Antonia’s Blog

Generally, I do not even leave a review, never mind give testimonials, but this is just far too important to not make a very small effort.

I waited over a year to contact Harrogate Sanctuary, had read the website, seen the press, casual Sunday paper reading with a large glass of red in my hand, and at least back up of another six or so in the shape of the bottle on the kitchen worktop, and the pecking in my head that I desperately hoped my partner would be bringing another back with him from his morning at the rugby club. It was a sort of tit for tat arrangement we had, knowing he had beer after the training, it was only fair I had a drink too. As ever I was deluded that he thought that I would have been just having one before he got home, glass that is, not bottle.

There was just a silent understanding, he didn’t want to rock my boat, and neither did he know how to help. As close as we are, somethings were just never said. I never got so drunk when we were out that it caused him or I embarrassment, but the slow slide in the evenings and at the weekends at home were a different matter. The view was ignore it and it might go away or get better.

I wasn’t ignoring it, I was just terrified. Who could I tell? Maybe at 20 odd I would have been more open with it, but I just didn’t drink as I was doing now, at 45. It was my medicine, not my enjoyment, but that was the excuse.

Work was fine, but was beginning to feel slower, quite paranoid and began to check and double check the simplest of projects just in case I’d dropped a clanger. The amounts were harmful, but again I kept up with exercise, had blood tests that showed no sinister activity, and lied through my teeth when asked by the GP about amounts.

Then there was a very big tragedy in the family in July. I immediately ramped up the booze, the coping mechanism, my strategy, I am a very strategic woman. By the end of August, not only did I look dreadful I felt lost, lonely, frightened and knew something had to happen to get this off my back.

So in September I called the Sanctuary. After half an hour of a consult with Sarah, the relief was epic. Even without starting the programme, I knew that this was a woman who knew this inside out. Almost a mind reader.

I signed up with her, and the skill, compassion, service and care was extraordinary, and weirdly for all my fear I wasn’t fazed at all. It all made sense, to me, and that was the most important point. As she said for once, this was for once all about me in a completely unselfish way.

Drum roll November, now 8 weeks off the sauce, the prospect of Christmas and New Year for me feels almost childlike. There is an excitement, no wobbles about what if I drink too much and ruin it all.

Recommending this just seems inadequate. There is a cost, but in terms of having my health it is just a drop in the ocean, and the best money I have ever spent.

No hesitation at all to write this, and certainly no cajoling from Sarah, I just wanted to put into words that women like me who think there is not a chance of dropping this habit without some sort of pain is possible, with this remarkable woman.

The Biggest Gateway Drug of All



From all my years of working with women who have misused alcohol, not one started with any other drug. They dabbled firstly with perhaps a sneaky drink from their parents drinks cabinet, shared a few swigs of it with school pals, or even fibbed about age in a corner shop or supermarket to buy some.

Not one started with cannabis, cocaine, heroin or dodgy legal highs. Alcohol took some of them to those places. More recently I meet highly functional women, who have wine socially, many of them within a controlled way, with the gloves coming off when home alone. More wine, often a spirit, usually a white spirit, vodka or gin, gin now regaining a fashionista style, like craft beers, craft gins are becoming more and more acceptable, and after a bottle of Pinot, just seems like the next step.

Now there is a more sinister triangle arriving. Following up a weekend of binge and blackout to get them back into overdrive, the odd snort of cocaine is added, especially on a Monday. By the afternoon they make yet another decision that no way are they going to use alcohol until Thursday, so weed is the next move.

Because of the depression that has been caused more often than not, by the Gateway drug in the first place these three choices, lead to the GP, and within 10 minutes they are then prescribed anti depressants, Citalopram seems to be the favourite, and yet another drug gets adds into the mix.

Why is it that the dots above are never recognised by clinicians? The dangers of smoking are rammed down our throats, alcohol never gets that kind of press. It is getting more mainstream but the excuse that one won’t hurt is simply untrue. Recognising that there is no blanket coverage for people who just try one is a huge miss in my opinion.

These women are not unintelligent, they just are following a path, and if they were treated appropriately by mainstream agencies and feel empowered by admitting that in the first place they drank too much, this dark road could be so easily avoided. I am just fed up with the lack of understanding and open discussion about this habit in the first place. Unlike the antiquated attitude of 12 steps, can we all get real and start to be honest on how Big Alcohol con us with the marketing of what would be if invented today, a class A drug.

Ami’s Blog

In first meeting Sarah, what struck me immediately was how smart, sophisticated and elegant she was. Her air of calmness and aura of knowledge was almost tangible.

My initial perception of this remarkable woman was accurate. As we worked through the daily diary and more was shared between us both, I found by the end I was somehow different. I had collated a backpack full of amazing tools that I could now use to go forward in my life knowing I was far more than how I defined myself at the start of the programme. A guzzler of a glass of wine (or three rather) is all I secretly saw myself as, I was unable to see past this biggest flaw in me for years and measured my self worth to exactly that – but not anymore!

Anyone who feels undecided or doubtful about contacting the sanctuary (as I was too a few months ago), don’t be. The programme can and will change your life.