Why are many women drinking their way to divorce?

Precised article taken from the Daily Mail.


Waking up on the sofa where she had passed out after drinking a bottle of wine, Sarah Turner’s thudding headache was compounded by a sense of shame.

She couldn’t remember what she had said at the dinner party. Nor could she be sure of how the evening had ended.

All she knew, with dreaded certainty, was that her drunken behaviour would have made her once happy marriage to husband Michael more precarious than ever.

‘By my mid-30s I was drinking at least a bottle of wine a night,’ says Sarah, who at the time combined a demanding job as a chemical consultant with bringing up two children.

‘I’d black out and wake up feeling guilty. Michael and I had dreadful arguments — he drank too, but didn’t make a fool of himself like I did — and after we’d been married five years, he told me my drinking made me an embarrassment, and that he’d leave if I didn’t stop.

‘At the time, I thought it was the cruellest thing he’d ever said but it was the catalyst I needed to quit. If I hadn’t stopped drinking, our marriage would never have survived.’

Sarah’s experience is symptomatic of a worrying trend among otherwise successful middle-aged women, whose heavy drinking is ruining not just their health but their relationships.

Recent research suggests that wives’ excessive alcohol consumption is contributing to as many as one in seven divorces, with the number granted to husbands on the grounds of their spouse’s unreasonable behaviour — which includes heavy drinking — tripling since 1980.

‘Men are more likely to be accused of having an alcohol problem, but the frequency with which wives’ drinking has been cited over the last few years is marked,’ says lawyer Laura Guillon of Hall Brown, the firm that did the research.

Perhaps it is unsurprising, given our changing attitudes towards female alcohol consumption. The now ubiquitous ‘wine o’clock’ has persuaded generations of middle-class women that a drink can take the edge off everything from work stress to domestic boredom.

But what was marketed as an innocuous — even desirable — habit has turned into a debilitating problem for many. One 2015 survey found women aged 45 to 64 were the most likely to drink too much.

‘I am inundated by professional, middle-class women whose relationships are on the rocks because of their alcohol intake,’ says Sarah Turner, now 61, who stopped drinking and retrained as a cognitive behavioural therapist before founding alcohol treatment centre the Harrogate Sanctuary in 2000, which now treats women, in April this year, will also counsel couples.

She adds: ‘It is a hidden epidemic. Drinking is normalised as couples typically meet over a first date drink or share a bottle of wine with a meal.

‘But women get drunk quicker than men because their bodies contain more fat (and fat doesn’t absorb alcohol).

‘They are also more likely to see drinking as an emotional crutch and seem to find it more difficult to stop drinking, which their partner often cannot understand.’

She warns: ‘Men can unwittingly act as “enablers”, escalating their partner’s alcohol intake. To persuade a wife to stop drinking could limit a husband’s freedom. After all, if a wife is drinking she’s less likely to be bothered about what time her partner is coming home for example, so he will often persuade her to carry on.’

Not that we always need much encouragement. Whereas in the past heavy drinking was a pursuit associated with men networking with colleagues, it has now become ingrained in the fabric of many women’s lives.

A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that better educated British women are even more likely to drink heavily — one in five female graduates drinks at least twice the safe limit of 14 units a week, compared with one in ten less educated women. Getting drunk, meanwhile, is no longer taboo, but something to joke about at the school gates or to brag about on social media.

As Sarah Turner puts it, the problem is that ‘wine has become a normalised form of self-medication for high-functioning, driven women. But tolerance to alcohol rises, and when women come to rely on it they feel ashamed and a sense of failure.’ All too often, a wife’s drinking exacerbates existing tensions in a marriage. ‘Alcohol blurs the edges in an unhappy marriage, but also can increase levels of the male hormone testosterone in a woman’s body by up to 60 per cent,’ says Sarah.

Turner says, ‘A drunk woman is more likely to pick fights. Then the guilt starts and she’ll start drinking in secret, which creates a further rift. I had one client who would put her empty bottles in a neighbour’s bin at 3 am so her husband didn’t see she’d been drinking.’

It is not only women’s higher fat ratio that means they get drunk faster than men. Scientists also believe their stomach linings produce less of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream.

The higher sugar content of drinks popular with women — a glass of wine contains one and a half teaspoons of sugar compared to beer, which usually contains less than one — also makes us more susceptible to blood sugar spikes and crashes, which play havoc with our mood.

The sulphites — or antioxidants — in wine, usually added as preservatives, meanwhile, can trigger unwanted side-effects such as sore throats and rashes in those with allergies.

Much of which resonates with newly-separated Susan Worth, 41, who says alcohol contributed to her marital breakdown this February. ‘By the end of last year I was drinking up to a bottle and a half of red wine a night to numb the pain of how unhappy I was,’ says Susan. Husband Bill, 41, met Susan in a pub ten years ago after she’d been drinking. ‘We were very different,’ she says. ‘Bill was an intense book lover, whereas I was more of a party-goer, but back then he thought I was fun and charismatic.’

‘I started going to bars with friends after work, and buying bottles of wine on my way home,’ she recalls. ‘Alcohol was an escape.’

By late last year, the couple were communicating largely by texts. ‘It was a mutual decision to end it and I agreed to move out with the children,’ says Susan, who now realises she was too quick to use alcohol as an emotional crutch, putting their relationship under added stress.

Carer Susan, from Bushey, Herts, admits her occasional glasses of red wine became a daily habit to help her deal with mounting claustrophobia in her marriage.

As years passed Susan’s silent resentment began to fester.

‘After a bottle of wine I became tearful and would try to tell Bill I was unhappy. He accused me of being argumentative and we’d go to bed in silence.’

Bill started coming home from work later. ‘I’d stare into space with a glass of red wine in my hand, feeling sorry for myself,’ says Susan, who has an eight-year-old son with Bill and a 15-year-old son from a previous relationship.

‘The next morning, hungover, I’d feel like a paranoid monster, embarrassed and guilty at how drunk I’d got. I’d bag up bottles for the recycling bin so Bill wouldn’t see them, but he said he could smell it on my breath.

‘I sometimes stopped drinking for a week to try to make him happy, but I resented him for it.’

Maria Hollis, an articulate housekeeping manager and mother of two from Craven Arms, Shropshire, only ever enjoyed the occasional drink until she reached middle age.

In 2004, however, her 15-year marriage to the father of her daughters Laura, 26, and Sophie, 19, broke down, and her mother Wendy died of cancer. Grief stricken, she says wine became ‘a way of coping and a nightly habit’.

For a while, Maria’s drinking aroused no suspicion. But as her tolerance grew, so did her intake, and by the time she met John, 61, a security adviser, in 2010, she was getting through a bottle of rose every evening.

‘When friends noticed, I’d insist I didn’t have a problem, interpreting their concern as interference,’ she says.

Neither did her drinking problem seem immediately obvious to John, whose job entailed night shifts, meaning he was often working while Maria was drunk.

‘It took months for me to realise,’ says John.

After he proposed to Maria in December 2012, her escalating drinking made her increasingly argumentative. ‘I’d storm out and slam doors if John hadn’t done the washing up,’ she says.

‘If we were watching television and a good-looking woman came on I’d jealously accuse him of wanting to leave. Drinking stopped us talking — all I wanted to do was sit at my computer on Facebook drinking wine. John began to point out I was drinking too much, but I wouldn’t admit I had a problem.’

Her emotional outbursts became physical. ‘I began to lash out at John over petty things like clothes left on the floor. I’d scratch his face, push his chest and slap his arms,’ says Maria, who at 5 ft 3 in was no physical match for her 6 ft 2 in fiance.

‘He only ever looked at me with silent reproach. I felt dreadful and started drinking in the morning to deal with the remorse.’

Despite losing her appetite, the high sugar content of alcohol left Maria three stone overweight at the height of her addiction.

John, a pragmatic man, admits being attacked by his fiancee was ‘tough’ but says: ‘I knew the alcohol was behind Maria’s mood swings, and could still see the woman I loved underneath.’

By 2013, Maria’s lunch was just wine, or beer, with drinks staggered around shifts at the hotel where she worked. ‘I’d have a drink two minutes before I left for work and as soon as I got back,’ she says. ‘My colleagues didn’t suspect — they say I hid it well.

‘Sometimes at weekends I would push my wine glass behind my computer screen, but usually I didn’t bother. Perhaps drinking in front of John was a cry for help, but it was also because I was too addicted to care. I could see how much it upset him — sometimes he was so angry he wouldn’t speak to me for days and any marriage plans were on hold.’

John’s pleas for her to stop drinking became ultimatums. ‘I told her to choose between alcohol or me. Maria said she would stop drinking, but never did,’ he recalls.

Maria adds: ‘I knew I risked losing him, but I couldn’t help it. Alcohol was my priority, as much as it made me bloated, with yellow skin and a heart that constantly raced.’ The turning point was not so much her health as a realisation one Saturday morning in December 2014 that sobriety was an option.

‘I was at my computer with a glass in hand when I suddenly wondered what life would be like without alcohol. It sounds strange, but I’d never considered I could give up before. I walked into the living room and told John I needed to stop drinking. “I’ve been telling you that for years,” he replied as we hugged.

‘Saying the words out loud made my intentions seem real.’

Maria’s GP referred her to a substance misuse team who prescribed her anti-anxiety medication to help her withdraw and offered counselling. ‘I was drenched with sweat and I shook and felt sick as the alcohol left my body,’ she recalls.

‘John brought me soup when I lost my appetite. It was incredibly hard, but knowing I could lose John gave me the determination to keep going.

‘As months passed we started having fun together. For my 50th birthday last July he booked a surprise holiday to the States. Before, I’d have spent the whole time wondering where I’d get my next drink. Without that burden, I felt liberated. We would have split up had I not stopped drinking.’

Drinking has also become acceptable for mothers seeking to alleviate domestic stress.

For Tanya Robertson, 31, married to Harry, 34, alcohol was a way of coping after their first baby, Rose, became seriously ill.

‘My drinking took the edge off a horrific situation, but caused awful arguments with Harry,’ says Tanya, a product buyer. ‘I’d only ever drank socially before but quickly realised a glass of wine had numbing properties.

‘Within a week I was drinking a bottle a night. At first I waited until Harry got home but then I started drinking earlier, at 5 pm, as I cooked tea.’

Tanya adds: ‘After a couple of months I was having a drink in the garden at 4.30 pm, pretending for a few fleeting moments that my life was normal.

‘We’d have huge arguments. I’d shove him and he’d shove me back. It was almost as if we were trying to push our grief out. Harry drank nearly as much as me, but as a man he handled it better.’

Their daughter died of pneumonia last September, after which, Tanya says, ‘drinking became more of a crutch than ever. Harry said I had to stop, and I knew it was ruining my marriage, but I refused.’

A month after Rose’s death the couple were at a family gathering when Tanya’s drinking spiralled out of control. ‘Harry made a comment about people grieving in different ways and I took it as a sign of disloyalty. I’d drunk a bottle of wine on an empty stomach and, incoherent, was screaming that he didn’t understand me.’

A relative called an ambulance, which took Tanya to A&E.

‘A mental health worker at hospital said I wasn’t crazy, but that drinking was a cover for my grief,’ she says. ‘I was given monthly counselling, which offered an outlet in its place. I only drink occasionally now.’

The picture at the top of this blog, also represents the quips that so many cards show about us drinking, never do we see a woman or a man for that matter with a cigarette in their mouths wishes them Happy Birthday. The chasm between the normalisation of an equally potentially carcinogenic drug, alcohol and tobacco is to me mind boggling. I for one have never heard of anyone driving a vehicle after smoking 10 cigarettes and killing themselves or anyone else. I am not condoning smoking, but the bigotry is crazy.

This article shows the reasons why I am so passionate about talking to couples together, and for each to understand the complicated relationships that are manifested with alcohol.


Care for Couples


Up until now, as is well known, I have been entirely female specific with the Sanctuary, but over the years have been asked if I could help couples, who are enabling each other to drink too much. I did engage with The Six Week Programme in November for one couple who were just at the end of the line with the constant, habitual sharing of a bottle too many of wine or spirits in the evenings, with a good outcome for both.

So, from April, I am opening a new strand to the Sanctuary, that will help couples in this position. As a cognitive behavioural therapist, the method works of course for all sexes, but feel so passionate about this particular problem. There has been an increase in divorce, 70% over the last five years blamed on the rise of alcohol consumption, mainly in the home.
In 2016 The Telegraph featured The Sanctuary on this subject.

It is very sad for anyone to be in the grip of any dependence, but when families are torn apart by it, when it could so effectively, nipped in the bud. There is no doubt men and women are not only biologically different but have a completely different mindset when it comes to their use of alcohol. We will naturally see if possible the couples together, but they will do their diaries, and daily contact completely separately, and if they wish to share a problem that they both feel would be beneficial to write together, that too can be part of the programme. All of us who have been in a relationship do have subjects that we do not want to raise between each other and we will respect that confidentiality completely.

I do hope that using our unique and very non-disruptive method in this way will save marriages or partnerships that are on the rocks due to this cruel substance and give those involved the opportunity to start with a fresh and happy slate.

Another new chapter for both the Sanctuary and the Sober Revolution.


Dear Alcohol. A Letter to My Ex Friend


Well it’s been a while now, and although you are a bad influence, I do miss you sometimes. I miss our secret relationship, the way that no-one else was part of it and could never get in on it. I miss the way you comfort me when I’m down. It sometimes creeps up on me unexpectedly how much I miss you. And other times I am glad you are gone.

Of course you have changed – and I know that. You’re not fun anymore. But I seem to forget that when we’re not together. I don’t know why my memory is so short and why I always remember the good times with such intensity. It hasn’t been that way for a while.
But I occasionally kid myself that we could get on again. I sometimes believe we could have back what we had in the early days. Deep down I know it is not possible, but an aching part of me still believes it.

I can’t entirely hate you because originally you did help me when nothing else could. You were there for me. I could always rely on you and you protected me and made me feel safe.
I still remember the very first time I experienced what a good friend you could be. I had been round to a friend’s house and when I got to the door I heard screaming, shouting and thuds. When she finally answered the door, I could see she had been crying and she told me it wasn’t a good time.

I had never seen her like that before. She never cried. She was always strong and untouchable, unbreakable. I remember feeling shaken when I walked home – I suspected her boyfriend had been hitting her. I felt sick with worry and when I got to my house there was no one home.

I paced around feeling lost and unsure of what to do. And then I remembered how comforting it could be to have you around. How you made me feel as if I was wrapped in a delightful bubble, and I wanted you. So I went looking for you. Immediately you reassured me that I could cope – and I instantly felt better. I felt strong. You got me into your protective bubble and I stopped worrying and felt calm and soothed.

That year was when I started seeing you more often – more often than any of my other friends would and we spent longer together, me and you in our relaxing bubble. You made me feel so good. By this time I’d realised how anxiety had become a problem for me – my Social Anxiety Disorder had really kicked in, although I didn’t know what it was then. I just knew that things were just easier when you were around.

I remember, too, the first time I met you unsociably early on in the day. I had a morning appointment for a medical procedure – and the nurse had warned me it would be excruciatingly painful. She advised me that I might want to have a couple of glasses of wine to numb the pain, so I did. Now I knew you could be physically soothing as well. I only did it for the physical pain, but as I walked home through the streets I noticed I wasn’t as scared of being outside as I usually was. I felt lifted and comforted. I wanted every day to be like this. I remember thinking what a great friend you were. I didn’t see why I shouldn’t spend every waking moment with you around – even though other people would see that as wrong.

I eventually had to get a job because we were broke I was broken. That’s when I did start seeing you every day. I had to have you with me at all times, although I hid our relationship from everyone as best I could.

I would panic if you weren’t around. I would feel wrong if something prevented me from being with you – I turned on people who tried to take you away. I wanted your security, your comfort, your safety. I found sneakier ways of seeing you; my schemes became more sophisticated. Nothing was going to stop us being together – you were the only one who truly made me feel better.

Eventually you became more important to me than anything and anyone else. Sometimes being with you caused problems, but it didn’t matter because I still had you. Whatever else happened, I still had you.
And you were still on my side, making nothing and no-one else matter, making me carefree, making me bolder than I’d ever been, opening doors for me, making me grab my chances, letting me get away with things I never thought possible.
Even when you made me feel depressed and dark, you would be there with me to howl and cry together. Even when you made me ill, you were still the tonic that would make me feel well. Even when I hated what a lie my life was, you were there to share the secret with me. And even when I knew my life was in pieces, and I would stare sadly at my shaking hands, it was you that made me see the beauty in those pieces.

You helped me to still see the magic in my life even when I was on my knees and in the dirt. Even if from the outside I was hurting others and living a crazy existence, you made it all seem worth it. Because it was you and me against the world.
You never disappointed me, you never let me down. Whoever else let me down, or wasn’t what I wanted them to be, you were always consistent. You never let me suffer, you never asked me to do anything I didn’t want to, you never asked questions, never pricked my conscience, you never made things difficult for me. And best of all, all you asked for in return was that I needed you and continued to be with you and put you above everything else. That it was just you and me.

I will never forget the first time I considered life without you. I had begun to start almost passing out though dizziness. I would just be getting on with my daily life and the world would start to be enveloped by blackness before my eyes. It got worse and eventually it happened at work and an ambulance was called because I fainted. As I went through a battery of expensive tests – ECGs, MRIs, blood tests – everything, I secretly knew it was because of you. I told myself it wasn’t. I even wished cancer upon myself, a brain tumour, anything, as long as it wasn’t because of you. There was no way I could give you up – nothing could ever replace you.
When did you change? When did you start hurting me? You have betrayed me. I thought I could trust you to always fix things. Is it because I tried to pull away from you? You know I risked everything I had so we could still be together. But you started to change. I didn’t really see it coming but you were making me sicker and sicker – you were poisoning me.

I knew things were getting serious when my own body rebelled against me. I hadn’t really noticed how dependent I had become on you because I spent every day in bed anyway. I don’t know when I stopped getting up in the morning. I don’t remember making that decision – it was just something that happened. It was easier for us to stay in bed together and not face the world. Was it because I was ill already? I don’t even know now.

I think it happened when I had to go away and live on my own. I didn’t realise how incapable I had become of looking after myself, until it really was just you and me. I never acknowledged that it wasn’t you who fed me – it was people who cared. It wasn’t you who called ambulances, or fed the cat, or remembered things, or cleaned the house, or bathed me or made me still a human.

So when it was just you and me, it all fell apart, truly and completely. On our own, I could barely do anything but sleep. And become so ill I was given only a year and a half to live.
At first this didn’t faze me because you were still worth it to me. I couldn’t conceive of life without you, because you were still the only thing I could rely on to diminish the fear. But I couldn’t really deny any more the skeleton that I had become, the way my hair was falling out, that you had destroyed my body and skewed my mind. I tried to push through, but eventually I physically couldn’t go on – my body was finally reacting in a way I could do nothing to prevent and I had no choice but to detox. Maybe on some level I was fed up with you too, but mainly I just could not go on physically.

I had never really acknowledged the massive devastation that our relationship was causing in other areas of my life. I never blamed you for it at the time, but really I had ended up stuck in a life I didn’t want because of you. I had settled for destructive relationships, had become resentful and cruel and didn’t care if I was disloyal. You made me not care about lying and cheating, stealing and betraying, making others cry, putting myself in danger and difficulty, losing all my self-respect. Everyone who loved me despised you and who I became with you around but I didn’t care about them because I loved you more. I knew that wasn’t the way to be, but it was all I knew.
I happened to meet someone who revealed your true colours to me in part. And with his help, I managed to leave the situation which had enabled me to see you whenever I wanted.

Part of me wanted to leave you, but I knew I couldn’t entirely, as the constant fear was still there. I realised that the fear would have to go if I ever had a chance of being independent from you. So, over the next few years I tried various things to try to get rid of the fear and try to pull away from you. But whenever I rejected you, you punished me with days of agony and withdrawal.

When I finally found the antidote to my fears, I thought our relationship would naturally end or become harmonious like the normal friendships I saw other people have with you. I thought it would all fall into place. But you had got your claws so deep into me that almost every time I tried to act normally with you I failed. I couldn’t just see you for a bit socially – after leaving you for a bit, I yearned to be with you again. Even after the briefest meeting, I hated it when you had to leave – I was addicted to your company. I resented having to part.

I made vows to others not to see you – I meant them, but I broke them. I lied about our secret rendezvous. Even though every time I saw you I would spend days afterwards unable to function and ravaged physically, I just couldn’t give you up – even though by this time I wanted to. I wanted to be the person I saw in others I admired – the one who broke free.

So I realised finally that it had to be all or nothing with you. I loved you too much to only see you now and then, to cut short our acquaintance. So I decided I could never see you again.

It wasn’t easy to stop seeing you – I felt like half of me had died. Without you I no longer knew who I really was. I questioned my whole identity, who I was meant to be. I was overwhelmed by the difficult feelings and emotions that I had entrusted you with burying. The guilt was overwhelming. It was agony.

At first I would cry uncontrollably, become enraged over little things, feel excruciatingly frustrated with myself. I would wonder what the point was, but thankfully I had promised my parents and I felt obliged to get through it. After all the lies in the past, I wanted to finally come good. Once I got used to feeling like my world had been turned upside down, I didn’t actually miss your presence as much as I thought I would.

Your absence allowed me to find out all the good things I was missing out on with you in my life. I found things that fulfilled me – a great job, a new-found sense of freedom, of self-respect, of pride. I no longer had to go through the physical pain that our stop-start relationship had caused. I stopped letting other people down. I woke up feeling healthier and energised. I wondered if in fact I could live without you in my life – maybe forever.
But you would still invade my dreams, call out to me when I least expected it, pop into my head during difficult times to remind me of how I couldn’t ever forget about us. You’d try to convince me that I couldn’t do it on my own. When I felt stressed and lonely and fed up, I thought about you. Mostly I coped, but a series of stressful events, cumulatively devastating to me and my newly-thin skin, led me to seek your comforting arms again.

And I found it hard to let go. I needed comforting so badly – and you knew exactly which buttons to press, in a way that no-one else ever has.

But having tasted what life without you could be like, without the constant pressure and demands you make of me, without the time I wasted secretly meeting you and then trying to break free again, I knew that a large part of me wanted that back.
So I considered all the things I might need to do to truly be able to leave you forever and to live a life where I wouldn’t need you. I needed to change myself, something you would never let me do. You made me isolate myself from all the other healthy relationships I could have and things I could be doing, with the promise that you could solve it all. And I know you can make me feel like you have all the answers, but you come at such a price and I know it is not worth it.

Above all, to be free of you, I needed to change. I needed to develop my resources and to change my responses to the world. Because at the end of the day, I will always have problems, the world will always throw turmoil into my life and the lives of those who care about me. I will always try to do the right thing only to have it thrown back at me. I will always have times when I am frustrated and hurt by events and other people. I have issues that will always exist as remnants in my life. I have situations I cannot change. My scars are there – and they will always be.

Although others try to help me, with good intentions, misguided efforts, or the best will in the world, no-one will ever be enough for me. If they were, why would I have sought out your help?

I am the only person who is there every step of the way for me, who experiences all I have to live through, who understands what it is to feel like me and be like me. I am the only person who can choose what I do, how I respond and where my life goes. I am the only one who can change my own mind, my thinking and my attitude. I am the only one who can work for freedom. And if I let myself, I can be the one who can light my dark days with the sun.

Your Ex-friend


Alcohol misuse affects 20% of the adult population in the UK. This is of course only what is reported, the figures are now far higher. Against the current background of rising stress levels, risk of unemployment, static pay levels, and changing work-life balance – company directors, HR managers, Health & Safety officers would do well to be aware of its presence and effect on their business. Figures suggest that even the smallest companies will have employees with a problem, alcohol being top of the list as it is legal, acceptable and everywhere.

How are alcohol issues dealt within your business?
Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling, gaming, food, social media or online problems – all have an impact on the individual’s ability to perform at work and incur substantial costs for the business:
• Absenteeism – an employee’s time away from work due to illness or disability
• Lost productivity
• Accidents in the workplace
• Fraud
• Presenteeism – decrease in productivity in employees whose health problems have not necessarily led to absenteeism
• Re-training costs through loss of skills
• Health and Safety breaches
• Co-worker/team moral

If alcohol issues remain a hidden problem it can become a costly and damaging force. However, if employers routinely take the dismissal route there are cost implications; disciplinary, competency, gross misconduct or dismissal proceedings, tribunals, lost management time, reduced productivity. And less tangible costs relating to health and safety, breaking employment law, be mindful also of negligence laws surrounding ‘duty of care’.
Consider the time it takes to advertise, recruit, interview and train a new employee to the same competency level; if that ‘hire’ is successful (also a risk) this process could still cost the business 12-18 months.

Harrogate Sanctuary now sees that is it becoming imperative for companies of any size to take this problem seriously, and offers a bespoke service, to organizations to encourage open dialogue with employees about these important issues. We look to be a strategic partner. Our aim is to work individually with members of staff who are experiencing difficulties and achieve good outcomes for both the client and the employee. Empathy, discretion and compassion are paramount. Currently we have an 87% recovery rate with our six week programme, where clients become either in control of their drinking or completely abstinent. The cost to the employee is wholly dependent on their employer’s policy.

Confidentiality for the individual in treatment is strictly maintained. But our relationship and interaction with the employer guarantees they remain fully informed of progress. We advise the employer, manager or HR department of any and all potential issues to ensure a smooth return to work (this can be a phased return).

If you feel that Harrogate Sanctuary could be a beneficial to you and your staff, I would be happy to discuss our programme with you.

Time for Change

Every other potentially life-threatening illness receives specialist care. As each patient will present with a unique set of diagnostic problems, the treatment will be altered for their best outcome.

For the most part, there is blanket coverage with alcohol misuse, dependence, habit or fully blown alcoholism. Every client I have seen has their own story about attempting to get to grips with their own problem. Most have already tried mainstream agencies, and some have gone to AA. The results have been not only poor, but incredibly demoralising for them. A professional client also pointed out that she not only felt at ease with The Sanctuary, but I had also been thoroughly vetted, CRB check along with my reputation, could that be said for anyone she spoke to at a meeting of strangers at an AA meeting in such a vulnerable state?

The first admission of needing help is a huge deal. It can take weeks, months even, to pluck up the courage to stop sailing down the river of denial and decide to do something about it. So, they brace themselves to confess. The next step, from a GP is to get them some help. From where? Often AA. As a leading light in the GP circles told me on twitter, there is simply nowhere that is Specialist to help. Then they have another soul searching, heart wrenching decision to make, exposure to a room full of strangers to admit they have a problem with alcohol and that they are powerless. When women are in an anxious state does anyone really consider that lowering their self-esteem more is helpful? They probably have never felt so shameful in their lives. AA may be a huge organization but how effective is it? So antiquated, founded for men, by men, have we not got a duty of care to the modern woman who can actually think for herself? How can anyone seriously commit currently to a life time of meetings to stay sober?

We really do need a new approach. As much as I have been asked to use my expertise in other age groups and demographics, I have refused simply because the best skill that I have above all others, is that I totally empathise with my clients, and vice versa. Which means that their outcomes are incredibly successful.

A man talking about his fall from grace with booze has different ramifications than those of women. A 22-year-old co-dependent, with other drugs along with the gateway one generally, alcohol, has little in common with a Mother of 3 who drinks wine.

The cost will be far too high I hear the cry! The costs involved in the treatment I offer are really very effective. I give my clients the opportunity to stay well, and my fee is less than the amount that they would have spent on booze in the first place. Win win, they spend on their wellness, and I can continue to help.
I have no idea why anyone would really need to spend 6-8 weeks incarcerated in a Rehab, using either private or public money, vast amounts of it. Being cut off from the real world is surely going to be a problem when they go back to it. I have a client who tried it three times, her words, ‘It was like being on an 18-30s holiday’. She was 57 at the time. Coupled with the fact that as soon as they are released, alcohol is everywhere, no one has to score it on a street corner.

Then there are the box tickers. Whilst a client is trying to bear their soul, with a very intimate subject, forms are filled in and if they don’t match then, tough. Generic, and often very patronizing, my women are often highly skilled and incredibly articulate. Nor do we throw people away just because they might have the odd blip. It happens.

So please can the powers that be, who seem to be so opposed to change start to join up some dots. I now have established an 86% recovery rate, which is both rewarding for the client first and foremost, and importantly very cost effective. The best part is that is it so very gentle and efficient. Or perhaps that is the problem, that there are no vast swathes of trustees, directors, committees and think tanks involved to see what is glaringly obvious to me and my clients.


Wrestling with Pros and Cons of Drinking


For many years the Sanctuary has asked prior to clients starting the Six Week Programme to list their pros and cons for drinking, to be searingly honest, as of course only I read the list. That is a relief, as the majority of us know bearing our souls at the first stop, recommended generally our GP, just doesn’t happen, far too scary, and potentially fraught with worry if we are absolutely honest with our habits. What if we are reported to social services? What if the children are taken from us? What if the liver function test comes back outrageously negative. We deny, and not because we are born liars, but just full of fear and often overthinking the worst possible outcome.

So, what are these pros? Why do we believe that drinking at the end of the day is going to make us feel better, more fun, and relaxed? Along with another ‘pro’ that it helps us sleep. None of these are true. They may have been when we drank without the background buzz of responsibilities, being young enough to rally at great speed, and to laugh about the hangover with friends at the office on a Monday morning.

But these feelings and light-hearted thoughts do change as we trot through life, along with the excuses for having a cheeky little number in the evening. Please note I use the word excuse, not reason, as a twitter follower the other day directly messaged me with the line ‘there is never a good reason for drinking too much’, well, duh, I have always said that! Reasons are so very different from excuses, and there are a zillion fabulous excuses out there.

Most of my clients for example, hardly drink at all when they are out, it has morphed into being an isolating experience, and it would horrify them to be seen to be out of it in public in the state of the at home on the sofa look, our park bench. Not so again when there is a youthful verve going on, and Facebook filled with pictures and rip-roaring fun, glass in hand and a perfect look of friendship and jollity.

The fact is that there are very few pros indeed unless you are fortunate enough to have a rigid off button. They get fewer as we get older. The other pro is that it feels a void many of us have had, for drinking does blur the edges of time, most especially if we are lonely and bored. I do get that, and it is a tough one to fill, especially if we are not ready to be a gym bunny, marathon runner or expert in somehow making friends away from our old tribe of drinkers. Women like us do tend to have a very low boredom threshold, active brains, full of chatter, and it can be completely maddening switching the damn thing off without the help of a glass or four of white.

The last week of freak weather has made many of us rightly stay in, and I for one at times have been intensely fed up and bored. Having just returned from the warmth of Southern Florida, busy, happy both with work play and friends, it was a shock to the system! There was a form of cabin fever setting in. It has made me really grateful now it is over, to manage it, and not endanger myself or others by going on a stealth mission to the booze aisle.

I have said many times that I am never evangelical about not drinking, if you do have good times with it, then great, but more and more I hear and see women over 40 who are in a very precarious place that makes them both lonely and scared. In my opinion the Pros are extremely weak, and as we have so much to look forward to with a sharp brain and good health, surely it has to be time we really looked honestly, at the advantages if any, of Big Alcohol and the game it plays with us.