real good fun. And I wouldn’t change a thing. However, looking back I did put myself into some dodgy situations and probably offended people unnecessarily along the way. Luckily, I wasn’t an aggressive drunk. In fact, I was the opposite always having laugh until the next day when all the anxiety and dread kicked.  

I did have quite a few periods of sobriety especially when my kids came along. I took up cycling and running again and it felt good to be back in control and feeling positive. 

The party resumed once the guitar was plugged in though. I just could never seem to be a healthy/fit musician it just didn’t seem to go together. Until recently anyway.  

Fast-forward a lot to mid 2021 and the party was coming to an end for me. The booze just wasn’t hitting the spot any more It was making me depressed more anxious than I’ve ever been and it was just very boring.

I was searching for more from life, the mountains were calling and booze wasn’t invited.

 I had my last drink on New Year's Eve 2021 and I honestly haven’t missed it one bit. 

The social situations were difficult to start with and I pretty much avoided them putting my energy into other passions such my health, the outdoors, fitness, including running, cycling, weight training, photography and most importantly my son and daughter.

The Running Punks community have been incredible in the way we all help each other get out of the front door in the mornings and listening to some of their stories and achievements have had a massive influence on my journey.

I’ve run marathons, half marathons and to celebrate my first year of sobriety, in January 2022 I completed the infamous FanDance which is 24km of running on the SAS selection course in the newly named Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) with a 35lbs bergen on my back and that was tough, for years I’ve been hearing about it and thanks to not drinking, being disciplined and committed to a training plan I got it done.   

Early mornings, sunrise runs and hikes would never have been on the cards before but now, that’s the thing, the cold blast on the hills to wake you up the coffee at the summit is just the perfect way for me to start my day.  

I feel very proud to have taken the step away and forging my new path and I’ve met some friends for life along the way. It really is amazing what you can do without the distraction of a prospective pint or two tapping away at your conscious.

I’m hurtling towards a milestone birthday and I have some challenges I’d like to take part in before I get there.  I’ve always wanted to do The London Marathon, Ironman Wales and another FanDance would be in there too. 

The plan is to tick them off the list in the next few years and keep on this path, Its a wonderful path, why would I want to get off?