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.
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.
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.
I’m a recovering alcoholic mother, and the child of an alcoholic mother. I won’t put my children through the same dark chaos
As a child, I used to lie to my mother about when parents’ evening at school was. Not because I had been underachieving, but because I was scared she would turn up, drunk, staggering around and slurring, again.
My childhood was mostly spent caring for myself and my mother as she took to her bed, wailing, with bottles of vodka. She went in and out of hospital, eventually ending up in a care home in her early 60s after years of absolute darkness and chaos, having wrecked her mind and body.
Rather unbelievably to me now, my childhood experience did not put me off drinking, and I went on to drink socially as an adult. I wasn’t going to be defined by my mother’s behaviour, I would tell myself firmly. My number one rule was that my drinking would never affect my children. I was determined to be a good example. I had asked my mum, sometimes sobbing at her hospital bed, terrified she would die, to please, please stop drinking.
When I heard my own children say: “We want you to stop drinking, Mum,” it shocked me to my very core. Had my drinking problem become so obvious? I had been telling myself I was fine for years. Everyone drank socially. Then I told myself everyone had a bottle of wine, or two, or three, every evening. Then, everyone had a hangover that lasted for days. Then, everyone blacks out and loses their memory. How on earth had this happened?
I realised I could not stop drinking. Years of “social drinking” had caught up with me and I was now totally addicted, just like my mother. Addiction had crept up gradually, taking away everything that I loved and stood for. I had come to rely on alcohol for confidence, socialising, getting to sleep, and getting over my constant hangover. My life became a web of lies. I could not look after myself or my children. I had somehow graduated from swishing about with a glass of bubbly in a wine bar after work to drinking in my living room, in the daytime, with the curtains shut.
Two years ago, I ended up in rehab, after a police cell, then hospital. While that sounds awful, it saved my life and I consider myself lucky, as it was there I finally got sober. My mother never sought help for alcoholism and it ruined her life, resulting in alcoholic brain damage and needing 24-hour residential care. I knew that I couldn’t fight alcoholism alone any more, so from hospital I went straight to rehab, where I stayed for six weeks. In rehab I learned to say that “I am an alcoholic” and share this with people.
The mental and physical benefits of being free of alcohol quickly became apparent and it was a relief to gradually reclaim control of my life. My confidence and self-worth came back to me, bit by bit. I gave up my career in the law, retraining as a counsellor. While life isn’t easy for anyone, I feel I am capable of dealing with any problems that arise now. I believe I would lose all of this again if I picked up a drink again. It’s just not worth the risk.
I try to learn from the experiences of other alcoholics, and I believe that being brutally honest, sharing with each other and never, ever “sober-shaming” anyone for not drinking is the only way we will repair the damage alcohol does to our society.
The actor Anne Hathaway recently spoke about giving up alcohol until her child is at least 18. This has drawn a mixed response, with one Guardian columnist arguing that it isn’t “the end of the world” if a child notices her mother’s imperfections, even when it involves “drunk parenting”.
I am the best mother now that I have ever been. This doesn’t mean I am better than anyone else. It means I am better than I was, when I was drinking. Now, I get up and make my children a packed lunch, rather than wake up late, hungover, shouting at them. Now, I listen to their concerns and enjoy time in the evenings with them, rather than rushing them to bed as soon as possible so that I can crack open a bottle of “well-earned” wine and smoke in the garden “in peace”. I am present for them.
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.
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!
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.
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!).