Derbyshire Police Federation

‘Eliminating alcohol helped me turn my life around’ says cop

18 April 2024

Four years ago, facing burnout and her mental health at breaking point, Chief Superintendent Maria Fox decided it was time for a drastic change. As part of an overall health reset, she decided to eliminate alcohol from her life. Here, we take a look at how Maria is using her own wellbeing journey to support emergency service peers up and down the country.

It was 2020, Maria had been in policing for around 26 years. She was working at West Midlands Police Force at the time. Looking back, she admits to being obese and having a high BMI (Body Mass Index), as well as being on the brink of having an emotional breakdown. 

“Drinking alcohol had increasingly become my coping mechanism the longer I served. I never drank before the job but I would drink after shifts, and at weekends. I wasn’t listening to my body at all - in fact, I was doing the complete opposite of what my body needed me to do,” says Maria, who was 50 at the time.

In October of that year, Maria was signed off sick with acute perimenopausal stress and burnout. This prompted her to change.

“I decided to eliminate alcohol, take control of my diet and prioritise my sleep and that was the start of me getting better, and getting stronger,” continued Maria, now 53, who - inspired by Annie Grace’s ‘This Naked Mind’ - embarked on a 30-day experiment, which involved her taking a complete break from alcohol.

She returned to work the following spring with a completely different mindset and lived for the next two years alcohol-free.


Ch Supt Maria Fox before and after the experiment.


“I can’t believe how much of an impact quitting alcohol had. I completely turned my life around. I’m physically healthier, less stressed and my mental focus is now second-to-none,” added Maria.

“I’ve never felt so mentally head clear.”

In 2022, Maria became a ‘This Naked Mind’ coach before piloting her first initiative for policing, in which 150 participants from a few police forces alongside West Midlands Police took part.

Soon after she moved across to Derbyshire Police Force and in January of this year, having developed original content with her peer This Naked Mind coaches and experts, based on Annie Grace’s 30-day experiment, she implemented the initiative on a wider scale for all emergency service colleagues from across the UK.

“In January, I launched another ‘experiment’ and I found hundreds of people wanted to get involved, not just police officers but from all emergency services,” Maria explained. 

Maria used a closed Facebook community platform to host the initiative with colleague coaches and to develop a support network for those who wanted to take part.

This provided participants with daily pre-recorded content released at 5am every day and ‘Facebook Live’ Q&A sessions following up the theme for the day every evening, hosted by two coaches/experts. The content incorporated wide-ranging topics concerning alcohol from the substance itself, its impact on our physical and mental health to the social and cultural expectations surrounding its place in society. 

From nutrition advice to support with stress and sleep, Maria says that the experiment ‘gets people to think about their relationship with alcohol’.

“It’s not about telling people they should never drink alcohol again but instead to pull back the layers, so they can think about what alcohol is doing for them,” she said.

“They start to think about why they drink and why they might want to drink less.

“In most cases, those taking part can start to feel a difference physically and mentally in about two weeks but for others, it takes a bit longer – it really depends on how much and how frequently people are drinking before they start the experiment.

“This works for several reasons: not only do we provide a non-judgemental setting – but we are here to empower people to take back control of their relationship with alcohol. Plus, I’m a cop who has experienced this - I can relate to every single person who takes part in the experiment.

“To be honest, I felt incredibly alone when I was at rock bottom and I don’t want anyone else to feel like that. I don’t want anyone else to ever be in the same position that I was.”

If you would like to join ‘the 30-day alcohol-free experiment’ then visit the Facebook group, which is for serving and retired emergency service workers. You will have to answer the pre-screen questions to help protect the integrity of the group.

READ MORE: Want to stop smoking? Free guide available.


June 2024