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

N & D’s Blog


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


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. 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



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