Stop Counting Start Living

The Sanctuary Six Week Programme which I founded nearly ten years ago is unique in many ways. One of these is that after the programme is completed, counting days is not part of living a life without alcohol. If you constantly add up days of sobriety, plainly that shows that you are still thinking about the old bad habit. Most mainstream services and organisations encourage people who were dependent on something to keep counting.


Once you have stopped drinking or using other drugs, I believe we should start to fill the void it left by replacing it with many new healthy habits, reconnecting with the authentic person you were before this dreadful cycle of not only self harm but the ripple effect it has of harming others. It no longer defines us, we don’t need to keep making reference to it, the constant reminder of the past.

Clients take up new interests, become involved often in quite radical exercise regimes because the flip side of our determination to drink, is that we have an amazing ability to use it for gain and good. We also make new friends, form new relationships with those who were never affected by this illness. Reinvention and a feeling of being liberated is the message.

Of course there is much reflection on how much time we wasted, but in many ways addiction, if you recover, can be a gift. It has shown us how dark and frightening life can be by using, when we stop and the switch is flipped then the effort to be the best we can be is even more exhilarating! We have more time, money and  energy to have a positive life without having to revisit the past on a daily basis.

I have no idea how many days I have been sober, but in my sixth decade am way too busy with life in the present to dwell on life in the past, and making the most of every moment.

Pat’s Testimonial

I loved the buzz I got from alcohol the first time I tasted it age 15.  By 16 I would sometimes pop to the local shop and buy a bottle of Pomagne, which I would down immediately.  This escalated to drinking heavily every night in pubs and getting myself in some tremendously traumatic situations, still only aged 16/17.   

However for the next 30 plus years alcohol was not a problem for me.  Don’t get me wrong I have never been able to have just 1 drink, but I drank infrequently.  I might have a bottle of Vodka New Years Eve and no more alcohol until Summer.  I felt sorry for people who needed a regular drink to escape reality.

Approximately 8 years ago work became stressful and I started to have a bottle of White Wine on a Friday night.  I enjoyed it and gradually it became Friday and Saturday night, then Sunday too.  About 3.5 years ago my drinking escalated to nightly.  At the start of the Pandemic I swapped White Wine for Red, ideally 14.5% volume.  

I tried challenges and coaches to help me stop drinking but nothing worked. I had a couple of 10 day spells without Alcohol and one 22 day spell but I would always tell myself just 1 (bottle) would not hurt, I deserved it – and off I would go again. 

By the time I heard about Harrogate Sanctuary I had drunk virtually every night for the past 15 months. Over recent months alcohol had dominated my thoughts, it felt like I could only get through the day by looking forward to drinking at night.  I had developed reverse tolerance which meant I got more drunk with the same amount of alcohol which I saw as a sign that my liver wasn’t coping.  I was convinced I was killing myself and felt deeply ashamed.  I was so tired and depressed and I knew I just had to stop drinking but that I needed additional help to do this.  

I reached out to Sarah and found her to be responsive, down to earth, relateable and immensely knowledgeable about Alcohol and it’s effects.  She was non-judgemental and immediately seemed to understand me and what I needed.  Although Sarah offers a CBT approach she was Human and real.  

After meeting Sarah for an initial informal Consultation over Zoom I knew I was going to stop drinking.  5 days later I stopped and I haven’t drunk since.  The support, understanding and motivation Sarah provided me with over the next 6 weeks, via Zoom and e mail was invaluable – I could not have done it without her. 

I feel so much happier, I don’t feel ashamed anymore, I’m living life again.  I have learnt stopping drinking is just the start, rebuilding your life is what takes you forward.  Sarah helped me with both these things and if you want to stop drinking and rebuild your life I would highly recommend you get in touch with her via Harrogate Sanctuary, as she made the world of difference for me.