THE NEW AGE OF PROBLEM DRINKING

middle aged drinking

 

Recent figures show it’s middle-class professional women aged 45-64 who are now drinking the most, not teenagers.

For Jennifer, it was a family Sunday lunch that made her realise she had a problem.
Her daughter and son-in-law were coming over with their young children. Jennifer also invited her new neighbours, another young couple with children of a similar age.
The food was good, the children were happy, conversation flowed – and so did the wine.
But while the guests stopped drinking after a couple of glasses (the drive home/work the next day/children to put to bed), Jennifer kept going.

For her, the latter part of the afternoon becomes hazy.

‘I remember freeze-frames, flashbacks,’ says Jennifer. ‘My loud voice blathering away. My daughter’s mortified face. Her husband shepherding the children out of the door.’
When Jennifer woke some hours later on the sofa, with her usual dry mouth and aching neck, her house was dark and still. Her daughter had cleared up for her and left the place tidy.‘The worst aspect was knowing that I hadn’t drunk much more than I do most days,’ Jennifer admits. ‘The only difference was that this time there were people to see it.’
At 63, Jennifer, an affluent semi-retired therapist who never touches spirits but knows her wines, may not seem like the typical ‘problem drinker’. But that’s just what she is.
Recent figures show it’s middle-class professional women aged 45-64 who are now drinking the most.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development reveals that women in the UK are twice as likely to be problem drinkers if they have a good education: one woman in five who has been to university regularly drinks too much compared with one in ten among those with lower levels of education. The problem drinker is not the teenager bingeing on shots and alcopops – it’s the professional woman respected by her peers, perhaps retired, divorced or bereaved, who drinks wine at home, after 6pm.

And overwhelmingly the drink we’re talking about here is wine. It is regarded as a socially acceptable tipple, and women now consume significantly more wine than men.
The problem drinker is not the teenager bingeing on shots and alcopops, or the lonely man with cans of Special Brew – it’s the professional woman respected by her peers, perhaps retired, divorced or bereaved, who drinks wine at home, after 6pm, which she buys online with her weekly supermarket shop.

In some senses, Jennifer is the poster girl for this phenomenon.

Divorced 15 years ago, her professional life winding down, she spends increasing chunks of time by herself. Drink has featured in the background throughout her life – with friends, colleagues and at home with her husband.

‘My mother didn’t go to university, she didn’t work outside the home and I don’t think I saw her drink more than a glass of Advocaat,’ says Jennifer.
‘I’m the generation that wanted it all – and enjoying a drink was part of that liberation.’
In recent years, though, alcohol has switched from being fun and sociable to being her company.

‘You’re alone, there’s emptiness. A glass of wine and your problems retreat – but then you feel guilty about finishing off a bottle by yourself. So you open another to stop yourself dwelling on it. I’m a therapist – I see what’s happening.’

Ann Dowsett Johnston also developed alcohol dependence in her 50s.
Now 61, the Canadian writer has charted her struggle in her bestselling book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.

‘If you’ve been a career woman, raised a family, juggled, then wine has probably helped you decompress,’ she says. ‘If you’re a sophisticated professional, you’ve come to know your wines. It has become the modern woman’s steroid.

‘You get home from work, start cooking dinner – you don’t have time to do an hour of yoga so you pour a glass of sauvignon blanc instead. For years, one glass was enough for me but my 50s were difficult. There’s a perfect storm that happens in women’s lives,’ Johnston continues.

‘There was the menopause, my son leaving home, the sense of time passing. I was divorced and had moved to another city to take on an extremely stressful job. In the evenings, one glass became two and two became three.

‘It’s how women self-medicate if they’re anxious, lonely, stressed, depressed. It’s legal, it’s everywhere and it’s way easier than going to the GP.’

This rings true for Margaret, 71, who sought help for her drinking last October. A mother of two and grandmother of three, Margaret enjoyed a fulfilling career as a nurse, midwife, and counsellor (‘There are 27 letters after my name,’ she laughs).
She founded support groups for people with HIV, set up community treatment programmes and, through it all, barely drank a drop.

‘When I watch Holby City or Casualty, they’re all drinking after work, but that never happened for me,’ she says. ‘I was too busy and had to start my shift the next morning at seven.’

Based in various hospitals in the North, Margaret and her husband moved to a village in the Yorkshire Dales for her husband’s job.

‘He loves it here,’ she says. ‘I hate the isolation, but when I was working, it didn’t matter.
‘When I stopped, I felt alone. We live in a six-bedroom house in the middle of nowhere. In the daytime, our road is deserted – everyone’s at work.

‘My daughter and son live two hours away and are busy with their own lives; they only call when they want help with the grandchildren. My husband’s happy watching TV and pottering around. I love him, but he doesn’t talk much.’

On top of this, as can happen with age, Margaret was hit by health problems.
A cartilage injury in her knee meant surgery and weekly injections. She was then diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, despite having never been overweight and always being health conscious.

‘At first, I didn’t drink at home, but I started drinking more at family parties: my 25th wedding anniversary, my daughter’s wedding.

‘I had a few more glasses than everyone else. It made me bright and bouncy like I used to be I could enjoy myself again.’

As the years passed, Margaret started drinking at home, too.

‘Alcohol took me to a different world – and when you’re lonely, you need a different world,’ Margaret says.

‘I was popping out to get petrol or post a letter and coming back with a bottle of wine. It got to the point where I was drinking every day, but instead of making me happy, it made me nasty.

‘When I’d drunk enough, I’d phone my family and give them an earful or start picking on my husband.’

Last October, when her husband warned her that her drinking was going to split up the family, Margaret picked up the phone to ask for help.
The person she called was Sarah Turner, founder of Harrogate Sanctuary, which offers a bespoke service for women drinkers.

The average age of Turner’s clients is 47 – her oldest is 73.

‘For years, they may have denied there was a problem,’ she says.
‘Then something happens – a bad fall; a horrible row with their partner; another lost Christmas where they’ve been too drunk to participate.’.

According to Turner, ‘the myth of wine’ has a lot to answer for. Whether it’s Bridget Jones, Sex and the City or Last Tango in Halifax, it’s seen as utterly benign.
‘Everyone does it on TV, in films,’ says Turner.

‘It’s about laughing and good times, it’s fun and sophisticated. You don’t even need to leave the house to buy it, you can get it delivered. It comes in pretty bottles, not out of a tin – but the outcome is the same.’

Ann Dowsett Johnston agrees. ‘I have friends who are gluten-free, they only eat organic and they’re aware of transfats, but they don’t think twice about what wine is doing to their bodies.

‘Democratically, women are equal to men, but hormonally and metabolically, we’re not.’
In truth, women drinkers are at higher risk than men.

‘The impact of alcohol on women is far worse – even if they weigh the same as a man,’ says Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and medical advisor for the charity Drinkaware.

Women have more body fat and less body water to dilute the alcohol consumed. They also have lower levels of the metabolising enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps eliminate alcohol from the body.

‘Women process it more slowly than men, especially as they get older.’

Liver disease sets in earlier for women than men, and drinking more than four alcoholic drinks a day quadruples a woman’s risk of dying from heart disease and increases her risk of breast cancer.

‘The increased risk of breast cancer is particularly worrying because there’s no lower limit,’ says Dr Jarvis.

‘One unit of alcohol a day increases your risk by seven to 11 per cent.’

Alcohol is also a significant risk factor in many other cancers, including colon and throat.
On top of that, for older women especially, is the danger of falls.

‘It’s one of the biggest issues,’ says Dr Jarvis.

‘One woman in three will develop osteoporosis, and alcohol is a major risk factor. You’ve had a few drinks, you’re unsteady, you fall, you fracture a bone. We focus a lot on young drinkers, but the over-55s are the greatest cost to the NHS.’

For women who do decide they have a problem, there are limited options.
‘Alcoholics Anonymous is not right for a lot of the women I see,’ says Sarah Turner.
‘Most of my clients are busy professionals – they don’t have time to go and beat themselves up in a church hall three times a week. They drink in an entirely different way to men.

‘A woman of 50 or 60 who is drinking two bottles of wine from Waitrose a day is not going to sit in a room full of people who are drinking two litres of vodka a day.’
Turner offers therapy online or face to face, for a minimum of six weeks.

‘For my clients, the fear of stopping drinking is as great as their fear of carrying on,’ she says.

‘I don’t say they have to stop for ever. They stop for the six weeks while we look at the issues behind it, reset reward patterns and find new coping mechanisms.
‘At the end of the six weeks, they have a choice.

‘Sarah cleared out a lot of clutter for me,’ says Margaret, who is also making an effort to get out and meet new people – she has joined an art class and a flower-arranging club.
Jennifer has chosen to cut down her wine consumption rather than stop completely. She is keeping at least three days a week alcohol free – and having no more than one or two glasses on other evenings.

‘There are no easy answers, but once you admit there’s a problem, you’re moving in the right direction and when you start waking in the morning with a clear head, feeling good about yourself and full of energy, you really believe that anything’s possible.’

Harrogate Sanctuary is also now offering couples therapy and believes that this will help both parties to understand the differences and issues why they have, perhaps over a long relationship developed an enabling situation.

THE NEW AGE OF PROBLEM DRINKING

B Ts Blog

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As we all hopefully are coming out of the shadows of lockdown, I have come out of my own dark place, thanks to Harrogate Sanctuary. The saying timing is everything could not be more appropriate.

I was drinking wine daily, at least a bottle a night, often more, and was desperately wanting to I thought, best case scenario, to operate controlled drinking, was far too scared to think of being alcohol free. Wine had been my ‘friend’ for 20 years, it was overwhelming to consider saying goodbye to it. But I was losing so much, at 54, my family had thrown the towel in, who can blame them, my work was getting done but I had no extra input to give and it was becoming more and more noticeable. I was constantly papering over the cracks. Being furloughed gave me an opportunity to drink when I felt like it, starting earlier and earlier in the afternoons, saving the mornings to get rid of empty bottles and buy full ones.

Then an acquaintance  found me crying in my car at the supermarket. When he asked what the matter was it came flooding out. He told me about his wife finding help from the Sanctuary, he showed such kindness and compassion plus had the empathy, rightly he said that I had nothing to lose, so I rang her. 

It was such a relief to be able to talk openly and honestly about the spiralling out of control with wine, she dealt with the background to it, and how to handle the triggers and many excuses I had for drinking too much. There was never an inconvenient time I wrote a diary every day for six weeks, Sarah responded quickly but with great care and insight. We spoke in the first week daily, I was such a mess, and so very tired. By the second week, sleep came, and although I had some excruciating cravings, Sarah could always give me a very good reason not to cave. We then got into a routine of calls, sometimes texting as well, with the diary often I would write more than one a day, each one was followed up rapidly, the 42 days of those and the responses I have printed off and put in my bedroom side table drawer, it has been quite a journey!

I have not had a drink for six weeks, and even though Sarah has been quite poorly she has still kept in touch, and been as reliable as ever. The best outcome is that I don’t want one either!

The method of the Sanctuary suited me, it fitted in with my schedule and gave me structure, I never had to wait for call backs, there were tears but much laughter too, and shall now come out of lockdown excited rather than terrified of getting out into the working world again, the new normal, without wishing the time away to getting home for the guilt fest of wine o’clock.

 

 

B Ts Blog

V Ks Blog

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I found Sarah after reading the Sober Revolution. I was sat in a bar in Spain having afternoon wine whilst my son sat on his iPad, I knew it wasn’t right and I needed help, so I emailed the Harrogate Sanctuary.
The course is 6 weeks of daily emails with weekly FaceTime. I went for a face to face chat prior to the lockdown with Sarah and I immediately clicked with her. She was so warm, understanding, empathetic, non judgmental and she made me laugh when I was in a terrible place.
Throughout the course Sarah made me think differently about I see alcohol and how I feel about myself.  I felt I could tell her anything, without being judged, she has been where I was so totally understands.
I have tried several times to stop drinking, through various different methods without success. Sarah’s methods have worked I am now AF, feel amazing, I’m happy and feel good about myself, the real me has emerged from the black hole that alcohol drags you into and for that I thank her from the bottom of my heart and I’m sure my boy does to.

V Ks Blog

Misplaced Alcohol Awareness

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In March 2007 Sir Ian Gilmore, President of  Royal College of Physicians from 2006-2010, producing a very insightful report titled “Alcohol – can the NHS afford it”, and argued that the Government’s alcohol awareness campaigns focus too much on young binge drinkers. He stressed that older people drinking at home were also at risk of the severe health consequences linked to high alcohol consumption. More adults in the UK drink at home than in any other European country. Alcoholic liver disease has increased tenfold over the last three decades.

Today, we hear and see that drinking daily has been normalised, measured always in glasses, often in bottles of wine. We never measure units at home, just how many refills we have. Two or three glasses are considered acceptable. Taking into account that most who now drink out of 250ml glasses, three of them can easily represent a bottle. In a cohort study from the 1970s, drinking more than 9 units of alcohol a week was considered to be harmful. Nine units is not even 1 bottle of wine at 14% ABV. So now perceived as normal or at least condoned, is very often 70 units a week for women.

The cost to health is being measured, but as Sir Ian pointed out, ignored by Government. The over 55s are now the biggest burden in terms of cost to the NHS with alcohol related illnesses. This of course does not take into account the human and emotional cost that has been wrought before these people become seriously ill. Figures of 3 to 4 billion spent are bandied around, as if that also is acceptable. The average cost of drinking alcohol far exceeds that figure, along with the tax that supports our healthcare service, it is a pretty penny, no matter what you earn.

To reach 55 and over, and succumb to alcohol related illness, you have to have been caning it for some time. You have most probably been parenting and working. I have asked the question so many times and been pushed to one side, that is, where does the Government think the young binge drinkers have come from? There are far fewer these days, in fact drinking by many is rejected, and expressions such as ‘Sober is the new Drunk’ is where it is at, many see it as unattractive and a waste of time and money. They have felt embarrassed by their parents drinking and not tried to copy that. They also see the damage if 1 of the 60 medical conditions to choose from related to alcohol is diagnosed.

We all know that stats are under estimated, none more so than those collected on alcohol misuse, as a once practised member of the Denial Club, I cannot count the number of times I defended my position, with as much skill as a downhill racer.

Yet the Gold Standard of 12 steps is still adhered to, even though, clearly alcohol misuse and its consequences are on the rise. Surely it is time to look at other options? Crucially, I believe, age & gender specific care, a specialist service that exists outside of the mainstream. Or is this simplistic?  Looking at my stats, that don’t lie, I think tailored care has to be the way forward, and alcohol awareness be focused on the pivotal role of parents, and grandparents in society.

Sadly the Sir Ian, nothing has changed.

 

Misplaced Alcohol Awareness

Time to Hear us Roar

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For the last few weeks, the media have been not only been constantly reporting frightening and very intensive news regarding the Coronavirus, but has also caused sheer panic. According to figures I can find, since the start of the pandemic, there has been 165,257 deaths worldwide linked to it. Meantime it is reported that 3 million people a year die from alcohol dependency, in the last 5 months that equates to 1,250,000.
I watch the comments that rage often about those who are affected with alcohol dependency have a choice, that it is a voluntary act, and their fault. That leads to more and more, most especially now isolating themselves, not seeking help, and certainly not going to hospitals for treatment. They already feel like a burden, shameful and riddled with anxiety, perhaps joining online groups but that is as far as they dare go. They are judged, dramatically so. Unlike so many other differences with people today, being hooked on alcohol, is still the last taboo. None of us who began our drinking career with a carefree, fun attitude, decided that we would become drunkards. We are wired differently, and it is a question of all or nothing for us.
If people want vent and blame, then direct your anger to Big Alcohol, when you are vulnerable and often have other mental health issues it makes you easy prey, we are not stupid and realise that our behaviour does seem insane. It is, but so is being unable to access the appropriate care and empathy for those who struggle. The marketing of alcohol as a treat and a ‘must have’ relaxant, the virtual meet ups that now have appeared on social media that are having wine time normalised around 4pm, make the failure of control even more intense.
Many of my clients are over 45, and not connected quite so much to the internet for socialising, at least in what were normal times, those over 55 simply don’t want to be sociable if they have been drinking for years, especially in the current climate, they drink home alone, and when they do have only alcohol to turn to, it is a form of brainwashing doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The best definition of insanity from Einstein. It is a disease, not a choice.
If there had been as much coverage of this dark and silent Pandemic as there has with Covid-19 , day in, day out would we have sympathy or scorn?
I have enormous respect for the NHS, and it is not their fault that there is lack of funding for help with addictions, but the Governments. Now they are trying to do their absolute best to treat those afflicted with Corona and survive themselves.  The Government is not doing enough to protect them.
We all prefer real time contact, that has now diminished and is causing agony in a strange world, with I believe an even stranger one world once the lockdown is over.
The point of this is to make it truly clear I hope that we need specialist care for alcohol dependency, not blanket coverage. Those working in this area need to come together and formulate a plan to join forces to make this happen, we all are tribal, and need to direct our experiences to those who we completely relate to, and why their circumstances have led them to their misuse.
Therapists and counsellors need to support each other, and attempt to find a solution, we are a worldwide community and rather than being stalled we should be stunned into action to and have an independent organisation that works towards one goal. We cannot be expected to come up with any cures, whilst Big Alcohol is in the driving seat there will never be one, but we must all communicate, and I know that many will be able to raise awareness via the press and news programmes. We need to make the legal drug pushers and Governments accountable and give those who are afflicted with this disease a voice and not be castigated for speaking out.

We must come together and ROAR.

 

Time to Hear us Roar

Helen’s Blog

meadow

 

 

I was always a sociable person and had many friends. From an early age I was often invited to parties and I really enjoyed it. During my teenage years alcohol started to be a part of what I consumed at parties and I enjoyed it, but not overly so. But drink alcohol is what we Swedes do when we want to celebrate. With time I started to think that I needed alcohol to enjoy a party, even though I had always enjoyed parties as a child. My preferred tipple was Champagne and Chardonnay. That was what the beautiful women on TV consumed and I wanted to be the same.

I drank alcohol for about 25 years but for some reason I never turned into a glamorous woman portrayed on the TV. I turned into a bloated, red-faced, self-pitying person who lost control over her emotions. After my drinking sessions I suffered from guilt and anxiety since I did not remember what I had said or done. It was horrific.

I never lost my job, my marriage, my children or my house due to my drinking, but I lost my self-respect. And I knew that this was not sustainable. There are loads of drunkards in my family so I knew that things could get a lot worse if I did not pick myself up.

I did try the mainstream groups, but somehow couldn’t make the work for me and felt like a square peg in a round hole. Instead I found Harrogate Sanctuary after searching for therapy. Sarah managed to change my thinking, my drinking thinking! I am now well into my fifth month alcohol-free and I have not felt so good in years.

So what have I discovered in my journey? Quite a few things actually and some of them surprising; You do not need to drink alcohol to have fun at a party. I have now been sober on many social occasions and I am having just as much fun as I did when I was drinking. The difference is that I now remember everything that happened and I don’t get overemotional and insincere.

When you are not experiencing the ups and downs of being drunk and hung-over you get much more mental clarity. With mental clarity comes insight in how you want to spend your time.

Your patience increases tenfold. I used to try and rush my children at bedtime so I could go downstairs and drink chardonnay. Now, I am enjoying our conversations at bedtime and I feel more close to them than ever.

Intimacy with your spouse becomes different. Alcohol can sometimes make you look for sexual kicks while you are on your drunken high, but there is no intimacy in that. Just release. Now when I am initiating intercourse with my husband it is much more intimate since it is a genuine connection that is being made.

I find it easier to handle relatives and difficult situations with calm and presence. Every year there is so much stress surrounding Easter, Birthdays and Christmas, and who spends them with us.

I have an easier time to set boundaries and saying no. People pleasing is quite common among women who misuse alcohol. Initially alcohol provides the relief from trying to meet various demands. It is at wine o’clock you anesthetize yourself from everyone else’s demands. Now I have started to say no and consider my own needs. And that does not include wine.

I don’t procrastinate anymore. I used to think that I was a procrastinator, but it turns out that without alcohol I am not. In fact I am person who gets things done. Who knew? I didn’t because I was so focused on handling my life whilst drinking unhealthily. Since I now don’t drink poison disguised as a treat, I am in a position to be myself and sort things out I am getting my self-respect back. Slowly I am building myself up and showing myself care and consideration. When I was drinking I was always feeling guilty about someone else and never prioritized myself. I felt I did not deserve that, but now I know that I do. I have a right to say no and to take care of my own needs.

I think women today are socialized into thinking that they are responsible for everyone’s emotional needs: family, relatives, colleagues whilst at the same time they have been led to believe that they can have it all. These unrealistic expectations are making women push themselves too hard and if you combine that with alcohol you have set yourself up for a burnout.

I am so glad I stopped drinking alcohol. My life is fuller, more satisfying and I am starting to trust my own judgment again. In this culture you need to be in touch with your inner self and your values. That is not possible with wine in your life as it distorts your inner life. The only thing I regret today is that I did not give up alcohol sooner. What a waste of time wine drinking turned out to be. Now we are all quite understandably terrified of the COVID-19 virus, and in turn I am reading how much more alcohol is being sold, there is no doubt I would have numbed out the fear with wine, rather than face it.

What a waste of time wine drinking turned out to be!

 

 

 

Helen’s Blog

The Silent Pandemic

Older drinkers

 

We are now following other countries across the globe, most especially Europe into the lock down phase with Coronavirus. As of now, 15,433 have died from the outbreak, with over 358.000  recorded positive results worldwide. The news, social media, and newspapers are running with this 24/7. It has taken approximately four months to be recognised as a pandemic. It is now regarded as the most dangerously infectious disease on the planet, and is resulting in not only the tragic deaths, but a surge in mental health problems, anxiety and loneliness. There are people who disregarded all the information to stay in isolation this weekend, causing an uproar because of what was seen as irresponsible behaviour, selfish and thoughtless. Pubs, restaurants and bars are closed, but of course prior to the final curtain, the last night of being able to go to your local saw them packed. There is no shortage of booze as far as I can see in shops and supermarkets, no need for stockpiling the shelves will never run dry, there is far too much for Big Alcohol to lose, given the potential boom that will happen with such loneliness and stress building.

The point that I am trying to make with this blog is that Alcohol directly kills £3M people a year worldwide. It is also a causal factor in over 200 disease and injury conditions. So only based on direct deaths, that represents £750000 in four months. If this information was streamed daily, and experts and politicians told us that this was a pandemic and to stop immediately would we? Would it change the lifestyles of so many to the point of them calling time asap?

I can hear the cry, that alcohol dependence is a choice COVID-19 is not. But the crowds that poured onto beaches and into the countryside at the weekend had a choice, and decided to ignore the advice and guidelines, and risked not only their lives but that of others. Alcohol misuse and following rules has to come down to Willingness, information and a big dollop of compassion.

Coronavirus is loud, scary and is not only affecting the elderly. Alcohol is worse, it most definitely can kill and maim at any age. There is stigma, judgement and unkindness thrown at so many who suffer from drinking too much. A cure has been sought for centuries, halfheartedly imo, with no success. If however, the same amount of time and money, appropriate care had have been put in place eons ago for this potentially life threatening substance we may not being seeing the silent pandemic that will go on far longer than any virus ever will. Loneliness is one of the major triggers that leads to a dependence that none of us who have experienced it would want to wish on anyone. 

Please don’t feel ashamed to admit you need help and now, it is one of the most courageous steps you will ever take.

 

 

The Silent Pandemic

Controlled Drinking Therapy

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Drinking in social situations can be fine once you have the control back, and potentially achievable given the right attitude along with the stage you are at with drinking, as I have always said one size does not fit all. I have never wanted to stop anyone having fun, but using wine mainly, as some sort of reward on a daily basis rarely is that.  At home and often alone, it is a form of self-medication, and the longer it goes on the more justification and excuses are found to carry on. It is not a weakness on your part more of a con trick by Big Alcohol and a habit.

There are many women and couples out there that do enjoy social drinking, and these individual appointments online are  for their benefit, giving them the ability to stick to drinking moderately for pleasure and not pain. I have had many years of experience giving therapy for alcohol dependence, and will continue to do so, but also have seen clients who were not hooked on alcohol but had found themselves falling into a routine of using wine primarily because the first drink does give a buzz, seems like a relaxant after busy days and realising that after three or four, it had become the opposite of that. They tend to drink far more behind closed doors than they ever would out with friends or at events, and I have formulated a tool box to make this possible for those of you who are concerned that your drinking starting to be a problem. My Six Week Programme does advocate an Alcohol Free lifestyle, but I know there is a gap for those of you who would prefer to socialise with a couple of glasses of wine. Given the current situation with the Coronavirus staying at home, self isolating may mean that you are not currently going out as much as usual, but there is no reason to operate control within the home, and set goals of how use alcohol. It is important to have accountability, and to be able to have encouragement and a plan rather than trying to go it alone. It can be possible given the right support for those of you who are not in a vice like grip with alcohol. It starts and ends with your decision making and as ever with my work this is client led, you decide, and enable the type of lifestyle you want.

For me, I know that I cannot moderate, but even so, I do believe that if there is a chance of people cutting down the amount they drink it is a step in the right direction, and may well lead to those who have therapy to control their drinking, that some may decide to stop altogether. The aim of this is not to judge, but to help with having a much healthier approach to what could become a very disruptive, the ripple effect of on families, work and friends making for a very frightening future.

This is quite retro, back in my parents days, I am of the baby boomer generation, there was never every day at home drinking, wine was only drunk at parties or over special occasional dinners, with much excitement by the hosts about the type of wine it was and taste.

There is no need to attend group meetings, or even leave your home. I do intend to give an opportunity to like-minded women and couples share their stories with each other if they wish, via technology. We are all tribal and this would be almost like a match making exercise.

I have no intention of having a random chatroom or website, there is a great deal of trolling and unkindness often within these places. My work has always been extremely private, and I understand that blanket coverage of this issue rarely is successful, we are all so unique.

You can choose how many sessions with me you prefer, and when. The first consultation is always free, and gives me the opportunity to ascertain whether this approach would be suitable for you and yours.

If you would like to learn more please, email, sarah@harrogatesanctuary.com or on mobile 07528273009 office number 01423-779030.

Sarah

 

Controlled Drinking Therapy

Loneliness & Alcohol

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For many women over fifty, loneliness can play a very big part in drinking becoming a habit, developing into a dependence.

Perhaps they are homemakers, mothers, or divorcees along with those who are widowed. Their children have left home, even if they are still married, it maybe that after years of putting their all into the children, there has not been the opportunity to take up hobbies that maybe husbands do. So many husbands in this age bracket, the baby boomer generation certainly did fun stuff with their children but left the day to day necessary jobs to the Mother. Sorry to sound sexist, just the way it is.  I often hear from clients that marriage later on in life seems very separate, they don’t talk anymore. 

What once had been a social activity starts to be more useful as a numbing out tool. Doubts about the future, over thinking what now, rears it’s ugly head. There is no doubt that alcohol most certainly will be a very temporary escape, but for them it works, makes them feel less alone. The time spend with a bottle or two of Pinot,  stops the what if thinking. Isolation sets in, not wanting to be found out, secrecy is rampant, and lies trip off the tongue. 

Much of the need does stem from loneliness, they don’t want to cut themselves off, it creeps up gradually until having any light conversations or positive thoughts fly out of the window. Because there is nothing exciting or new going on, simply they have nothing to talk about. As this subject is so stigmatised, not even being able to share the problem is on the agenda.

Ageing, not having support, feeling worthless their unconditional ‘friend’ in a bottle blurs out the emptiness and although the intention is not to be a burden, has the ripple effect of worrying all who love them. There is such a lack of self esteem at this stage, and exhaustion, that the thought of having to stop and make enormous effort to start to mix again with wine seems impossible. These women, clients I see, do not want to go into group meetings they need intense talking therapy, someone they trust and therefore are accountable to, and not imagine for one second that their lives are over. Good advice and always meant well by family especially is ignored, this does need third party invention with no judgement only empathy.

Loneliness I believe is another silent epidemic that is creating both mental and physical issues for thousands of women.

Loneliness & Alcohol

L C’s Blog

After my first meeting with Sarah, I cried all the way home. I was so immensely relieved, grateful and overwhelmed to have found her. It was the first time I knew I could beat my addiction.

Sarah truly understands her clients. She is direct yet gentle; she guides without being prescriptive; and she gives you the space to be truly honest without fear of judgement.

She has freed me from the lies, the isolation and the shame. I have my life back in all its technicolor glory.

I borrowed the “direct yet gentle” from you. You were planning to speak to Dave and said that was how you would approach the conversation. I thought it summed you up perfectly.
This is a very courageous woman. Sarah
L C’s Blog

Training for Sanctuary Recovery Coaches

one to one

Harrogate Sanctuary has grown, and not through any kind of advertising push, or using social media, but via referrals and recommendations, word of mouth. There are many group meetings out there in this digital age, on Instagram and Facebook, which is great along with superb sites like Soberistas, and a tremendous amount of work has gone into them.

My passion has always been towards those who are not so comfortable in group therapy, and tend to prefer counselling one to one, and although I do use the internet especially for international clients to engage on Face Time and Skype, meeting in person gives me the opportunity to understand these women and couples in a much more intimate way, along with local businesses who I am able to visit or have appointments here at The Sanctuary.

I have decided that it is time to start training other people who have been through the trials and tribulations of alcohol dependence and come through and get well and want to play that wellness forward. It will be vital that each coach has had this battle. The training will start in January 2020, if any of my followers on the blog would be interested in discussing this project with me,  I would be more than happy to explain the way I believe it could work, and would love to have feedback and ideas on the concept. This will be directed not purely at individuals, but companies and organisations that feel their workforce would benefit from the openness and honesty of the Sanctuary methods that have a gentle but effective touch.

If you like to learn more, please call or email Sarah@harrogatesanctuary.com.

 

Training for Sanctuary Recovery Coaches

Jane T’s Blog

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I reached the big 4 0 back in 2016. I knew that a party was being organised, my husband isn’t the greatest at keeping secrets, and was touched that he was doing it for me because of my drinking I hadn’t been the best of wives for a while. I was always saying that I could stop, and did for a few months at a time, then the thought which is so common of one won’t hurt popped into my head, and within a few days I was back up to at least one bottle a night, wine, and often more at the weekends. I promised I would get some help, and tried so many online sites, offering courses, groups of others who were in the same boat, but found them to be very samey and frankly didn’t want to spend my evenings answering questions and following scripts and blanket coverage answers to my problem. That isn’t supposed to suggest I am in any way special, but needed a real person who would work one to one with me. Because I work full time, that became impossible too. I felt hopeless and simply stuck.

Long story short, the party was a disaster. I was a disaster. I embarrassed myself, blacked out and fell over, all captured of course on camera. 

Up until 8 weeks ago, I had given up, as had my husband. We were leading separate lives, I was drinking still, but in complete isolation. At a business meeting in London one dreary Wednesday morning, I bumped into a lady who I knew but hadn’t seen for years. Whether or not she spotted the hangover or the sadness or both, she took me to one side and asked if I was okay. It all came tumbling out. To my amazement she told me that she had had a problem too, and searched for a solution that fitted her lifestyle. It took her months but found Harrogate Sanctuary. With low expectations she called and spoke with Sarah. She got what she had been looking for and stayed sober for the first time in 25 years.

I made the call. Sarah’s Six Week Programme is original, she took calls from me in the evenings, saw me at weekends via Face Time, and made the whole process of becoming alcohol free make sense, she gave reasons that I understood to stop. She gave me my self esteem, my confidence and control back. Using CBT rather than addiction counselling is what I needed, along with the very efficient one to one service she offers. For women of my age and ‘type’ it was exactly the right treatment for me. I can’t recommend her work highly enough, and am more than happy to refer her to anyone I meet who has found themselves in the same position. She openly admits she is not the right fit for everyone, but she is for highly functioning, busy professional women who prefer the more private approach.

Thanks to her, my life is on track, I am not seeking perfection, which seemed to drive me, my anxiety has gone, as has the depression and constant guilt,  most importantly I am very, very content. 

Jane

Jane T’s Blog

A husbands Blog

Man and Woman

I noticed that my partner was drinking much more wine than she used to but seemed to be tired. Little things began to change at first. I know that the children were making her irritable, and she had had PND after the birth of our second baby, but the house seemed to have descended in chaos and she just seemed unable to cope. On nights out it was obvious to friends that she had been drinking before we got to the dinner or event, and in the end, she rarely made it to the end of a meal without getting loud and just a bit nasty. That continued at home and some nights I just wanted to pack a bag and leave.

Her friends were starting to worry, and one rang me to say she had to pick the children up from school because my wife was ill. She was drunk. I was relieved that she had the sense not to drive but just lost to know what to do.

We found Sarah after an internet search, and I rang to see what could be done. We went through what I must do first, and that was to confront her and tell her how much worry and sadness her drinking was causing. Sarah made it clear, that she had to take responsibility for this, she wasn’t having any of it to begin with. So, the next bit of advice stumped me a little, Sarah said go and get a film to watch together, odd therapy I thought!! The film though opened the flood gates. It was When a Man Loves a Woman. I was also told to buy the wine to go with it! It broke down all the barriers and the next day Sarah came around, scooped my lady up and got her well. There were many bumps in the road, but Sarah was always there, at the end of the phone or via email, text, to help me out as much as my partner.

I cannot thank her enough, she saved our relationship, we only drink at weekends now, and it has become just a routine and happily not the disaster that we seemed to be heading for. It changed me too because through the appointments we had together and with Sarah, I hadn’t realised how lonely and isolated my partner felt, which was made so much worse by feeling frightened to open up and talk about the symptoms behind her alcohol misuse.

David.

A husbands Blog

Sally B’s blog

BREAK

 

Well, how do I begin…

Here goes, once upon a time there was a girl of sixteen who was completely crippled with social anxiety, lack of self-esteem, although outwardly seemed to have it all. Good family background, loving parents, great education that led me to becoming a successful professional, and then at 27 married to a man who received the stamp of approval of both friends and my family. It was my rose-tinted glasses time. I was seemingly in a great place. I had never though revealed my cruel pal, alcohol. Socially I drank within the fun limits, but on my own I would sneak bottles of wine into both my parents’ home and then my home with my husband and quickly two children, to deal with this anxiety. Up until I was about 35 it was  going so well! Then the changes started to happen. My secret drinking ramped up,  I began not wanting to be social at all, I really couldn’t be bothered I suppose with the control and smiley face I put on.

By the time I got to 40 I hit the buffers. My children approaching their teens, husband working all hours, me getting ratty or should I say rat arsed when I did see him, as the saying goes, I did lose the plot. Stuff started to slide, my work suffered but more importantly my relationships with both parents and my immediate family unit went off the rails. From being apparently a capable woman, I was a mess. My daughter noticed it the most, my husband didn’t get it, who can blame him, and buried his head in the sand.

I knew I was drinking too much, so did eventually do the right thing and seek help from  my GP. He was kind but couldn’t offer the sort of support I was seeking. By this time, I hated drinking, but it was my way of coping

One drunken night I was browsing away, looking at all sorts of ways to resolve this, and came across a link to the book, The Sober Revolution. That is how I found Sarah.

I live in London, working day always at least 12 hours, followed by my swigging time then a very blurred bit of ‘family’ time, so drunkenly I called her at 8 o’clock in the evening. I can’t really remember what I said, but she did, and the next day sent me a text to say how brave I had been. I rang her, sober.

Long story short, well, six weeks to be precise, this feisty Yorkshire woman fixed me. She made me see that I was way more pivotal than I thought, she got rid of my shame and self-obsession with being a complete failure, and see that alcohol was making the anxiety I had suffered from all of my life was compounded by the booze.

She seems to pick up on those little things that trigger wanting a glass or four and react so quickly not quite sure whether she ever turns off! I have never known a more hard-working passionate person. If anyone wants an alternative from the usual, where usually you have an hour, after that out you go, or ten minutes on the phone and we are done, Sarah is never on the clock. She is open about her problems with drinking too, which I found so reassuring, she understood and has such empathy.

I am not going to say I shall never have a drink again, Sarah taught me that, never say never, but stay in the present tense,  nor I am not going say I don’t still suffer from anxiety but have found different coping mechanisms. Working alongside Sarah has made me way less stressy, irritable and a bonkers over thinker, if you want a far less regimented approach, try The Sanctuary, it is a real revolution.

 

 

Sally B’s blog

Achieving Self Control

AutumnWhen your self-control leaves something to be desired, so does your productivity, there was a study in America some time ago when the question was asked, where does self-control come in your list of strengths? It took bottom slot.

When it comes to self-control, it is so easy to focus on your failures that your successes tend to pale in comparison. And why shouldn’t they? Self-control is an effort that’s intended to help achieve a goal. Failing to control yourself is just that—a failure. If you’re trying to avoid knocking back that cheeky bottle of Pinot on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, because you want to lose a few pounds or prove you have control, and you succeed Monday and Tuesday nights only to succumb to temptation on Wednesday by doubling up on a binge, your failure outweighs your success. You’ve taken two steps forward and four steps back. Here, at the Sanctuary, we work on self-control because no one should have to be engaged in a life sentence of feeling first of all that not drinking is somehow missing out, or that they are weak and abnormal because they don’t use alcohol as some kind of cure all.

Since self-control is something we could all use a little help with, I went back to the data to uncover the kinds of things that emotionally intelligent people do to keep themselves productive and in control. They consciously apply these twelve behaviours because they know they work. Some are obvious, others counter-intuitive, but all will help you minimize those awful failures to boost your productivity.

They Forgive Themselves.
A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behaviour. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.

Don’t Say ‘Yes’ Unless You Really Want To.
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying NO, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which erode self-control. Saying no is indeed a major self-control challenge for many people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honours your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfil them. Just remind yourself that saying no is an act of self-control now that will increase your future self-control by preventing the negative effects of over commitment.

Don’t Seek Perfection.
Emotionally stability which will come from passing on the vino will allow women/people not set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of moving forward excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.

Focus On Solutions.
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions which hinder self-control. When you focus on the actions you’ll take to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.

Avoid Asking “What If?”
“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to self-control. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend taking action and staying productive (staying productive also happens to calm you down and keep you focused). Productive people know that asking “what if? Will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go. Of course, scenario planning is a necessary and effective strategic planning technique. The key distinction here is to recognize the difference between worry and strategic thinking.

Stay Positive.
Positive thoughts help you exercise self-control by focusing your brain’s attention onto the rewards you will receive for your effort. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, self-control is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, self-control is a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, or will happen, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the past and look to the future. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative, so that you don’t lose focus.

Eat.
File this one in the counter-intuitive category, especially if you’re having trouble controlling you’re eating. Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable to impulsive behaviour shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble keeping yourself out of the company sweetie tin when you’re hungry, make sure you eat something else if you want to have a fighting chance.

Sleep.
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and maintaining your focus and self-control. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present, which are a major productivity killer. Being busy often makes you feel as if you must sacrifice sleep to stay productive, but sleep deprivation diminishes your productivity so much throughout the day that you’re better off sleeping.

When you’re tired, your brain’s ability to absorb glucose is greatly diminished. This makes it difficult to control the impulses that derail your focus. What’s more, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep—every night—is one of the best moves you can make.

Exercise.
Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to let somebody have it, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.

Meditate.
Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine. Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involves taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason. Give it a try.

Ride the Wave/Crave.
Desire and distraction have the tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. When you feel as if you must give in, the rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.

Squash Negative Self-Talk.
A big final step in exercising self-control involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labelling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

Putting These Strategies to Work.
The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at these strategies and giving them a go before you give in.

Achieving Self Control

L B’s Blog

found Sarah just in the nick of time for me. I was feeling trapped in a living hell of drinking wine on a daily basis then waking up full of regret and worry/ anxiety only to repeat the same thing again. I had had some bloods done and my liver results were slightly elevated meaning I needed to do something, I felt lost, helpless and actually quite desperate.

Outwardly, people had no idea of my struggles, I was continuing to hold down a professional job, and run a busy house/ family.

I had been wanting to stop drinking for a while and had read lots of books on the subject but it wasn’t until I found Sarah that I found the strength to actually do it.

Sarah Is non- judgemental, empathetic and down to earth but most of all she just ‘got me’ and could see exactly where I was coming from. She has lots of experience in this field and genuinely cares about her clients, her 6 week programme is very tailored to the individual person and I found the daily contact by email or FaceTime very supportive.

I have completed the 6 weeks with Sarah’s incredible support and now see drink for what it really is and actually don’t want it in my life. I feel liberated, happy, more confident and much less anxious.

I would definitely recommend Sarah and the sanctuary to anyone who is struggling to control their drinking and wants a supportive, caring and non-judgemental approach that achieves real results.

L B’s Blog

Stress, Anxiety & Alcohol, the Quick Fix

 

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There has always been an assumption that those of us who have been bewitched by alcohol had some kind of choice, and outsiders looking in, seem to be totally perplexed why as very often highly functioning people, intelligent and working, and have no understanding of why we get in such a cycle of use, when they can take it or leave it.

Society today is under more pressure than ever, and outwardly those of us who seem to have all our ducks in a row, are paddling like hyper supersonic ducks under the surface. From the moment we wake, usually after a broken and heavy heart beating ineffective sleep, we are wired to go more quickly, full of anxiety, remorse, guilt and shame, face the world and seemingly with confidence.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We front it out, we are so paranoid that anyone should suspect we have a problem we double and triple check everything we do and have to think very carefully when we speak that others don’t get a whiff of what we have been doing behind closed doors, which is sneaking a bottle or two back home, and then having to hide that from family or friends. Rarely do we drink too much socially, we want to be alone, isolated and secretive about our method of medication. It is not a choice, it is a need and habit, that for a few hours of the day, our brains can quite conclusively switch off. Nothing else seems to do it so well once the habit has kicked in.

Many clients do go to the doctor, and express their concern, which is a brave step, but we lie. We say we are depressed, and because of that sometimes have a little too much to drink. Consequence, anti depressants are handed out, which are totally ineffective because they are drinking in truth every day, but try to imagine that more legal drugs will help.

The stress is enormous, the tiredness and vulnerability huge, and the anxiety off the Richter scale.

Mainstream agencies start with the consequence not the cause. Labelled if the reality does come out as alcoholic, people then have to try to accept that, and attend pretty ineffective group therapies and when time is short, how on earth can they be expected to commit to that? So rather than look at the cause, there is a very negative conclusion that we are powerless, and will never be off the hook with alcohol because we have no will power.

Alcohol is the quick fix, always temporary until unfortunately and often after being told you are an alkie, you deny that and carry on, which eventually can lead to full blown alcoholism, when it could so easily been nipped in the bud if cognitively they could have had appropriate help for their unique worries, anxieties and stress, the drinking side effect could have been either stopped or managed. It is long overdue that we adopt a different approach, and recognise that so many of us who saw this as an answer never wanted to be trapped, but understood, we may cut down on the horrible consequences that are suffered on a daily basis by thousands of very sensitive lovely people who can’t access proper treatment and are judged constantly. The hypocrisy by those who judge is almost as bad as the booze! So much sympathy is shown to mental health issues these days, THIS is a mental health issue, so why are clients like mine and others, treated with such uncompassionate care? It is completely mystifying to me, and because of it has made this possibly one of the biggest health problems in both the UK and the US. It makes me very very sad indeed. Would the government for once listen to those of us who know what they are talking about rather than following some bureaucratic script.

Stress, Anxiety & Alcohol, the Quick Fix

Thinking Drinking

woman thinking

For the most part, the amount of time that we physically drink alcohol is usually only 2 to 3 hours a day, in the case of my clients. The witching hour comes round, bottle opened, sorting tea for children if they have them, if they don’t a sit down along with a sigh of relief, that another day is over and now is the perception that this glass is deserved, and if it could stop there, we would have all been more than relieved. But once the cork is pulled, the top unscrewed, that method is much easier, then the habit has been started, and generally doesn’t finish until the bottle is empty. Dependent on mood, what thought processes are being run through, often one bottle is not enough. This is absolutely nothing to do with fun, it is about self-medication, trying to calm the anxiety, the stress, which alcohol temporarily does, but also has caused, only to slap us in the face the next morning, or regularly around 3am in the morning, waking up in a cold sweat and wondering how on earth we got here. Sleep deprived, we then get on the merry go round again, swearing that it will not happen again the following evening.

So, during most of the remaining hours in a day, we think drink. We abhor ourselves during the morning, often sluggish, sometimes paranoid that someone will notice that work is less productive, logic kicking in but that proves difficult because although we know what causes this, most of my women are well aware of the hazards of drinking too much, in our minds we try to form a plan to avoid the same routine that following evening, denying that we have been trapped by the cycle.

Resolve in the morning, constantly buzzing in our heads, by lunchtime after perhaps a juice, tea and something to eat to mop up the low energy, the next couple of hours are reasonably manageable.

By mid-afternoon, clock watching starts, thinking only another two hours before I go home, or if retired or not working, the anxiety is starting to ramp up and adrenaline starts to flow, shall I or shan’t I, will I or won’t I? We fidget we wrestle mentally with the decision.

The exhaustion is so overwhelming, that we are vulnerable now, and the thoughts of NOT drinking that evening seem and often are, impossible. It has become routine. Most humans do like routine, most especially over 40.

When we were children, the end of school bell would ring, well in my baby boomer age group, and we would all scramble out of class as fast as possible, to enjoy playing and chatting to our mates, good tea and nowadays time on phones and Facebook. A healthy routine that is missed if there is some hiccup.

Because of all the thinking drinking, we press the destruct button, again. Always promising that it will be that one seductive glass, no more.

The point I am trying to make is drinking for those few hours, is a tiny piece of the problem, it is the all-consuming cognitive process that those hours bring for the rest of our time awake.

It envelopes every part of the day, our world revolves around it, and there is never a happy thought about it. We are like cage fighters, entrapped in this dreadful line of thought. Sadly, unless the habit is broken and alcohol is then trivialised, not normalised, this will never change.

Might be a bit of a negative blog, but I do wish that people who don’t have the problem would understand this is not just about drinking, it is the thinking that is equally as powerful.

Thinking Drinking

Booze Bereavement

Perhaps we don’t recognise that a ‘thing’ that what was once fun, and then turned into grief, pain, upset and shame should have the same sort of effect as losing a loved one.

But the fact is losing your friend in a bottle can be enormously upsetting. We ask ourselves ‘why me’? We look and meet others who can take it or leave it, and it seems so unfair, and no it is not a pity party more of a puzzle of what is wrong with us. Whether we are dependent or habitual, or often have weeks off the sauce, for example Dry January or Sober October, there is almost an ecstasy when the time comes that we have done our bit, feel proud and much better, we almost gag to get back to it, slowly perhaps, possibly doing three days a week, setting limits, but sadly it all goes belly up after a couple of weeks, our tolerance ramps up again and back to square one.

The fact is I believe is that we are not weak or programmed to be OTT with drink, we have got to a point where it becomes self medicating, trying to salve the anxiety, worry, responsibility et al without talking to others about our problems. Communication is key, and in this modern world where we don’t want to show our true feelings, lest we appear wimpish,  most especially women over the age of 45, using our front to say we are always fine, rather than admit we have some big emotional changes that go on, the wine bottle doesn’t judge, and temporarily takes away our woes.

If we have other health issues, for example cancer, we are more than happy to join groups, seek support, and always are treated with compassion and because of that, we do feel no shame at all.

Not so with misusing alcohol, we are secretive, and hide the habit. It is way over time to break this stigma, we need to talk, to share, and seek appropriate care, which even in th 21st century is very thin on the ground,

We are tribal, and need unique support, the Sanctuary has always provided that, even saw a gap regarding couples who enable each other, and now have a great programme for men too, each programme is client led, there is no script or rules only empathy and constant care.  It might be inconceivable that I and my new team can deliver, but think the blogs here show that we do, and make sure that we pair clients with the right journey, it is an adventure with us not a torture.

This is a loss for sure, but like most grieving processes, we can get through it.

Sarah.

 

Booze Bereavement

N & D’s Blog

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For us our journey began with a concerned friend sending us the link to The Harrogate Sanctuary……
First thing we noticed was a program which included ‘couples’, this was our deciding factor to seek Sarah’s help. After sending the initial email to Sarah, she replied instantly.  From that moment we knew this was our new journey.
Both individually & as a professional couple in the public eye, we knew deep down in our heart of hearts, that we had hit rock bottom and become dependant on alcohol, any form to get the ‘fix’ on a daily basis, which unfortunately took more & more every day to feed the tolerance levels we were now at.  This was making a huge detrimental effect on our careers and family life, BUT the petrifying thought of an ‘AA/rehab’ type environment simply frightened the life out of us both.
So still in denial, but realising something had to change, and quick,  we made the critical first step in contacting Sarah and instantly felt at ease with her amazing human rapport. This woman not only has a personal understanding of the SAD life we were living, but instantly connected with us as a guiding light towards the journey we were about to begin, to become free of the destructive drug, that is,  ALCOHOL.
Nervously we had our initial consultation together via ‘FaceTime’… Can you imagine?? With modern technology, distance isn’t an issue, and we survived it with smiles on our faces, and so our journey began…
Sarah said she would ‘cluck’ on a daily basis, and cluck she did! This made us feel at ease and even looked forward to it! When we say ‘cluck’ this was directed in the most humorously caring way.
Our journey certainly had its peaks & troughs, but overall we can honestly say with commitment & a clear vision, that we are now free of the quagmire of doom alcohol delivers.
Sarah is now a cherished soul for us, words are inadequate to express the love we have for this amazing lady, much love always..
The first step is admitting to alcohol dependence…. Just take it from there, our love & respect to anyone about to start their journey to a brighter future… here’s to ’Team Sarah’ and here’s to YOU!

 

N & D’s Blog

Treating the Symptoms

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The Sanctuary has always and will remain progressive in any kind of therapy that can either eliminate or control the use of alcohol, those who know me understand that I am passionate about dragging treatment out of the dark ages and into a far more modern, effective and successful outcome, without my clients feeling as if they are weak and somehow doomed to a life time of fighting a seemingly losing battle.

To that end, we created last year an App, Alcohol Free Friend, for those who feel they don’t want or have time to interact one to one, which has proved very popular, most especially in America. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/alcohol-free-friend/id1333546276?mt=8. The money made from this App has been put towards our Alcohol Free Foundation, so that we will be able to help more people, who are finding themselves in position to realise they need some support but are not in a position to afford the bespoke and intensive therapy that The Six Week Programme involves.

By pure serendipity, we are now moving forward with a very exciting approach to any kind of behaviour that has or had led us to what can become a lifetime of despair, not just for the user, but their families.

It is Brain Mapping. Discovering scientifically, without drugs or invasive procedures, for us all to be diagnosed and gently treated for various mental health disorders, including, anxiety, depression, insomnia and misuse of alcohol. For many of us me included, I assumed the only way I could ‘fix’ my major problem, worry and anxiety, was to either take prescriptive drugs, or self prescribe with alcohol.

Brain mapping has been around for some time, for example helping top athletes reach their peak performance, and in the field of space flight. But this is available to US, the general public, and appears to have been one of those wonderful treatments that because big Pharma have no involvement, has been a very well kept secret! Well not anymore, the Sanctuary is determined to make this a very integral part of our therapy, as the results are totally stellar.

I shall be updating on this development as I learn more, and have no doubt this will change the way we treat this form of self harm, and breakthrough the barriers of being stigmatised and ashamed of an outcome of very often a true mental health problem that can be reversed or managed.

 

 

Treating the Symptoms

Warrior Women Ditching the Booze

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Over the years of working with women who have had a battle with alcohol dependence and habit, it has become more and more clear to me that although all different, unique, we share several common threads.

 

One that glares through more than any other is our survival tactics, how we functioned so incredibly well through the darkest of times never dropping our guard, defensive often, in the quest to be able to sneak in that bottle or three, without the world seeing us beaten, shamed, injured and yes dying in some cases, in slow motion.

 

The enemy svelte, dressed in the best marketing armour wine, was both our enemy and our salvation, or so it seemed. Gradually using tactics that are meanly entrancing, it could then ramp up taking us to skirmishes with something a little more main line, Vodka, transparent, almost clean looking, we could transform it instantly into a hidden state via empty energy drink bottles, teacups or if fired up, boldly swig it straight from the bottle without dilution.

 

The women I see have seen, never played victims, they were and are warriors, survivours. Entrapped by one of the deadliest enemies on the planet, alcohol on a rocky ridge, insidiously and gleefully trying to disarm us all.

 

What it doesn’t expect is that now many have realised what a cowardly war it has played on them, using those other common threads we share of extremism, perfectionism, people pleasing, anxiety caused by all the armoury we have built up, and then fell into it’s trap, we can and have changed tack, and understand that we were never born to be fighting a losing battle, that is somehow mentally disabled to resist this drug, the reverse, working together come to understand that we ended up down this rotten hole because of being duped. Alcohol is not the enemy if we see it as not worth fighting for.

 

Many people see us as weak, pity us, pray for us, which is nice, thank you, become exacerbated by us, exhausted, we are not. We are the opposite, only needing to find a lead to flick the switch that turns all that hell we went through into the most spectacular victory ever.

 

I have so much admiration for The Sanctuary squad,  who have turned their lives around, perhaps I have shown them a different way to pick who they battle with, but sincerely hope that soon many many more, both men and women, come out of the shadowy darkness and shine, be proud to say that yep, I didn’t think I would ever of signed up to the barmy army of habitual drinking, but it happened, another notch on lifes belt, but I fixed it, move on, nothing to see here, rather than keep carrying a huge burden of guilt on their shoulders, secretive and feeling unworthy of having the salutations they truly deserve. They are absolutely remarkable Warrior Women.

 

Well done

Warrior Women Ditching the Booze

Chrissie’s Blog

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I started working with Sarah and the Sanctuary at a critical time.  I’d started to change from being a functional heavy drinker, and once the transition commenced to being out of control, I was heading towards and in many ways already in a serious amount of chaos.  The in control career girl façade was starting to slip, the shame of which made me hide more behind the bottle.

 

I contacted Sarah at a very low ebb, and quickly found a place that was empathetic yet straight talking.  The whole relationship is built on honesty, which was made clear very early on.  The sense of being accountable and responsible started to give a sense of direction and hope.  I started to understand that I was gaining rather than losing, and choosing a better life.

 

I’d be the first to admit that I haven’t been the quickest to catch on, with some bumps along the way.  However, I feel significantly better and in control of my life for the first time in a long time.  Gradually, the pieces of a positive life that Sarah encouraged me with in tough times have started to emerge.

 

I can’t praise Sarah enough for being there with patience, wisdom, encouragement and humour.

Chrissie’s Blog

Dee’s Blog

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After drinking far to much for far to long I finally plucked up the courage to ring Sarah at the Harrogate Sanctuary. At this point in my life alcohol had seeped into most areas of my life and was having a  very negative impact on most things I was doing. The one thing ( alcohol )I had turned to for help and confidence was  robbing me of my confidence and who I actually am.
From the first time I met Sarah I felt safe ,that I could be totally honest , and her none judgmental attitude helped me begin to heal. Sarah has a very no nonsense ,kind and caring  ,down to earth approach. She had total faith in me and this gave me the courage to begin to have faith in myself. This is exactly what I needed and I can’t thank her enough. Sarah has helped to realise  me from the prison I had put myself in. She made me realise I’d never needed a drink in the first place but had been fooled into believing I did.
Since the beginning of last December I’ve not felt like or needed a drink. I’ve just become who I always should have been. I have a clear head and feel massively better both physically and emotionally. Life isn’t without its problems but at least I’m dealing with issues in an honest  sober way.
Once again a massive Thank you Sarah
Dee’s Blog

S W’s Blog

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Sarah came into my life when it was a total mess with alcohol and other drugs. She has helped me more than words can say. So, this may be short, but there is so much more to the work The Sanctuary does, it would take a book to explain it all!

After 6 weeks on the programme, and then follow up with maintenance, my head is now clear and have HOPE for what the future holds.

She believed in me when I didn’t have any belief in myself.

I shall always be grateful for her expertise, empathy, support and friendship.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart Sarah, you are truly amazing.

S W’s Blog

The Ten Year Plan…

Happy New Year to both clients and followers of the blog.

I am changing direction. As most know I was the founder of the Six Week Programme, but now feel there needs to be a long term solution, even the magical six weeks cannot fix everyone.

If we consider the old expression three score years and ten as a lifespan, that is a complete thing of the past. But many people who have have struggled with alcohol still live beyond 70, with a range of medical and often debilitating problems. The average age of my clients is 47.5 years. So with a a fair wind have the possibility of another good 30 years to look forward to, to live, not exist. There is so much publicity regarding obesity, smoking lack of exercise, but how many times do we hear about the consequences of alcohol?

I do think Adrian Chiles did a good job with his programme and made many think, but that’s it, we think, we don’t do. When you are concerned about the wine o’clock habit, that is exactly what happens. We think, from when we wake up probably at 3 in the morning, we think not today, I’ll make a promise to have a couple of days off. Feeling as the old boys expression goes, being a ‘little old fashioned’ in the morning, there is real determination until about 3pm. Sugar dips, up until then you have shown real fortitude that not tonight Josephine but the crumbling starts. So out of 24 hours of the day, in this position, we spend most of it, thinking shall I shan’t I, will I won’t I, will I, only will buy a small bottle, perhaps bypass the shop. The whole process of thinking is exhausting, combined potentially with a job, children, home, maybe a poorly parent, the excuses mount. There is never logic to over use of alcohol so pointless even trying to make it so, and once you have the habit, the feeling of release, oblivion often, at that time it makes sense.

If you start from a stance of none of this makes sense, as it wouldn’t if you were for example lactose intolerant and ignored that, you would know it would make you ill. Why is it that alcohol kids you that it won’t make you feel like an awfully poorly box of frogs, then of course you are not going to stop. It is time to not up the price, it is time to start with warnings on bottles, not shoving it in our faces each time we shop, make it completely not normal to drink, because unless you are having a ball with it, why do it??

All that know me know I am not an evangelist, the opposite, completely outrageous actually because I don’t drink now, I can dance on tables, and say what I feel, because I remember all of it. Argue with me, debate with me,agree with me, for the most part I will be gracious, but now I have got to a point where none of the old fashioned methods to conquer this don’t work, we need to get modern, we need to embrace our uniqueness, we need to stop comparing, we need to get into self preservation mode, might upset a few people, but you know what I don’t care, I never want to hurt anyone or myself, alcohol is the one biggie that will do that. I am errr, mature, but am determined to show that doesn’t mean we can be the best we can be, and free ourselves of guilt and shame.

So please start thinking forward. Where are you going to be in ten years time? Not tomorrow, not next week but in the future.

Time to start to think how these golden years are going to pan out, because if we don’t then Big Alcohol will scoop you up, spit you out and then you will rely on our overstretched but amazing NHS. We would all I am sure prefer not to do that!

 

Sarah

The Ten Year Plan…

Y B’s Blog – A Mothers Account of Empty Nest

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It’s the memories that arrive suddenly and squeeze at your heart that hurt the most. Recently watching my son organising his new home, his new chapter, he is 27, when I remembered taking him to school one cool autumn morning, many years ago.
I was holding his hand, as I always did both on the way and often to help him out of the car and chatting about important things like what would happen if one of the dogs morphed into an elephant in the night.
Then one day, he saw his friends in the school car park he immediately pulled his hand out of mine. The movement was so sudden and so overpowering that I could feel the emptiness in my hand where his had just been. As he got comfortable and the first feelings of Mum being a bit ‘embarrassing’.
The moment marked one of the many little steps on my son’s bittersweet journey to independence. October 2018 has presented me with the biggest step of all. He had of course, been away from home before, Uni, his first job down South, and the back up North, but my husband was still alive, he had the most wonderful attitude and positive outlook, I was the worry nag, the what if Mother.

I confess that I spent some of the week leading up to his move departure in tears. He has not moved far away, and because of his work commitments, has not entirely decamped, so there are reminders of him in his office, full of the most chaotic essentials he professes, which I would, if he were a lodger, put in several black bin bags, and tell them to get the room sorted, but my boy is organised in chaos, so I neither dare move them or really want to yet. Last week he was away on business, the house was silent, no 6-foot muscly body bounding down the stairs, no odd socks in the washing machine, fridge empty. I tried to see the positive, having the draughty old family home all to myself. It wasn’t a relief at all, it was a wrench, but one that had to be made.
I know it’s madness. I have no right to feel this crushing sense of grief. I’m proud that he’s going, and in awe of the lovely young man that he’s become, but I’m also terrified to the core of my being.
Watching your child start a new life is the best of times and the worst of times.
I’m sure it’s harder to watch a boy go off into the world than a girl because so much is expected of them.
Boys are incredibly soft and vulnerable, despite their gruff exteriors. Sure, they look big and strong, but inside the tough armour there’s a whole tangle of insecurities, love and confusion.
The girls his age look more fragile but they’re tougher. It’s as if girls toughen up from inside out and the boys from outside in.
In many ways I worry as much for my strapping young man as I did for the tiny baby handed to me 27 years ago.
As a mother, you always worry. From the moment a child is born, the whole world is a more terrifying place.

I’ll miss him not just because I love him but because I like him a lot – I enjoy his company.
I find him bright, challenging and overwhelmingly intelligent. He’s the best person I know.
I’m lucky and hugely blessed that he has worked hard enough to be incredibly successful, independent and to me now fearless, but it was a rough journey, especially through his teenage years, and as much as I despaired sometimes about the tenderness of this boy, it also made me feel useful, a pivot, that held the wheels on. Now the wheels are fine, and he is ready to drive solo. Am I? I will have to be, and he has taught me that, and if empty nesting terrifies the life out of you, but at the same time gives you back the choice of being the mistress of your own destiny which probably has not been the case for many years, please see that this is the time to be as strong and as capable as the children you successfully brought into the world.
So many empty nesters like me turn more and more to the ‘comfort’ of a drink or 4 to deaden the feelings, and sadly my drinking did ramp up dramatically. I knew I needed to stop, I was beginning not only to miss this child, but because of positive moves on his part, I began to self-harm, logically it was insanity. I was not by cutting my arms, not popping anti-depressants, but via the wine aisle. I needed help, the right help. By a friend being so open about her difficulties with drinking too much and having the courage to seek help via Sarah at the Sanctuary, I decided to take the plunge, or rather get out of this rut of what was ostensibly self-pity. I had never felt like a victim, but I did feel like a lost soul.
So I braced myself and met this woman, who has such a straightforward, often dogmatic attitude, but also a compassionate and often dark sense of humour on this subject. She is not at all mainstream and would be horrified if she was classified as such. Simply, she is a one off. Her methods probably would not suit those would want to fill in forms or box tick, but her intuition, knowledge of this subject is second to none.
The fear of stopping initially was immense. But as the six weeks passed by, I began to see that my freedom now was a joy, a blessing and that I could be whatever I wanted, and I never wanted to be a drunk old soak self-pitying alone at home. She inspired me, she was always there, even late in the evening, and so humble that it almost reduced me to tears, I wanted her to say that she was great, but only would ever tell me that I was the star, she was just the oily rag! I you have any doubts at all about chucking out this toxic substance from your life, get hold of her, it was the best lifestyle choice of change I have ever made.

It’s all good honestly, it only goes horribly wrong if you believe you are now surplus to requirements, you don’t love yourself, take care of yourself, and not be conned into thinking that wine time will be a salve, and make all the fear and worry go away, it doesn’t. It truly will make your next chapter a very dark and isolating place. Sarah taught me that, and thanks is just not enough.

Yvonne.

 

Y B’s Blog – A Mothers Account of Empty Nest

K H’s Blog

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I felt alone, desperate and exhausted when I made contact with Sarah, via her website. I had been drinking too much, daily, for approx. 18 years. I had tried to stop drinking on my own, but the call of wine o’clock always lured me back. Wine o’clock got earlier and earlier……

Sarah’s methodical, caring, no nonsense approach was amazing. She helped me explore my life and gave me strategies to deal with the issues / people that were causing me stress. Sarah’s approach is holistic and individual. I am sure each person’s encounter with Sarah is different and tailored to their circumstances.

Sarah helped me simplify my life and the loud chatter in my head! I feel calmer, in control and I don’t need alcohol as an emotional crutch any more. I am grateful to her for helping me feel more peaceful and positive and for giving my daughter a mother who can now spend quality time with her (and remember it!).

K H’s Blog

Mental Health, Breast Cancer & Me

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About 15 years ago, excitedly getting ready for a holiday with my beloved late husband, I went for a fake tan. It was before the very quick fix of spray tans, so the lovely beautician, my life saver as it turned out had to massage the tan into my skin. We were talking, normal, random chit chat, when she went very quiet, and seemed to be concentrating intently on my left breast. I jokingly said that I didn’t think that there was enough bulk in them to take so much time, smiling, she answered and very gently said, ‘Sarah, when you get back from your holiday, please go to the doctor, there is a little lump here, and best to check it out’.

 

I was not at all bothered, thought it would probably go, I was sure that I was  peri menopausal, and of course with the trait of most people who have had enthusiastic careers with alcohol and other drugs, we tend to be very good at denial even though I had been off the sauce for some years, that particular attitude was still firmly in place.

 

So wonderful holiday and down to my husband nagging I did go to the GP after we came home. I loathe wasting time, and most especially that of the over stretched NHS, and still blindly I was thinking, it will be something or nothing, no history in the family was as fit as a fiddle, the GP examined me, and without any hesitation told me that I should see an oncologist, it might be benign but she suspected it was a cancerous lump.

 

Back then, there was very little connection in the press or by the clinicians that wine could be a cause of this horribly invasive disease. Even when I was doing the Q & A with the specialist, not a word about alcohol, smoking yes.

 

Was I frightened? No. Was I angry? Yes. I was fuming, because I did know that there was a link between alcohol and many cancers, and that merely a few drinks each evening could potentially lead to this, so my anger was that it was damned unfair, after calling time, years before that I now had this to deal with. There was the chance that I was unlucky, but I truly believe that my drinking led to this diagnosis.

 

My treatment was impeccable and cannot praise all the staff involved enough. I am still here scarily for some firing on all cylinders, worked through the treatment as much as I could, and even insisted that my family or friends were not involved in my visits to the hospital. I wanted to own it, I wanted my health to be my responsibility, which might seem slightly odd, but I had for many years put them through enough agony with my drinking. That is another side effect of being an alcohol misuserdependent, alcoholic habitual call it whatever suits, even at the darkest of times we tend to isolate ourselves, even when ill with more ‘acceptable’ issues, because of the past guilt.

 

The reason I am writing about this now, is with all the recent press on mental health and how much devastation it causes, it has made me want to be open about the emotional effects both to my family and myself that, bottling up my feelings, pretending that no matter what I was invincible, was not the way to deal with either of the mental turmoil I went through with a toxic substance that I used to escape from life latterly, or the physical illness that I wanted to keep so private. I would have had sympathy with the cancer, but never with the alcohol, there simply was no empathy shown at all, and at that time, I did understand why my loved ones were so incandescent with my alcohol habit.  The word that sums up both was and is Stigma, and I hope that now anyone who feels alone, unable to open about their problems or fears, should, and not just to their GPs but their peers, their co-workers and loved ones. By doing so, they are not castigated or made to feel ashamed, but be supported and given appropriate care. They should be praised for their bravery, rather than act in the way I did, which was incredibly damaging to my mental health, and if I had still been drinking would more than likely ended up either six foot under or in no position to help anyone with their problems.

 

I told lies, I kept secrets, in my head, for all the right reasons, to protect others, but with no self-love I was badly affected by it. No one can or should be expected to carry this sort of baggage around alone. Today there is news on discrimination towards obesity, because it is visible, people do make assumptions of capability, however, even if we look fit and well on the outside I am more than sure that most of us would be so relieved to have in place an openness within society to not just gender equality, age and disability, but with problems that may have been brought on by the biggest gateway drug of all, alcohol. It seems to me to be the last bastion of stigma when we feel so frightened to be honest and open about it.

 

I hope that more and more employers, friends and family will try to see this honesty as courage, rather than women and men like me who took the wrong approach of an ingrained stiff upper lip.

 

It hurt like hell.

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health, Breast Cancer & Me

WCB’s Blog

Autumn

I used to believe I was a happy drinker and then life threw a series of hard knocks and the happy drinking turned to a coping mechanism, which eventually led to a growing dependency.

I knew my increasing consumption had to be doing damage, and the fact I functioned, really meant my tolerance levels were dangerously high.

I googled various sites, but I didn’t want to share my intimate life story in groups, and I did not want to go into rehab to return to the same situation and triggers. I then came across Sarah at the Sanctuary, and for me it has been a sanctuary. I walked through her door a physically and spiritually depleted human being. Sarah didn’t just listen, she comprehended how the complexities of alcohol can can weave their way into your life, and extracting yourself can be a difficult experience. She is empathetic, wise but tough. She has heard all the excuses before and the truth is every drinker knows the outcome of each and every one of those excuses.

It was not an easy journey, but with each hurdle Sarah would work through it with me, and the hurdles became manageable, until eventually the old habits faded and new ones emerged. This transition has been one of the most liberating. I like to think of it as; the joy of the new.

I have not had a drink for over five months and I am still dealing with some very emotional situations, but I am dealing with them with integrity, honesty and clarity.

When do I miss a drink? When I’m doing anything financial. The new reward is a carb fest, so thank goodness it’s only once a month! Yes, your humour returns.

I now believe I was rarely a happy drinker. Many drinkers come to crossroads, thank goodness when I did, I pressed the right site on Google.

WCB’s Blog

Melanie’s Blog

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 As a middle class, middle aged Physcologist there was no where to turn as far as I was concerned with a 15 year drinking career under my belt, one would have thought that I would been able to access appropriate care.
This was not the case, but eventually found the professional help that showed a different way. This was a positive approach, which left the negative and disease model of dependent drinking back in the last century. I was shown that there was no need to berate myself with hopelessness and the belief that I had an incurable disease.
Even though to the outsider looking in, I had everything, the fact of the matter was my drinking was a concern, and I knew, left to fester, that it would begin to take its toll, and I would suffer consequences.
What I have learned over the last two months of sobriety, is to above all else, to place value on myself, to not feel guilty about self-indulgence and not to self-harm with wine. That out of 24 hours in a day, there was only ever one hour where I affected a buzz or relief from a problem, that only lead to another 23 hours of abject misery and regret, and time wasted dwelling on the growing habitual drinking.
I have been able to unburden by writing my thoughts down, on a daily basis, for then they are out and are tangible rather than internalizing and then quite forgetting why I had self-medicated in the first place.
I will always have problems and issues to face, they will never go away, but I do not need to make them any worse with drinking, inevitably that is what used to happen, blowing them out of all proportion. Non-drinkers deal with ‘stuff’, and so shall I.
My thought process is clear and sharp, my precious intuition is restored.
I am no longer drinking on old painful memories. They are done, nothing will change that, I have no desire to keep hurting myself with them. Being able to off load, I have concentrated on wellness, have been given good advice on nutrition and how the alcohol had depleted my reserves, what to do if cravings surfaced, it all of course made sense once I had thrown away the cloak of denial and defensiveness. I got honest.
Now I know what it feel like to be totally AF, not an ex drinker or ex alcoholic just a woman who has dealt with a potentially life threatening illness and moved on, with no reason to ever re-visit the subject, my future is exciting and adventurous, with spontaneity restored, and life being lived, I have no time to waste!

Melanie’s Blog

Achieving Self Control

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Smashed it!

When your self-control leaves something to be desired, so does your productivity, there was a study in America some time ago when the question was asked, where does self-control come in your list of strengths? It took bottom slot.
When it comes to self-control, it is so easy to focus on your failures that your successes tend to pale in comparison. And why shouldn’t they? Self-control is an effort that’s intended to help achieve a goal. Failing to control yourself is just that—a failure. If you’re trying to avoid knocking back that cheeky bottle of Pinot on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, because you want to lose a few pounds or prove you have control, and you succeed Monday and Tuesday nights only to succumb to temptation on Wednesday by doubling up on a binge, your failure outweighs your success. You’ve taken two steps forward and four steps back. Here, at the Sanctuary, we work on self-control because no one should have to be engaged in a life sentence of feeling first of all that not drinking is somehow missing out, or that they are weak and abnormal because they don’t use alcohol as some kind of cure all.
Since self-control is something we could all use a little help with, I went back to the data to uncover the kinds of things that emotionally intelligent people do to keep themselves productive and in control. They consciously apply these twelve behaviours because they know they work. Some are obvious, others counter-intuitive, but all will help you minimize those awful failures to boost your productivity.
They Forgive Themselves
A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behaviour. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.
Don’t Say ‘Yes’ Unless You Really Want To
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying NO, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which erode self-control. Saying no is indeed a major self-control challenge for many people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honours your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfil them. Just remind yourself that saying no is an act of self-control now that will increase your future self-control by preventing the negative effects of over commitment.
Don’t Seek Perfection
Emotionally stability which will come from passing on the vino will allow women/people not set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of moving forward excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.
Focus On Solutions
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions which hinder self-control. When you focus on the actions you’ll take to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.
Avoid Asking “What If?”
“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to self-control. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend taking action and staying productive (staying productive also happens to calm you down and keep you focused). Productive people know that asking “what if? Will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go. Of course, scenario planning is a necessary and effective strategic planning technique. The key distinction here is to recognize the difference between worry and strategic thinking.
Stay Positive
Positive thoughts help you exercise self-control by focusing your brain’s attention onto the rewards you will receive for your effort. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, self-control is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, self-control is a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, or will happen, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the past and look to the future. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative, so that you don’t lose focus.
Eat
File this one in the counter-intuitive category, especially if you’re having trouble controlling you’re eating. Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable to impulsive behaviour shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble keeping yourself out of the company sweetie tin when you’re hungry, make sure you eat something else if you want to have a fighting chance.
Sleep
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and maintaining your focus and self-control. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present, which are a major productivity killer. Being busy often makes you feel as if you must sacrifice sleep to stay productive, but sleep deprivation diminishes your productivity so much throughout the day that you’re better off sleeping.
When you’re tired, your brain’s ability to absorb glucose is greatly diminished. This makes it difficult to control the impulses that derail your focus. What’s more, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep—every night—is one of the best moves you can make.
Exercise
Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to let somebody have it, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.
Meditate
Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine. Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involves taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason. Give it a try.

Ride the Wave/Crave
Desire and distraction have the tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. When you feel as if you must give in, the rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.
Squash Negative Self-Talk
A big final step in exercising self-control involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.
You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labelling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.
Putting These Strategies to Work
The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at these strategies and giving them a go before you give in.

 

Achieving Self Control

Glass of wine a day enough to damage brain and could increase Alzheimer’s risk

wine glasses

A glass of wine a day was linked with changes in the structure of the brain.
One glass of wine a day is enough to damage the brain and could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, study by Oxford University suggests.
The research found that those who are moderate drinkers – in line with recommended weekly limits – are three times more likely to suffer atrophy to the brain, with a steeper rate of cognitive decline.
The 30-year study tracked 550 civil servants, with brain imaging used to explore links between drinking and brain health.
Those drinking between 14 and 21 units of alcohol a week – six to nine medium glasses of wine – were three times more likely than teetotallers to suffer hippocampal atrophy.

Brain atrophy 1

A picture of a healthy brain of a non drinker.
The greatest risks were among the heaviest drinkers. Those consuming more than 30 units of alcohol saw an almost six-fold rise in their risk.
Researchers used data on weekly alcohol intake and cognitive performance measured repeatedly between 1985 and 2015 for 550 healthy men and women.

Brain atrophy 2

Participants had an average age of 43 at the start of the study and none were alcohol dependent. Brain function tests were carried out at regular intervals and at the end of the study participants underwent an MRI brain scan.
Last year, the Government changed its guidance on drinking and urged both men and women to drink no more than 14 units each week – the equivalent of six pints of average strength beer.
Previously it was recommended that men should consume no more than 21 units and women should not drink more than 14 units each week.
Researchers said their findings have “important” potential public health implications.
Doctor Anya Topiwala, clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry at Oxford University, said: “Our findings support the recent reduction in UK safe limits and call into question the current US guidelines, which suggest that up to 24.5 units a week is safe for men.
“We found increased odds of hippocampal atrophy at just 14 to 21 units a week, and we found no support for a protective effect of light consumption on brain structure.
“Alcohol might represent a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, and primary prevention interventions targeted to later life could be too late.”
Doctor Killian Welch, consultant neuropsychiatrist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, said the findings “strengthen the argument that drinking habits many regard as normal have adverse consequences for health.”
“We all use rationalisations to justify persistence with behaviours not in our long-term interest.
“With publication of this paper, justification of ‘moderate’ drinking on the grounds of brain health becomes a little harder.”
Prof Tom Dening, Professor of Dementia Research at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is a most impressive study and I think it will cause us all to reconsider the advice that we give to patients about alcohol consumption… perhaps we should all drink a bit less.”
But he said the research relied on participants keeping accurate records of their drinking, when many are prone to under-estimate their intake.
Dr Elizabeth Coulthard, Consultant Senior Lecturer in Dementia Neurology at the University of Bristol, said: “An observational study cannot truly prove that alcohol causes dementia, but the findings are in keeping with my clinical experience.
“The toll of high alcohol consumption on cognitive health, often evident to those of us who run memory clinics, is not widely acknowledged publicly. Hopefully this research will contribute to a greater understanding of true safe limits for alcohol consumption.”

 

Glass of wine a day enough to damage brain and could increase Alzheimer’s risk

HATE THE SIN LOVE THE SINNER

Gandhi always knew how to nail a subject, and never better with the quote above when referring to alcohol addiction. Even the alcohol dependent sinner hates the sin that they are embroiled in.

Without becoming narcissistic, to recover you really must be able to love yourself. So many dependent drinkers are generous to the point of being insane with giving, sometimes driven by a desire to be loved, but often to appease their guilt. They are unable to get their heads around the blindly obvious fact to most that love them, they are worth the time and effort shown to get them better. Only when they stop externalizing trying to make themselves loveable, do they become able to get better.

This problem of guilt is exacerbated by counsellors with simply no experience of the affliction.
So why is assumed that those with University degrees in Psychology would have the remotest clue of what we alcoholic dependent past or present suffer? Academia was never a part of the illness, some of the most brilliant people succumb and can never unpick this. But given empathy there is a far greater chance of hitting the right button.

Recovery is rarely quantified either. I saw from a Detox clinic in Harrogate the claim that they had a 97% recovery rate. After 5 days of detox quite possibly, but there are no follow up stats after 6 months how their patients who were charged over £3,500 for those five days are faring. Myself and one other organization that I have the greatest respect for Gainsborough show that we have over 70% recovery after 6 months. What makes us so effective? Simply that we understand and empathise. We have no boxes to tick, no targets to meet, no bonuses to be awarded. Just a desire that no-one suffers the way we did. It’s hideous.

Perhaps if like Gandhi, more can understand that we had no control over this illness, perhaps the professionals would assume the humility that those of us who have overcome this, we could all work together combining both the clinical, holistic and practical skills that achieve a successful outcome.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…..

HATE THE SIN LOVE THE SINNER

L B’S BLOG

Self control

 The day Sarah answered the phone to me was the day my life changed course forever.

The only thing I knew at that point was that I couldn’t continue drinking at the levels I was and I couldn’t stop on my own.
I had tried to follow the GPs advice, the self-help, the drinks diaries. All this did was confirm the view I had of myself that this was all my fault and I couldn’t get out of it. It was spiralling in one direction and although, miraculously, I held a full-time professional job, and responsibilities as wife and mother, there was not going to be a happy ending if I didn’t do something.

From the moment I first spoke to Sarah, feeling directionless and frightened, I immediately felt contained. As our therapeutic bond grew, she held hope for me through those difficult early times. I knew I could trust her to hold all the difficult emotional stuff that began to emerge, and I fumbled to get a grip of it myself. Having Sarah made me realise just how alone I had been, trapped by the shame of it all. She stood beside me all the way through my journey. She cheerleadered my triumphs, she held my hand and guided me when I needed it and at times she picked me up and carried me. I have never felt so understood or cared for by another human. More importantly, she helped me grow hope for myself, to take bold and courageous steps and to realise the future with alcohol was not a grey and joyless abyss. It is amazing! No crippling anxiety at 4am, no “how will I get through the day?”, no “where is the next glass coming from and when”. I am truly in control, making healthy positive choices and my physical and mental health have never been better.

Sarah, you have given me the greatest gift. Liberation. You will never know how grateful I, and my family are that we found each other. You are truly a lifesaver.

L B’S BLOG

Addiction is not a disease: A Neuroscientist argues that it’s time to change our minds on the roots of substance abuse

A psychologist and former addict insists that the illness model for addiction is wrong, and dangerously so.

The mystery of addiction — what it is, what causes it and how to end it — threads through most of our lives. Experts estimate that one in 10 Americans is dependent on alcohol and other drugs, and if we concede that behaviours like gambling, overeating and playing video games can be addictive in similar ways, it’s likely that everyone has a relative or friend who’s hooked on some form of fun to a destructive degree. But what exactly is wrong with them? For several decades now, it’s been a commonplace to say that addicts have a disease. However, the very same scientists who once seemed to back up that claim have begun tearing it down.
Once, addictions were viewed as failures of character and morals, and society responded to drunks and junkies with shaming, scolding and calls for more “will power.” This proved spectacularly ineffective, although, truth be told, most addicts do quit without any form of treatment. Nevertheless, many do not, and in the mid-20th century, the recovery movement, centered around the 12-Step method developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, became a godsend for those unable to quit drinking or drugging on their own. The approach spread to so-called “behavioural addictions,” like gambling or sex, activities that don’t even involve the ingestion of any kind of mind-altering substance.
Much of the potency of AA comes from its acknowledgement that willpower isn’t enough to beat this devil and that blame, rather than whipping the blamed person into shape, is counterproductive. The first Step requires admitting one’s helplessness in the face of addiction, taking recovery out of the arena of simple self-control and into a realm of transcendence. We’re powerless over the addictive substance, and trust in a Higher Power, and the programme itself, to provide us with the strength and strategy to quit. But an important principle of the 12 Steps is that addiction is chronic and likely congenital; you can be sober indefinitely, but you will never be cured. You will always remain an addict, even if you never use again.
The flourishing of the 12-Step movement is one of the reasons why we now routinely describe addiction as a “disease.” To have a disease — instead of, say, a dangerous habit — is to be powerless to do anything except apply the prescribed cure. A person with a disease is unfortunate, rather than foolish or weak or degenerate. Something innate in your body, particularly in your brain, has made you exceptionally susceptible to getting hooked. You always have and always will contain a bomb; the important question is how to avoid setting a match to it. Another factor promoting the disease model is that it has ushered addiction under the aegis of the healthcare industry, whether in the form of an illness whose treatment can be charged to an insurance company or as the focus of profit-making rehab centres.
This conception of addiction as a biological phenomenon seemed to be endorsed over the past 20 years as new technologies have allowed neuroscientists to measure the human brain and its activities in ever more telling detail. Sure enough, the brains of addicts are physically different — sometimes strikingly so — from the brains of average people. But neuroscience giveth and now neuroscience taketh away. The recovery movement and rehab industry (two separate things, although the latter often employs the techniques of the former) have always had their critics, but lately some of the most vocal have been the neuroscientists whose findings once lent them credibility.

 

One of those neuroscientists is Marc Lewis, a psychologist and former addict himself, also the author of a new book “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease.” Lewis’s argument is actually fairly simple: The disease theory, and the science sometimes used to support it, fail to take into account the plasticity of the human brain. Of course, “the brain changes with addiction,” he writes. “But the way it changes has to do with learning and development — not disease.” All significant and repeated experiences change the brain; adaptability and habit are the brain’s secret weapons. The changes wrought by addiction are not, however, permanent, and while they are dangerous, they’re not abnormal. Through a combination of a difficult emotional history, bad luck and the ordinary operations of the brain itself, an addict is someone whose brain has been transformed, but also someone who can be pushed further along the road toward healthy development. (Lewis doesn’t like the term “recovery” because it implies a return to the addict’s state before the addiction took hold.)X

“The Biology of Desire” is grouped around several case studies, each one illustrating a unique path to dependency. A striving Australian entrepreneur becomes caught up in the “clarity, power and potential” he feels after smoking meth, along with his ability to work long hours while on the drug. A social worker who behaves selflessly in her job and marriage constructs a defiant, selfish, secret life around stealing and swallowing prescription opiates. A shy Irishman who started drinking as a way to relax in social situations slowly comes to see social situations as an occasion to drink and then drinking as a reason to hole up in his apartment for days on end.

Each of these people, Lewis argues, had a particular “emotional wound” the substance helped them handle, but once they started using it, the habit itself eventually became self-perpetuating and in most cases ultimately served to deepen the wound. Each case study focuses on a different part of the brain involved in addiction and illustrates how the function of each part — desire, emotion, impulse, automatic behaviour — becomes shackled to a single goal: consuming the addictive substance. The brain is built to learn and change, Lewis points out, but it’s also built to form pathways for repetitive behaviours, everything from brushing your teeth to stomping on the brake pedal, so that you don’t have to think about everything you do consciously. The brain is self-organizing. Those are all good properties, but addiction shanghais them for a bad cause.

As Lewis sees it, addiction really is habit; we just don’t appreciate how deeply habit can be engraved on the brain itself. “Repeated (motivating) experience” — i.e., the sensation of having one’s worries wafted away by the bliss of heroin — “produce brain changes that define future experiences… So getting drunk a lot will sculpt the synapses that determine future drinking patterns.” More and more experiences and activities get looped into the addiction experience and trigger cravings and expectations like the bells that made Pavlov’s dogs salivate, from the walk home past a favorite bar to the rituals of shooting up. The world becomes a host of signs all pointing you in the same direction and activating powerful unconscious urges to follow them. At a certain point, the addictive behavior becomes compulsive, seemingly as irresistibly automatic as a reflex. You may not even want the drug anymore, but you’ve forgotten how to do anything else besides seek it out and take it.

Yet all of the addicts Lewis interviewed for “The Biology of Desire” are sober now, some through tried-and-true 12-Step programs, others through self-designed regimens, like the heroin addict who taught herself how to meditate in prison. Perhaps it’s no surprise that a psychologist would argue for some form of talk therapy addressing the underlying emotional motivations for turning to drugs. But Lewis is far from the only expert to voice this opinion, or to recommend cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to reshape the brain and redirect its systems into less self-destructive patterns.

Without a doubt, AA and similar programs have helped a lot of people. But they’ve also failed others. One size does not fit all, and there’s a growing body of evidence that empowering addicts, rather than insisting that they embrace their powerlessness and the impossibility of ever fully shedding their addiction, can be a road to health as well. If addiction is a form of learning gone tragically wrong, it is also possible that it can be unlearned, that the brain’s native changeability can be set back on track. “Addicts aren’t diseased,” Lewis writes, “and they don’t need medical intervention in order to change their lives. What they need is sensitive, intelligent social scaffolding to hold the pieces of their imagined future in place — while they reach toward it.”

 

 

Addiction is not a disease: A Neuroscientist argues that it’s time to change our minds on the roots of substance abuse

Different Attitudes, Successful Results

BREAK

60 different medical conditions can be attributed to alcohol misuse. For example, 3 glasses of wine a night increases the risk of breast cancer by 40-50%.
52% of children now living with a harmful or hazardous drinker. 30% binge, 22% dependent.
http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/content/press_release/content_479
The current available facts are the tip of the iceberg. I completely agree with Professor Gilmore, as the article so rightly points out, these are hidden drinkers, and because of that there is little data apart from the consequences that are now presenting. None of the women I treat will be honest to mainstream agencies or GPs, fear, guilt, shame. My local surgery even calls them niche drinkers, which is rather a quaint attitude considering the actual size of the problem. They just want empathy and support along with a non-judgemental way of breaking the dreadful cycle they are now in. Many are not alcoholic yet, just habitual or dependent, and they want control back. We must de-stigmatize this. Openness has to be key, and wellness must be celebrated not scorned just as it is with giving up smoking. Attitudes have to change, among professionals and employers. The majority see this as a lifestyle choice or terrible weakness. It eats them alive. Have to talk honestly to someone they trust.
The Sanctuary is successful, 87% recovery rate after six months, because I was just like these women. Empathy and a real understanding is the only way for good outcomes. No-one feels vulnerable with me, nor do they have to beat themselves up for the rest of their days for a problem that they once had.
There is plenty of help for the disadvantaged, and for those time rich enough for eight week rehab, but not for middle class women who are falling through the cracks. These are the women that look after and help, and every day I hear from more and more. It takes tremendous courage and humility for them to face their problem. Have so much to lose as they see as do others this as a total taboo. Many talk online anonymously which is great, and can be a useful tool.
We juggling so much. We wanted equality, for the most part we got it. But we are just not physical able to drink as heavily as men without expecting consequences. It all starts with having a drink to relax. We use it to self-medicate, stress buster. Wine has become a social oil. Then a drink to forget, and slowly it isn’t fun anymore. No cup of tea at teatime, just a glass 250ml glass of pinot. These women never drink in units, just glasses.
Legal acceptable and everywhere. Minimum pricing will not affect problem drinkers.
Mothers drinking usually is more chaotic to the family, without being sexist the Mother is the lynchpin of the family. The family suffers all the symptoms of the illness, except for the physical need. Not only that they feel helpless, because of course being so close, so loving and loved this is another side effect and deeply frustrating.

We do need to start to celebrate being well and alcohol free, and not be categorised as dull and boring, for there is nothing more boring than a room full of drunks, repeating themselves over and over, and those that attack us are simply defending rather than accepting.

So please will the powers that be treat this as they did with tobacco, and for once LISTEN to those of us who are not pious or judgemental, and set up open and honest discussions with so many of us who want to help and create a different view of being sober. The costs to the NHS would reduce dramatically, as would the harms and hurts that so many families are going through.

Different Attitudes, Successful Results

Kay’s Blog

 

Emma blog

I feel so lucky to have found Sarah. I had never realised just how empowering it would be to have such a kind supportive and expert friend at my shoulder, encouraging me every step of the way.
At the start the whole thing can seem rather scary but with Sarah by my side I didn’t look back and 6 weeks later I feel energetic, healthy and ready for a new life. One where I make good choices and also one where I’m so very happy.
There’s nothing you can say that will shock Sarah. She’s just bursting with understanding, sympathy and just the right amount of a bit of plain speaking.
I’d thoroughly recommend the Harrogate Sanctuary to anyone trying to beat their own wine o’clock challenges – you won’t regret it.

Kay’s Blog

Alcohol and Hormones: How Does Alcohol Affect Hormone Levels?

I wrote this article for a great American site, https://www.livewelltesting.com. There will be more posts from The Sanctuary published here over the next few weeks.

time-and-health-lucasjamespersonaltraining

We all love to unwind at the end of the day. Sometimes that’s a great bout of yoga or high-intensity training, and sometimes it’s a glass of wine or a favourite cocktail. Everything in moderation, right?

Or not. Have you ever wondered what impact (if any) alcohol has on your hormones? And just how much is too much? Is any amount “safe”? What is alcohol doing inside our bodies? And what does moderate consumption even mean?

To answer those questions, let’s take it one step at a time.

Estrogen and Alcohol
Alcohol consumption can increase oestrogen—but it’s not the same for everyone.

According to clinical studies, moderate alcohol consumption can vary with life stages. What you consume at age 20 may not be the same as what you consume at age 40—and what you drink will affect your hormones really differently as well. As a woman ages, her hormones fluctuate; therefore, less alcohol is needed to have larger hormonal effects over time. For a woman in her 40s or 50s, even “moderate” amounts of alcohol can affect the hormonal system.

Drinking alcohol can cause a rise in oestrogen and a decrease in progesterone in premenopausal women. Some studies even suggest that menopause was delayed by moderate alcohol consumption, since “alcohol consumption was significantly correlated with oestrogen levels.” Though binge drinking (five or more drinks in one day) is the most detrimental, in terms of hormonal disruption and other health problems, this study suggests that moderate alcohol consumption needs further analysis to determine its health impact.

Alcohol and Testosterone
Alcohol consumption can decrease testosterone—but it depends how much you drink.

According to studies by the Testosterone Centres of Texas, “alcohol is the enemy of testosterone.” Testosterone is important for both men and women (although men have much more)! It’s well-known as the hormone for sex drive and libido, but it is a key player in muscle formation, bone mass, fat distribution, and brain health. Low testosterone (caused by alcohol or something else) in both men and women can result in brain fog, fatigue, irritability, lower muscle mass, and lower motivation.

The Testosterone Centres study goes on to cite that the decrease in testosterone is in direct relation to the amount of alcohol consumed, which poses the question: How much is too much?

In this study, the findings suggest that drinking two to three beers a day caused a “slight” reduction in testosterone for men and none for women, a good sign that moderate drinking doesn’t have that huge of an impact. The way in which alcohol affects hormone levels is related to the chemicals alcohol contains. Beer and wine contain chemicals that can increase oestrogen, thereby lowering testosterone.

Risks of Heavy Drinking
Heavy drinking (more than three drinks a day) is the real culprit for all kinds of health maladies in both men and women: weight gain, lowered testosterone levels in men, and increased testosterone, by up to 60% higher, in women, hence the aggression and arguments that arise, levels. Both sexes are affected in terms of fertility. Studies have shown that men who drink in excess suffer from both fertility and “abnormally low testosterone.”

The citation of breakdown of marriages as alcohol misuse, has risen by 70% of the last 5 years, backed up by top divorce lawyer Amanda McAllister. It is for these reasons, and many others, that rehabilitation for alcohol abuse is necessary to extend the health and vitality of active adults.

Alcohol and Hormones: How Does Alcohol Affect Hormone Levels?

The Quick Fix

phone wine

So it’s not enough to have the latest iPhone, there is the defining case to go with. Apart from saving yourself and children if you have them, from a disaster, undoubtedly the smart phone would be clutched to your bosom, it’s become one of life’s needs, beyond necessity, so pairing the wine and the phone together makes this completely acceptable, normal.

What once we just made calls on, now has become a mark of our culture and a must have. We need it to check on dates, friends, family appointments and communications that 20 years ago would have all taken so much more time and effort. Effort is possibly the key word here. Apart from having to charge it, it takes care of itself. Only groaning if we can’t pick wi fi, just in case we have missed something earth shattering on social media. The mobile phone is another part of 21st century quick fixing, and you are seen as more than odd if you don’t have one.

Wine has the same sort of common bond. If you don’t drink it, or anything else that’s alcohol based, you are an outsider, either desperately stricken or just not one of ‘us’. We do tend to be tribal, and when you announce that you are having a break, say for Dry January, that seems acceptable, however to say that you are stopping, going Alcohol Free for much longer then the defensiveness, raised eyebrows and feelings of being not one of the tribe begin.

During this wonderful weather, the whole concept of ‘relaxing’ in the sunshine with a cheeky little number is totally normalised. Children’s parties are awash with it, the notion of choosing water or soft drinks has become odd.

Back in the 50s wine was a treat, only really imbibing with a special dinner or occasion. Now it is cheap and everywhere. The other quick fix. But what does it fix? At least with the smart phone you have communication, after a bottle of Prosecco or Pinot, the communication tends to go down the toilet. Mood changes, families become concern, aggression starts, trust erodes.

All my clients know that I never say never, we have to stay in the present tense. By the same token we also need to reflect a little on how we see ourselves perhaps in 10, 20 years’ time. Do we want to be well? Might seem like a silly question, but with alcohol and the insidious, slow process of damage gains momentum, depression kicks in, secrets and lies begin to be kept, stress rises, and each part of us, both emotionally and physically begins to be a concern. Guilt becomes huge. I ask clients to write the pros and cons of their drinking, it is an incredibly one-sided list.

If you are having real fun with a couple of glasses that’s great, but who helps those of us who do want to change without being stigmatised or made to feel labelled as diseased?

In conclusion there is no quick fix to be well after an enthusiastic drinking career, we can’t wave magic wands after a month off or a few days, it is a change of habit and lifestyle. As creatures of habit and need a way of breaking what could become a life threatening one. Being authentic, real and honest is priceless, and most especially for those of us in middle age and older. You will be surprised how much more fun it is not to drink excessively, personally for me, being in a room full of those over the eight is enormously repetitive, boring and dull!

Only one life, and we all deserve to be the best we can without Big Alcohol sticking its insidious claws into us.

The Quick Fix

The Power of Women and Wine Time

Mr Gray, a liver specialist pulls no punches. ‘Until about 10 years ago, my patients with alcoholic liver disease were mostly middle-aged men. But women now make up about half of my caseload.
‘It used to be that patients were in their forties and fifties when I first saw them. But I’m seeing sizeable and rising numbers of women in their twenties. Some have irreversible liver damage.’
One 26-year-old female patient died of liver cirrhosis. ‘And we’ve got a 29-year-old on the ward now who has been in hospital through drink for several weeks,’ says Gray. ‘She’s been drinking heavily for 10 years and her liver has packed up. She has a partner and a two-year-old child but she says, “I prefer wine to tea”, even though she knows the harm it’s causing her.’ The woman’s future looks gloomy. ‘She will probably get over this illness. But if she continues to drink after getting out, she will die. I’ve told her that.’
Many of his patients have been drinking excessively for years. ‘These are the steady drinkers. Typically they have a half-bottle of wine with their meal every night, or at lunchtime, and another drink at dinner. They are never drunk but they drink in a sustained manner. They don’t realise they’ve got a problem because they think alcoholics are down-and-outs, or pub regulars. They have wine with their meal and because of that they somehow think that takes away the harm, or they say, “but I don’t drink spirits”. These misconceptions are very common. I suspect there are thousands and thousands of women who are drinking at risky levels, all over the country.
‘Any liver specialist would tell the same story,’ adds Gray grimly. ‘Alcohol is a totally classless disease. It may be more discreet among the upper and middle classes, because they do a lot of it at home. But it causes harm across all social classes.’
Stephanie was an 18-year-old fresher at university when she realised she enjoyed heavy-drinking sessions: champagne mostly, often around 10 glasses a night. Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings would usually follow the same pattern: alcohol-fuelled revelry at a party or nightclub, total intoxication, home at 2am – then a bad hangover. Unlike most young people, though, Stephanie kept on drinking like that for much of the next 17 years, despite her growing respectability as a senior teacher. She recalls with horror bumping into some 18-year-old pupils she taught when she was out with a group of girlfriends at the weekend. ‘They saw me early in the evening, thank God, not later on, when I would have been hopelessly drunk,’ she says.
Between the ages of 18 and 35, Stephanie’s drinking habits depended on whether she had a boyfriend. When she was in a relationship, she drank normal amounts. But when single, weekend excess was routine. ‘I needed alcohol to relax and meet guys. I did some pretty risky things and had some wild nights and a few one-night stands. We all did,’ Stephanie recalls. ‘Looking back, I know I was doing it because I was desperate to meet someone significant, especially when I reached my early thirties and wanted to settle down.’
Her years of regular binge drinking came at a price, though. ‘The next day, I wouldn’t get out of bed until 11 o’clock and I would vomit, cry for a long time and feel, not suicidal, but depressed, frustrated and angry with myself for having gone out and got very drunk, yet again,’ says Stephanie, who is now 42 and drinks only moderately.
In a way, Stephanie is lucky. The worst side-effect from her drinking was an ultimately successful battle with depression. Many suffer much more direct damage. Eight women a day die from chronic liver damage, often younger than men with the same condition, because they are physically less robust. As alcohol consumption has risen, so the gap between the amounts consumed by women and men has been closing.
While much media attention has been devoted to young ‘ladettes’ out binge-drinking, the real medical harm is being felt among middle-aged women. The number of women aged 35 to 54 dying as a result of alcohol-related damage more than doubled from 7.2 per hundred thousand in 1991, to 14.8 per hundred thousand in 2006. The numbers are rising at an alarming rate.
London property lawyer Leonora Kawecki died in 2003, aged 39, soon after being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. ‘Like many other young professional women, Leonora had a busy social life and alcohol was very much a part of that,’ says her sister Julia. Treatment in a clinic could not save Leonora and she eventually died of internal bleeding – a complication of end-stage liver failure. Health experts warn that many other women like Leonora, who regularly consume well over the recommended ‘safe-drinking’ limits, and who often believe they do not have an alcohol problem, will be receiving a wake-up call before too long.
So why are more women drinking more? ‘Men and women have historically drunk in different ways, but that’s changing, partly because of the equality issue,’ believes Gray. ‘Some women think, “men can do it, so we can do it.” There’s also more disposable income and when women do go out, there doesn’t seem to be any inhibition.’
Recent years have seen profound changes in women’s drinking habits. Siobhan Freegard, the co-founder of a website for mothers called Netmums.com, was surprised by quite how many of her members were consuming well over the recommended safe-drinking limits when Netmums polled 4,000 of them last year. Despite having children, domestic responsibilities, and often jobs too, many mothers drank well over the 14-unit limit. ‘I’m a half-a-bottle-a-day girl and I know that takes me well over the recommended level. But because it seems a civilised quantity and it’s at home, it doesn’t seem so bad,’ says one mother-of-three.
‘Quite a few mums have this concept of “wine time”, that they’re entitled to have a reward drink in the evening. To some “wine time” is eight o’clock. But quite a lot of mums get their children to bed at seven and drink, and some even think, ‘school pick-up – only two hours to wine time”,’ says Freegard.
Professor Ian Gilmore, a liver specialist at the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the president of the Royal College of Physicians, points out that female heavy drinkers are being even more reckless than their male peers. ‘Women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. They are smaller, they metabolise drink less well and it affects their vital organs more.’
‘I’m not a sociologist,’ says Gilmore. ‘But the rise in women’s drinking is likely to be related to the fact that women are competing on more equal terms in the workplace and that many are holding down jobs, while bringing up a family. I suspect a lot of the increase is women who have this dual role using alcohol to unwind, to reduce the stress they’re normally under. But it is frighteningly easy,’ says Gilmore, ‘for a woman to go from having a glass or two at night, to drinking larger amounts and developing problems.”
Sarah Turner is a leading expert on women and alcohol. ‘Women are drinking more now than they have done for more than a century. There’s no doubt that the way young women are drinking now will mean that our health services will be burdened by middle-aged women with alcohol problems in years to come. It’s happening already, but it will get worse,’ warns Sarah.
In her view, the usual explanations for more women drinking more heavily – such as alcohol becoming both cheaper and more readily available – do not tell the full story of what hugely significant changes in behaviour and social attitudes are. ‘Historically, women have been the informal social controllers of men’s drinking, but women now, especially young women, are no longer playing that role and are becoming as outrageous as young men in terms of their drunken behaviour.’
SarahTurner director of The Harrogate Sanctuary relates a conversation she had last year with a taxi driver in York. She asked him which sorts of drunk passengers were most troublesome. ‘He told me that the scariest people he gets in his taxi are groups of drunk, middle-aged women. A group of drunk, young men may wind the window down and shout obscenities but usually stop if he says, “lads, I’ve had a long night, can you give me a break?” But he couldn’t calm down, or reason with, the groups of thirty- and forty-something women because they were more overtly aggressive,’ says Turner.
She pinpoints the rise in all-female groups, all out drinking heavily, as significant. ‘These are women who are staying single longer, are divorced, or whose kids have already left home. They have fewer responsibilities and more disposable income,’ says Sarah. ‘The fact that it’s all women gives a sense of empowerment and control, but with an aggressive edge to it. When they end up in the company of men, they start challenging the men, usually sexually, and by doing so are putting themselves at risk of sexual violence. Young women did not use to behave like that.’
Sarah is torn. She believes women’s emancipation over recent decades is hugely welcome. ‘And I’m not saying that women don’t have the right to behave as outrageously as men when they have been drinking.’ But she is troubled by the harm that some women who drink heavily are doing to themselves and the risks that they are running.
‘Some people say that women are paying the price of having their freedom, but I don’t agree with that,’ she says. ‘If you’re going to give people fewer responsibilities and more money, you have no guarantee that they will behave wisely – and that’s a major cause for concern.’
Now coupled with the economic downturn, there becomes even more excuses to drown their sorrows. All misusers of alcohol need ongoing support, the women she treats do not want to sign up to a life of meetings in draughty chapels and halls, but few are prepared to be open with their sobriety. Attitudes have to change says Sarah, and that can only come in the first place from clinicians, who up until now, have shown no desire to de-stigmatize this illness.

 

The Power of Women and Wine Time

SELF LOVE NOT SELF DESTRUCTION

Many people who start the path of wellness by stopping using alcohol have been through the wringer in various ways. Whilst using ‘Mothers little helper’, some have experienced heartache, disappointment, legal issues, relationship problems, and more. Some have hit rock bottom. One common thread in most who decide to get healthy, is a lack of self-esteem and fear. They’ve been beaten down and they’ve beaten themselves up over their struggling with habit or dependence.

Here are the pros though, and I suggest to all my clients to make a list of pros and cons.

1. You’ll develop more confidence. Self-esteem is linked to confidence. As you move forward in your life alcohol free, you’ll begin to notice that you feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically. As you feel better, you’ll also look better. You’ll start taking better care of yourself. You’ll gain more clarity and have more desire to do things that add value to your life, as well as others lives. You’ll start doing things that feel good and right, which will boost your self-esteem and confidence. Overall, this confidence will help you adopt a healthier lifestyle in general. You’ll be able to look in the mirror and like what you see, flaws and all. You’ll be able to be gentle with yourself, forgiving and loving yourself as necessary. You’ll also have more of a drive to be productive at home and at work. Little by little, your confidence will certainly increase.

2. You’ll develop more courage. Courage means that you have the ability to do something even if it scares you. Courage means looking at life’s challenges square in the eyes and even shaking in your shoes, you move forward with the intent of conquering them. When you stop drinking and really start to work on yourself, you’ll begin to notice that you’re able to do things that you couldn’t do before.

For example, maybe one reason you drank was because you were depressed and heartbroken over failed relationships. Instead of asking for professional help, you internalised your feelings and resorted to numbing your pain through drinking. Now that you’re well and working on growing mind, body, and spirit, you’ll find yourself being more courageous moving forward. Maybe you’ll decide to attend counselling and contend with that depression (or anxiety, guilt, rage, etc.) Or perhaps you’ll stop wallowing in the victimhood story and start telling a new, positive story about yourself. Maybe you’ll take more positive risks and get out there interacting with more people. Yes, you can dig deep and unleash a tidal wave of courage that will help you navigate this life and all it entails.

3. You’ll have new and more opportunities. As you progress on the road, you’ll begin to notice that new opportunities arise. As you plunge forward feeling more confident in yourself and more able to stretch beyond your comfort zone, amazing opportunities may come your way and all you’ll have to do is walk through the open doors to experience them.

4. You’ll experience more freedom. We all want freedom, as freedom is living without constraint or restriction. When we are in the grip of the ugly juice, we are not free. We are bound to a drink and that is hell on earth. But when we decide to live a life free from alcohol, we get to unlock the cage and walk out of it into a new life that feels amazing. We get to experience a freedom to experience all sorts of new things, meet new people, and go to places we’ve never been. Will it always be amazing? Course not, we all have blue days. But we can navigate through it without much of a hassle and learn some valuable lessons along the way, which helps us grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Freedom really is one of the most valuable aspects of living an AF life and I can say for myself that the feeling of freedom- true freedom- is one of the things I cherish most.

Kudos to you for embarking on this new journey of wellness. If you’re reading this and you’re teetering on whether you should stop drinking or not, I urge you to consider giving it up for good. If you have tried and are struggling, reach out for help, The Sanctuary uses a unique and non-disruptive method to do so. It is not scripted or depressing, and it is always client led, you call the shots.

SELF LOVE NOT SELF DESTRUCTION

Stopping and Starting with the Ugly Juice

Many of us do Dry January, Sober October et al, which is great, and gives us a good detox. However, it generally followed by a good whack with alcohol the following month.

As we age, and no matter how fit we are, alcohol has much bigger effect on the body, no matter how great we may look on the outside, with a real mask generally telling all that we are fine, job is great, children wonderful, and partnerships if we are in them ticking along nicely.

However, stopping and starting most especially in middle age and for the more mature, becomes more and more harmful. Naturally if we have had a month off, our tolerance goes down, so the first hit can be ghastly. But because of our determination not to show vulnerability, we keep going, and before we know it, are either back up to the same amounts, and often more. The average intake of my clients is between 70 and 100 units a week which sounds horrific. But we are talking about around a bottle of wine a night. With the size of the glasses these days, that can represent 3, which if we are chatting on phone to friends, and telling them that we are just having a couple sound fairly low key.

Gradually we become concerned, tiredness becomes unbelievably overwhelming, but we fight it. For again my clients do tend to be survivors, not victims. So the cycle begins, we start to not just lie to ourselves but more harmful to us, we lie to our loved ones, and absolutely hate it. None of us were born liars, and for the 32% of medical professionals I saw last year it makes them feel so dreadfully unauthentic, shameful and self esteem just goes down the toilet.

We all need to realise that this con trick most especially with the wine manufacturers, and Big Alcohol in general has been played superbly. Even without knowing what ingredients are in the ugly juice, without any warnings, we are seduced by it. The old adage, one won’t hurt. That used to be one glass, now it’s one bottle or more.

I remember when I lived in France for a short time, watching the crops being sprayed with pesticides and wondering what the hell was going into the grape. If we research that, we immediately find the nature of those, along with many more unhealthy and sinister ingredients.

I am never pious or evangelical, I never count the days, but I do look at bigger picture. The typical apple shape, the tiredness and all the regrets.

We deserve better, and I just would love now not for MUP, but the listing of ingredients in this so wonderfully seductive drug.

Stopping and Starting with the Ugly Juice

Dealing With The Fear

I and my Sanctuary have been featured both in the press over the years all extremely nerve racking. This week I shall be speaking at a corporate event. To say that I am anxious is an understatement. By nature, I have always been shy which of course played a large part in my instant love affair with the ugly juice, alcohol all those years ago. Fear of life in general. The drinking years allowed me to be outrageous sometimes, and during my twenties and thirties, I appeared to be frighteningly confident.

 

Until inevitably, I lost it. Then of course the fear was whether I could get to lunchtime without a drink. Fear of being found out and fear of the catastrophic consequences that followed the binges. So much fear that it simply swallowed me up.

 

When I got well, I had to deal with the fear in a different way. I had to re-wire. One of the very best phrases I heard that helped me was that fear was courage in action. Inaction leads to fear. It soon became clear that the thinking about what could happen, and of course always thinking of the worst case scenario, was the biggest instigator of the fear.
Now I imagine the outcome rather than dwell on the build-up. So far there have been no seriously inappropriate outcomes. I may have failed a couple of times to put a point across, time is always short, and I could write and talk several books, and I have had disagreements with the great and the good. But I have never been ashamed, or guilt ridden or embarrassed.

 

All my clients have a fear in different degrees. But there is no doubt it has played a part in their individual drinking careers.
One to one my clients and I discuss the fear. It’s really a very intimate subject sometimes, because yet again, we tend to beat ourselves up over any perceived weakness. It is vital to try to eradicate it and that can only be done with empathetic long term support. At the height of our intoxication there was no fear, so getting to grips with new coping mechanisms is yet another part of the work we do together, and perhaps one of the most vital parts of true emotional control and sobriety.
So there is real benefit from being proactive. Never standing still, never letting the void created by not drinking become unused. We wasted so much time, making the most of it now seems to be one of the most satisfying parts of this journey, and shows us just how much simpler and positive life is without the ethanol.

 

For which is the worst fear, the fear of stopping or the fear of carrying on?

 

Dealing With The Fear

Amanda’s Blog

WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS HOW GRATEFUL I AM.

Firstly, you meet some people in your life who truly reach out and help you. Sarah is one of these amazing people. She has changed my life and helped me become alcohol free now that I enjoy every-day to the full. Words cannot express how grateful I am for her help, support and encouragement.

My Story
I was born into a loving family to parents in their forties who never expected to have children, so they were thrilled when the stork delivered me. They didn’t go on to have any more children so I was the only one. One may presume spoilt, well yes for the nice things I had, my own bedroom with a TV, but definitely not spoilt in attitude – my father was very strict and ensured I adhered to his rules.

My father and grand-father were nightly drinkers…enjoying one or two glasses of wine with dinner and then a few whiskies before bedtime. My mother had the odd snowball but on the whole preferred to drink galloons of tea rather than any form of booze.

I cannot remember how old I was when I had my first drink – not because I was drunk but because I was given whiskey on my dummy! My grand-father used giver me sips of his whiskey from a very early age and then my father would give me wine with dinner, he would also give me drinks on social events and on holidays – not many but as he said enough so I would build up a tolerance. He believed he was doing the right thing, his strategy was to ensure that no man would ever be able to drink me under the table and have his wicked was with me!

When I was 13 and 14 years old, I went through some traumatic events, which I would rather not discuss, but needless to say they have scared me. Soon after these events stopped, I started going out to pubs and clubs with friends. We lived in a big city in the North, where under-age drinking was was very common – they weren’t many youth clubs around, so we choose pubs and clubs to listen to music, dance and socialise. Given my tolerance I would often get merry whilst some of my friends would be in state, I rarely got drunk (my interpretation of drunk being staggering and slurring words).

I started a family at a young age and my going out days were few and far between. I never drank in the house, never had the urge and couldn’t afford it anyway. When I did go out, yes I would enjoy many drinks and be quite inebriated…suffering from the old hangover! But as these nights were few and far between I did not worry.

I went through university and built up a good career, evenings out became more frequent, about once a month, and again I would go out get drunk and have a bloody good night (well so I thought anyway).

As my career progressed I moved into the world of sales, so as well as socialising in pubs and clubs with friends, I was now drinking with work colleagues. I was still never an everyday drinker. Some months there would be one event, others there maybe five or six events. But I worked hard, I was bringing up a family so I deserved to enjoy myself – ‘because I’m worth it’!

As my friends started having families we moved away from the pub and club scene and onto dinner parties. I could always be relied upon for the ‘entertainment’, consuming lots of alcohol, getting drunk, being the life and sole of the party. Of course I was getting older so the hangovers lasted longer. For me I still thought this was fine. I was a happy drunk, more often than not buying more rounds than I should have. I never got angry or aggressive.

However, that all changed when my daughter turned 13 years old, the feelings and emotions of what had happened to me when I was that age started to surface. I became depressed, I felt worthless and dirty. So much so, that when we drank on nights out or at dinner parties, I would drink so much alcohol that I would pass out. I did not want to leave a party, I didn’t want to go home when everyone else did…I wanted to carry on drinking. It made me forget, it tricked me into feeling better about myself. I didn’t want an evening to come to an end. Clearly, in the morning I would feel terrible. Hangovers would last two-three days and I would have what I can only describe as anxiety attacks. I wanted to stop binging but couldn’t.

I still never had the urge to drink every-day but I would get in a state once a fortnight at first and then it crept up to once a week. I knew I had to change. I tried to moderate…but over the course of 18 months I only managed moderation once or twice. Once I had had one drink a switch would click in my head and I wanted more. The voice inside my head would say “Go on, you have worked hard you deserve it,” or “You’ve had a stressful week, you need a few drinks to relax”. Once I was drunk this voice would inevitably encourage me to carry on “Well you are going to have a hangover anyway, so you may as well carry on enjoying yourself!” I can’t describe how bad the hangovers were…they would render my useless the following day and then a nervous wreck for three days later.

I tried to be alcohol free on many occasions, sometimes lasting a fortnight and sometimes a month…but I would always end up having a binge. It would only take one friend to say, “You haven’t got a problem, just enjoy a few with me”…and then I’d be off!

My life changed when I got in touch with Sarah. I realised I could not become alcohol free on my own. I needed help. I went to a few AA meetings, but they weren’t for me. I think the AA does some amazing work and they help many people, but for me it didn’t help. I joined Soberitas and found the chat rooms and information online really helpful and it gave me a good start. However, whilst away with my team for a long weekend I relapsed – drinking from 6pm in the evening until 11am the following morning.

I had read about Sarah on the Soberitas website. I contacted her as I landed at London Heathrow at 7am, some 20 hours after my last drink! I was in dire need. She chatted to me immediately and arranged a follow up conversation for a few days later. Sarah was caring, warm and understanding. She explained the six-week online/telephone programme and I signed up. We both felt we could work together and the programme fitted perfectly with my busy life.

So I’ve completed the course and come out the other end. Not once in those six-weeks was I tempted to drink. Sarah‘s CBT course is truly amazing. She has taught me to love myself again. I am empowered to be alcohol free. I no longer need to abuse myself with alcohol. I can do everything that I love doing every-day of the week, rather than just half of it when I was binging. I see, hear and smell things differently. The amazing things about the world we live in and the people we meet now fill my mind rather than being supressed by the fog of alcohol.

Through this new empowerment and self-belief I am taking action against what happened to me when I was a teenager and addressing those issues. I can deal with the everyday stresses and strains of live AND celebrate the joy of life without reaching for a glass.

Sarah – thank you so much for your care, compassion and comradeship. You have changed my life, helping me divert away from the road I was on.

Amanda’s Blog

Georgie’s Blog

I had tried self-help books, sheer will-power, a little counselling and everything in between, and although not a ‘vodka on my cornflakes’ type of person, I knew quite well that I had a dependency for gin and tonic and wine. I hid it well. I knew I hid it well, but I wanted to stop hiding and at the same time I was scared to step out from behind the bottle.

Sarah, initially started talking about the weather… I thought, erm… shouldn’t we be getting down to business… you know the nitty gritty of my alcohol dependency? Yet this is how it works, or at least it did for me. Of course, I knew the truths before I asked for Sarah’s help, that is why I was so frustrated. Somehow Sarah seems to implant those truths into your psyche, in a chatty, friendly, talking about the weather-way. There seemed to be no huge deep and meaningful sessions, we just emailed daily with our lives and how we were feeling and reflecting on how alcohol helped and hindered us at the same time.

I am thrilled to say, that I am no longer alcohol dependent, I am alcohol wary. I can totally moderate my drinking because, and here is the key, I see it for what it is. I don’t really want it anymore, if somebody had told me that before I started I would not have believed them. I knew lots of facts about the booze, I knew it was dominating my life, I knew I wanted to stop, but I seemed powerless. Sarah gave me back my power and I now feel like the real me. I will forever be indebted to Sarah and I feel like I have gained a good friend. I would not hesitate in recommending Sarah to anyone who is concerned about their drinking, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

******************************

Thank you again,

Georgie

Georgie’s Blog

Alcohol Free Foundation

Years ago, I drank too much, I worried too much, I projected too much and now I don’t. I dealt with it all, and moved on.
For me, there is no room for self-flagellation, or what if’s, my time is concentrated on the here and now, and the exciting times ahead.
In my work, naturally confidentiality has always been key, but the more empowered The Sanctuary clients have become the more they are now beginning to start the BIG conversation in real time, about what was once a very toxic issue for them. Without stigma or tambourine bashing, they have overcome the fear around talking openly about their reasons for not drinking to excess anymore, and I hope as they do, that they will in turn encourage others who find themselves in the same concerned and worrying position to be able to do the same, casting aside any shame or guilt.
For after all, it was never a choice that we became so dependent on such a well marketed and dangerous, legal drug.
Alcohol is dressed up so adeptly as being very acceptable and glamorous.
It is also completely normalised, that for many of us, it was never considered ‘proper’ drinking until the wheels fall off, With the added easy edge, that it needs no prescription, just a grocery shop and a fridge.
Of course it is not the first time that we have been seduced. Gin was the craze in the first half of the 18th century, the Absinthe movement in the latter part of the 19th Century, and more recently, Mother’s little helper Valium washed down with Gin and Dubonnet in the 60s was a favourite mix for middle class Mums. My Mother was a victim of this over prescribed prescriptive drug, trusting advice that it would make all the tragedy and angst in her life disappear, sadly the reverse was the case.
65% of my clients last year were prescribed Anti-depressants, Citralopram, Prozac, washed down with a cheeky little number, oblivious of the fact that their drinking totally negated the effects of the other legal drug they were taking. I am delighted to say that only 12% still take them, free of booze, a proper clinical diagnosis could be made. So in many ways history is repeating itself. But this is a modern problem, faced by modern people, who wanted it all, and for the most part got it, except for the indisputable fact, that alcohol with it’s sneaky way of creeping up, can take it all away in a moment.
This BIG conversation will only start with us. Like minded people, from different backgrounds, who have had enough of the self-destruct button. Without being preachy or evangelical, by playing our wellness and clarity forward, we can make a change. We do not have a rule book, or belong to a cult, but we are very obviously, savvy, intelligent, articulate women who have now got control and choice.
Methods at the Sanctuary are not mainstream, I have no time for the depressing thought that I will be burdened with a lifetime of regret. The gold standards of care that are in place today, are antiquated and inconvenient for many. What I would love is that everyone who are concerned about their drinking, as I once was, is to campaign for at the very least gender specific care, and at best combine that with age specific care. To be told once you have decided to cork it, that there is a waiting list of many months is also totally unacceptable. If you broke your leg, would you allow a GP to fix it? Would you not feel safer with a specialist, most especially if there was a particular nuance to your break? There is a very lackadaisical approach to alcohol misuse, borne from the legality and acceptance of this drug. There is no value in poor and ineffective care, waste of time and money. Because of the drip feed with drinking, rarely do we count the financial cost of it. We did the stats at the Sanctuary. Last year the average saving per client, was £4674.00 per annum, and that did not include, any wild online shopping, guilt purchases or taxi fares. I have been doing a starfish impression for many years, and it’s now time, with right attitude to make a change. We have to be proactive, vocal and concise in the inappropriate way our once problem is handled. We need to speak with the powers that be, from GPs and upwards, we need to make bars and clubs give balance to the drinks on offer, and we need too to tackle our supermarkets and get them to address this balance also. You are the consumer!

We have to banish the taboo, there is none with sexuality or smoking, so why the hell are we still frightened of talking about once drinking too much? It’s insane, and the best definition of insanity provided by Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to change. We have all been there! We live in the 21st century not the dark ages.
Non drinking is attractive and glamorous, I cannot remember ever being dull and boring sober, kindly my beloved never took a picture of me at the end of my drinking career, needless to say it was far from pretty, witty or wise, which were the three things that I really thought drinking gave me. I became purely entertainment value, and then just an embarrassment. Shipwrecked on a sea of Chablis.
One of the only rules I have with my programme, is honesty, and it’s time in real life, we all got honest. No one will judge if delivery of your decision is short sharp and to the point. No more secrets and lies.
For me to be able to survive breast cancer and alcohol dependence was a fairly bleak prospect at one time, but not anymore. I needed logic and a deep understanding of women just like me, and studied hard to be as successful as I am today. I do know that there has never been a more rewarding time and if we can keep the conversation going and growing, I’m sure you will all feel the same as I do. Empowered and inspired. Everyone deserves to be the best they can be without ever feeling ever again an ounce of shame, guilt or remorse.

Now though we are opening up an Alcohol Free Foundation for all sexes, and to raise the funds this is the plan, and it will evolve.

We shall also be organising a training course for anyone who would like to become involved in this new venture. Already, some of my old clients are very interested in being a part of this. The cost of the courses will go into the foundation.
We have created an App, the cost to buy also will go into the foundation, and are looking to raise funds by other methods too. This I hope will network with those from all walks of life, never looking backwards though, never repeating the mistakes over and over at meetings, but using their experiences to play their wellness forward. Watch this space and if you want to be involved contact me.

Alcohol Free Foundation

Bad Mums, Hurrah for Gin & UnScrummy Mummies

So yet another trend starts, and really not a new one, just with a 21st century twist, of social media and a sweep of women, mothers, who seem to be celebrating imperfection. I am totally behind them, in fact one of the bestselling authors of these latest scribes shares my name Sarah Turner. Behind them in the absolute fact that we are all imperfect, that is, not the coping strategy that they hail.

The pretense that gets forced down most young mothers throats is that you apparently have to be in a tribe of perfection in today’s judgmental society. There are so many empty words spouted about these days being quite the reverse, but it’s not true. I think society is more judgmental than ever, or at least we are all guilty of taking notice of what others think.

The days are gone when I was struggling to look fabulous whilst looking after young kids, a menagerie of animals, husband working away, house to run and fear of being judged constantly, not then on my parenting, but most certainly on my drinking. Those who have read about me know I had every joke in the book for drinking heavily, and was accepted for a long time, until wheels fell off.

I am not evangelical, but for sure we are now going to enter a period of alcohol abuse, among women, mothers and potentially their children, who whether you believe or not, are struck with very profound thoughts about gin slings and wine time. For the most part, and thankfully, they, the children, hate it. What might seem quippish in these latest efforts, really are sad testament to this next stage of what seems to be Mothers Ruin, just as the same as it was in Hogarth’s Gin Lane.

hogarth-gin-lane

 

Ask any good and honest doctor what is the greatest drain on health care resources and their answer may surprise you. It’s not heroin or crack or ecstasy; it isn’t smoking or obesity, over which recently with York Hospital Trust there has been controversy. It is alcohol or the misuse of it.  But surely it is as clear as a bottle of Gordons, that both cigarettes and weight gain go hand and hand with drinking too much, the gateway to both often.

I am not judging or being parsimonious, but do really get quite angry about the hypocrisy of it all. None of us are alike, but many women now aspire to be just like others on this mission to handle booze and use it as a relaxant, a stress buster. So for some, many of whom I see as clients, have tried to be just like these women, and down to circumstances or their chemistry, it just doesn’t work. These women also tell me how much they have been hurt by the once funny comments about them using alcohol as a stress reliever, being overcome by it, and then dropped quicker than a nappy change by their tribe who were so very cool and supportive, before the realisation that actually ‘she’ is not like ‘us’. Just as they are not like a park bencher when they are sat on their Barker and Stonehouse sofa.

So for all the quips and guffaws about these women falling through sitting room windows after an afternoon session, and holding tins of ready mixed gin and tonics up to camera with a sweetly blue eyed confidence exuding from the picture, just begin to see the con of it all. If you enjoy drinking at parties and social events, and leave it there, fabulous, but using it as this latest clutch of women in celebration of self-medication, just realise that for many of us, and perhaps them, it rarely ends that well.

Bad Mums, Hurrah for Gin & UnScrummy Mummies