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


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 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.


A husbands Blog

Sally B’s blog



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.

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.

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.

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.

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



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.



Booze Bereavement