Anne’s Testimonial

Sarah provides exceptional treatment & service, this is about so much more than drinking too much. My lifestyle has changed dramatically, and there was no guilt or shame that I had experienced from other methods. I was never powerless, quite the opposite, I simply didn’t have any real value on myself, and put way too much emphasis on what others felt or thought. My wellbeing seemed to depend on them.

Now I am resilient, self motivated and resourceful, have also disconnected with most of my social media, it was too toxic for me, comparisons abounded, and that was not healthy.

Sarah has also made me look at my Company, and how I can improve productivity within my work force, which has not only been affected by my drinking, but also by their own. There will not be a hidden agenda with this subject again, all other mental health issues are encouraged to be talked about, alcohol dependence is now on that list.

Superb programmes that suit all demographics.

Harrogate Sanctuary is authentic and original, Sarah is individual and remarkably perceptive.

Anne’s Testimonial

Ashley’s Testimonial

I have drunk happy, sad and started to drink myself round the bend after over 20 years of a nightly bottle, or two. It started probably, in my mind, before I even took the first sip. As a child of a strict, religious and probably quite controlling upbringing I knew that my ‘escape’ at 18 would be marked with getting really pissed. And it was, and as I found the escape into being someone who was witty, funny and fell over a lot I thought I had found the panacea for all my ills – for all my insecurities – hah, just get pissed; for feeling like the odd one out – a quick few pints and I was as well integrated into any party as the rest; for learning to be an adult – well I had no idea how to do that one, so I just sank another.. and another.. and another. Good time party girl, could drink any man under the table. And under that table I remained, thinking every night I cant rise above until I’ve had a bottle of wine.

Stupid thing was that I spent nearly 20 years looking for myself, for peace, for happiness and I never found it at the bottom of the bottle. I saw the adverts that showed women like me being glamorous, funny and letting go (but just a bit) of their inhibitions – so why did I always end up like some vomity Worzel Gummidge. Laughing as I fell and threw up into a Wheelie Bin – that was fun and glamorous wasn’t it??

So why was I so sad inside, counting the units every night to try and make sure I drove to work under the limit, how on earth did I hold down quite a successful career and bring up 3 children I’ll never understand. But underneath it all, every day, like some mercenary parasite was the little voice “it’ll all be ok after that bottle” and was it? No, I was just drowning out the little voice, the stress and the sadness.

Do I consider myself an alcoholic – not sure really. I spent the first years of my career working with street drinkers and chronic alcoholics who drank themselves to death, I wasn’t like them was I? My choice of anaesthetic was Shiraz not Denim After-Shave (and yes I did work with a man who drank that – he smelled lovely but had a serious case of Korsakov’s Wet Brain). I think for me, it was the intent that went with it all – that it wasn’t for the taste, the enjoying times with friends, it was to drown all those feelings I couldn’t deal with.

Even through some major and traumatic losses in my life, one as a direct cause of my drinking I still turned to the bottle because it was the only way I knew how to cope with hard and difficult feelings. Wine turned from being my good-time friend to my tormentor – the feelings of self hate, the shame I felt – “if only people knew how awful and weak you really are” would be the little voice inside that got louder with each drink. And I thought I could stop, maybe cut down but I didn’t know how, and each time I tried and failed I felt like I would never be free of it. Like a charming con-man who becomes a tormentor, so became wine’s hold on me.

And I did manage some sober times, like some marathon runner waiting for the relief of the finish line – I would hold off drinking for a month, or two, I even managed three after doing the Alan Carr one-day workshop – but as I got to the end of the ‘sober marathon’ I would spend the next few weeks catching up in style.

So why did it have to stop? Because I got to over 40 and realised that there was no way beyond without doing so, because some days I drove to work knowing I was too near to the drink-driving limit (and hungover to boot) to be safe, because I was sick of it all. But I couldn’t see the life without my wine, I live in a society where all things associated with relaxing are also inextricably entangled with a good skin-full of the most expensive and beautifully bottled poison. Because I had to, because if I wanted to start to live I had to face life in real.

Enter Sarah (ta,da) – real, warm and beautifully honest woman. She might tell you the hard stuff, but that’s just what I needed.

Did you know that it takes 6 weeks to even clear this stuff from your system, and that that 6 weeks is a roller coaster of emotions (you know, the ones that have been stuffed down for so many years). But Sarah’s approach is calm, assured and loving – (Sometimes we all need a good bit of old fashioned love it’s one of the things that we have been missing for a long time) – and she shows you how to start being kind to yourself – dammit I might even start to think about learning to love myself! Maybe that’s what I needed after all.

But what I also needed was a guide through the storm, I knew that my very clever neurology had created such a strong link between feeling sad and lonely and ‘curing’ it with a swift and large glass of the very best red.  I suspect that even after the re-wiring job currently underway, I will always have that neurological link in my brain and for me wine will not be something that works for me in any setting, and I’m increasingly less sad about that fact, whereas at first I could not imagine ever ‘enjoying’ sober merely tolerating it (you may recall I had a particular hang up about being the odd one out).

I am just over three months sober, and apparently a much nicer person to live with. I haven’t yet lost the three stone I was hoping to (!!!) but I look into the mirror and feel generally OK with the woman smiling back at me. What worked with the Harrogate Sanctuary approach was on many levels, but the sane voice of calm through my storm of getting sober was the biggest thing. The daily emails helped me to start to unravel what damage alcohol had done to a fragile self-esteem, and understand what drove me to seek solace in a bottle of red. The knowing I could text Sarah, when the ‘off-licence’ voice was shouting strong. The way I was heard and valued even during my silly strops about not being ‘allowed’ to drink.

I’m still early in this journey, and I have really appreciated the way that Sarah ‘never goes away’ (her own words!) and has responded to my panicked emails about feeling like giving it all up for a swift night of obliteration. One thing I have truly learned is that physically getting sober is just the start, because all that time I was drinking I was failing to grow up. So the work starts…… grow up (I believe it is called ‘emotional sobriety’ in the AF world!). I’ve found underneath that I do have some problems with being able to cope with bad emotions, but rather than running away, I’m facing up to them and learning to learn to live with and understand them.

I’m so happy that I decided to do this, it hasn’t been easy, and I know there are many things I need to learn to deal with and to live with being happy and alcohol-free. But it is so worth it, to wake up every day without regretting what I did or said. People keep telling me I’m looking so well… the three stone can wait because I’ve got my life to live and I’ll say in honesty I was not living for a long time.


Ashley’s Testimonial

Vivienne’s Testimonial

I had met a lady months before who said that she had stopped drinking with the help of Harrogate Sanctuary,  I dismissed it then, but last September I got in touch with Sarah in readiness for Sober October, my OCD personality always wanted a plan, and I had lost it with my wine habit. With her help and support I have been sober for over a year, and feel wonderful. Life is not a bowl of cherries, but at least I can remember it, and once I had admitted that I had a problem, I was amazed at the amount of support I got. As a Mother, wife and business owner being a heavy drinker is guilt ridden and frightening, and I do miss somehow the ritual of it, and delusions of having a cosy evening with a glass of wine on an Autumn evening in front of the log fire but now have the tools to counter any kind of temptation, addressing what was happening behind the scenes with me rather than only talking about my drinking was life changing. Another bonus is that I have more than £3,000.00 in the kitty by putting away the money I would have spent in my No Longer Sloshed Account and counting….

Vivienne’s Testimonial

Angela’s Testimonal

I have been worried about and ‘meaning’ to stop drinking for over ten years. I have long felt it is something that has a control over me but at the same time I have held tight to a vision in my head of me without wine – a much healthier, happier person – but I just couldn’t get there on my own no matter how hard I tried. I started this process with Sarah thinking that she might be able to help, but I didn’t appreciate how powerful and quick the results would be. I thought I would stay off alcohol for 6 weeks, because I had promised her that I would, but that it would be a constant struggle and that I would secretly be waiting for the end of the 6 weeks so I could start drinking again. I can only describe what I actually feel now as a weight that has been lifted from my shoulders. The penny has finally dropped – I don’t have to drink, I don’t want to drink, and I believe that will not drink again. Most importantly I won’t miss it at all, not for a second. I have socialised more post lockdown since I became sober and life has been so much better than ever before. I feel alive, happy, healthy and real; there is no more remorse and there is no more regret. This method of help is perfect for women who don’t want to treated like ‘addicts’, but who need understanding, help and support to put down that bottle of wine and see it for what it is. I feel as if I have been handed a passport to freedom. It has changed my life, perhaps even saved it and I thank god for the day I picked up the phone to ask Sarah for help. Have already recommended two associates to contact Harrogate Sanctuary, professional women who need a non disruptive programme.

Angela’s Testimonal

Catherine’s Testimonal

Sarah has been the only therapist I have seen, and I have seen quite a few over the years of my drinking, 41 to be precise, that has not only given me a range of tools to stop drinking, I have not given it up I have STOPPED, she is firm with that vocab, but rearranged my view of life, both past and present.

There was so much to unravel, I had hidden so much with I thought skill and lots of bravado, under the reinforced thin skin that I did have, the complete tangle of negative emotions and unspent good ones too have been reset and arranged in a way that I can cope with, with no reliance on my old go to and absolute habit with wine.

I had read self help books, tried to keep up with online forums, found groups anonymously, addiction counsellors, but never trusted anyone enough to give them the whole truth, or respect to be accountable.

It wasn’t six weeks to sober for me, I stayed with Sarah for three months, and still keep in touch weekly. Stopping drinking was an outcome of so much more detritus I had inside. Sober means so much more than not drinking, it means being level, balanced and contented.

There is insight and depth  with Harrogate  Sanctuary, and the work covers so much more than alcohol.

So many thanks to you Sarah, and thank goodness I was lucky enough to be recommended to you.

Catherine’s Testimonal

Targeted Marketing & Observations

As more women are becoming alcohol free, and understanding that life, partially intoxicated by a cheeky little Pinot was not the sparkly marshmallow world that the marketeers would have them believe, I have been making some interesting observations.

First of all, just because supermarkets smother us with promotions and attractive pictures of how life will be if you drink, does not make it true or right.

This promotion is hardly indicative of a grocer, is it? But it suggests that this enormous bottle of wine, not some crisp rocket or fresh broccoli would be the main reason you would do an online shop. Other supermarket items are just as heavy, milk, bottled water, or perhaps laundry powder. We seem to just accept that it’s quite normal to encourage us to ditch any obstacle that might come in the way of home drinking and women particularly, I am sure the marketing department were not thinking of men when they came up with this image. So, let’s just put this into an appropriate place mentally. If you are going shopping the first thing on your mind should not be how much the wine you can buy and carry, if it is then you must become concerned. This is not normal at all.

Secondly the constant battles that women I talk to do with their thoughts of how people will perceive them without a glass of wine in their hand. Rather than focusing on how nice it might be to meet up with old or new friends, chat about fun or serious stuff, the whole process of going out seems to focus on whether they will get some awful stick for not drinking alcohol. Hours can be spent getting worked up over this. If these people are really friends, what difference will it make to them whether you are imbibing or not? They like you for what you are not for how much you can drink. There is nothing dull about being able to string your words together without losing the plot or having no recollection of what went on with the night out or lunch. Being out of control in some quest to become more likeable is just madness. For the most part no one cares what you are drinking if you don’t interfere with their habits, and anyone that does really isn’t worth knowing. All that time wasted on the what ifs of not drinking is just pointless. Alcohol in quantity is never desirable, the only solace for the drinker is avoiding uncomfortable withdrawal.

Thoughts of being seen as a ‘do gooder’ really get my back up too. No disrespect to do gooders, but we are just being real without a crutch of alcohol, who should have a problem with that? None of us in my posse are trying to change the world, ban booze, but we are saying that we are quite enough without it, so now let’s move on.

After 35 I am not sure where the good times come from with wine time. Most clients now drink at home, alone. Where is the fun in that? It’s isolating and lonely. If your drinking revolves around socialising and being responsible, that’s great, but I have not met that many women who have families and work commitments that are able to do that.  They retreat into a world of sofa, tablet, teli and Prosecco.

I am still amazed that so many people, especially women, are not more upfront about not drinking anymore. What’s the problem? You have stopped hurting yourself, and undoubtedly others, you are able remember everything you do, and more than likely are looking a 100 times better than you once did.

On the whole, people don’t judge these days, they are all too embroiled in their own lives, very aware of the PC world we live in. There will always be gossip, and for the most part it’s baseless.

I do hope that after having daily bulletins on COVID admissions and deaths, that there might be a varied bulletin regime by the news channels, that includes the harms that alcohol causes, not just to the young, the disadvantaged and poorest in our society, because as Waitrose clearly shows, middle-class, middle-aged women are dying for a drink.

Targeted Marketing & Observations

C T’s Testimonial

Working with Sarah has given me the impetus I needed to reassess my relationship with alcohol. While I was nervous to go into a ‘programme’, I’m not one for deep introspection and oversharing, the relief of the honesty combined with the matter-of-fact way in which Sarah treats the subject was very reassuring and liberating. I’m so glad I made the decision to work with Sarah, it feels like a grown up thing to do – taking responsibility for a behaviour that was on its way becoming out of control. You wouldn’t allow your children’s behaviour to spiral out of control, so why your own? 

C T’s Testimonial

Dig Deep via The Sanctuary Six Week Programme.

Getting firmly into the land of alcohol-free living (and ensuring that you stay there without the Wine Witch luring you back into destructive old habits) requires a degree of forward planning; knowing what emotions to expect once the old crutch has been kicked away, preparing for the potential pitfalls and learning how to work through cravings will all stand you in good stead when it comes to maintaining your alcohol-free lifestyle.

Becoming sober and learning how to be happy with regards to your decision to live without booze amounts to so much more than merely pouring all the remaining wine in the house down the sink – living as a non-drinker takes some getting used to, especially if the drinking has been protracted and heavy. Maintaining an alcohol-free approach means finding out who you really are beneath the falsity of booze and learning how to interact socially without your old alcoholic prop. It means experiencing raw emotion and discovering how to cope with negative situations without drinking the problem away.

Quitting alcohol can lead to uncomfortable truths coming to the fore; a relationship may not be all it appeared to be when under the influence of booze, underlying mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorders, traumas buried, could suddenly become exposed having previously been disguised by the mood-altering effects of alcohol, and the emotions of guilt and shame arising as a result of erstwhile drunken behaviour may now demand attention, no longer so easily hidden with a constant stream of wine.

It is these wrinkles and creases which will need ironing out in the first few weeks and/or months of alcohol-free life, and which if left unattended could prove to be the root cause of the sober apple-cart being upturned.

A whimsical notion of stopping drinking can quite easily never come to fruition, prevented from developing into something more concrete by an omission of thought pertaining to how to explain such a bold and (for many) radical lifestyle choice to friends and family, or to the practical solution of what to drink as an acceptable alternative to alcohol, or of how to fill the sudden vast increase in spare time each evening. Without forward-planning, an initial rush of enthusiasm for a commitment to alcohol-free living can be quashed in no time at all, purely as a result of the individual in question not putting into place a viable plan of action and instead attempting to coast along exactly as before only minus the glass of vino to hand.

Becoming a non-drinker is a completely different process for everyone and despite there being common themes (for instance what might constitute a trigger point or act as a craving eliminator), we all became heavy drinkers for different reasons, and it is these we must address if we’re to have a good chance at committing to booze-free living. A lack of self-esteem and confidence in social situations is a frequently-cited reason for drinking excessively, as is struggling to cope with a bereavement or single parenthood or the breakdown of a long-term relationship; whatever the root cause is behind drinking to excess, it is this which a) must be identified and b) needs to be dealt with through an alternative coping strategy than alcohol.

In addition to the plethora of reasons why we as individuals come to develop our own unique dependencies upon booze, it is also worth acknowledging that the culture we are all submerged in holds alcohol in high esteem and is one in which it is promoted ubiquitously. Should you be one of the many who finds themselves unwittingly dependent on this addictive substance, then to extricate yourself from its tenacious grip can be incredibly challenging when all around us are messages of how alcohol injects our lives with glamour, sophistication and fun.

As further reinforcement to the alcohol industry’s campaign of promulgating alcohol as an essential social lubricator and utterly acceptable feature of most people’s lives, there exists in society a very negative perception of those who choose to be non-drinkers. Because those who have freed themselves from the alcohol trap are in the minority, this way of life which should be considered normal is in actuality regarded as being odd by many, and that by not partaking in regular binge drinking a person is weird and anti-social. This social pressure is another reason why remaining AF can sometimes prove to be an uphill struggle. So how exactly should one go about the task of cutting alcohol out of their life for good? Because the reasons for abusing alcohol and the level of dependency differ from drinker to drinker, a useful approach to becoming AF is to create a personalised plan of action.

In essence, the glaringly obvious reason why so many relapse is that these root causes haven’t been addressed from the get go. No one would need to hit rock bottom, if they have access to the right approach. Constantly being told that all you have to do is stop drinking, stay stopped, and not mending these background issues with good therapy instead of incessantly having to define yourself as an alcoholic until infinity and beyond is not a label that would ever heal the wounds that brought you to the point of almost self destruct in the first place.

That is the difference between the Sanctuary Six Week Programme and many other methods, calling time on wine o’clock is a very small part of a much more complex picture of our fake desire for it. We have to recognise our flaws in detail, then and only then, can you be truly free. Rather than count the days, count the number of mental health battles you win.

Dig Deep via The Sanctuary Six Week Programme.

It’s Everywhere – Letter to MP & County Council

Many addiction services no longer have competencies in-house to deal with co-morbid mental ill-health, and mental health services frequently refuse to work with people who have a co-morbid alcohol use disorder, such that patients wanting help with the depression that they see as causing them to use alcohol, are often told they cannot be helped until they are alcohol-free. People in truly desperate states are bounced between addiction and mental health services, with many often falling through the gaps.

 So what can be done?

1.     We all need to be more aware of what we drink, and why, and at a population level increase our alcohol health literacy.

2.     We need to be aware and challenge the alcohol and advertising industries’ attempts to encourage alcohol as the only narrative in our social world.

3.     We need to encourage conversations about alcohol use as we now seem better able to do about mental ill-health.

4.     We need health professionals to recognise alcohol as a modifiable risk factor for so many mental (and physical) health disorders and have the competence to manage it.

5.     We need mental health services to reclaim alcohol use disorders as primarily a disease of the mind, and genuinely embrace person centred care.

6.     We need government to commit to the resources required to redress the balance of 10 years of funding cuts.

This may seem like a lot that needs to be implemented, which it is, but the most effective thing we can all do is make small but sustained changes to our own alcohol awareness and behaviours.

I would be more than happy to discuss this issue with the relevant department, there has to be a structure in place of prevention, and not as is currently happening, only trying to deal with the awful fall out of this ever-rising problem.

It’s Everywhere – Letter to MP & County Council