I was an occasional social drinker with a propensity to binge drink, from my late teens to my mid-40s. I could stop drinking after the second glass of wine but if I chose to have a 3rd glass, there was no off switch. In my md 40s, my drinking behaviour changed. I began to drink regularly at home to wind down from a demanding job involving frequent domestic and international travel. I didn’t drink every night, and when I did drink, it was the exception rather than the rule to drink a full bottle. But I was diagnosed 5 years ago with a medical condition which puts me at higher risk of liver damage if I drink more than a few glasses of wine a week.
I first contacted the Harrogate Sanctuary 5 years ago, but Sarah was booked up and I didn’t want to go on a waiting list. I also wasn’t sure that my drinking was bad enough to warrant the cost of the programme. I tried to stop drinking without help and did manage a couple of lengthy periods of sobriety. They didn’t last and while I did reduce my drinking, it was still too much and I was concerned about why I drank. I didn’t like needing to drink and lying about my drinking and arguing with my husband about it.
More recently, my work stress was exacerbated by Covid lockdowns and concerns for our kids who were working on the frontline. I ended up seeing a psychologist earlier this year who said I had anxiety. I was able to use self-help strategies most of the time to manage situations where previously I would have needed to drink but I was still finding that when things got really bad, those strategies went out the window and I’d go into panic mode and need a drink.
I’m now in my late 50s and I knew that if I didn’t stop drinking, I would be seriously compromising my health. I felt I’d done as much as I could to deal with this on my own and needed professional help. My psychologist was puritanical about drinking and I couldn’t be honest with her or my GP. None of the local online sobriety groups (I live in New Zealand) resonated with me in the way that Sarah’s blogs and testimonials had. I wasn’t at rock bottom, I had a happy marriage, great job, loving family, supportive friends, so AA didn’t resonate.
I contacted Sarah again. Her programme was once again booked up but I signed up anyway and in the 6 weeks before the programme started, Sarah had me keep a weekly journal which she responded to, and we had a zoom meeting in the middle of the waiting period, so that there was continuity from when I first contacted her to when the programme started. That support enabled me to remain sober during the waiting period. This felt like a genuine investment in MYSELF, a complete overhaul, which was going to be and is, life enhancing.
Then I started the 6 week programme of daily journals and weekly zoom meetings. It was fantastic. Sarah’s no-nonsense approach worked for me. Unlike the psychologist, who told me she was puritanical about drinking, Sarah wasn’t judgemental, and she was the only person I was ever honest with about my drinking. She gave me tools to change behaviours that didn’t work and was insightful, supportive, and empathetic.
I have now been sober for 14 weeks. My anxiety has improved dramatically, I sleep well, exercise regularly, am more present for family, friends, and non-work activities. I don’t miss drinking. I don’t even think about it. I feel much happier and content with my lot and no longer feel as though I’m chasing my tail. I realised that my job was no longer bringing me any joy and I was just putting up with the ever increasing stress and workload because the status of that role was important to me. I resigned without having lined anything else up and within a week had secured a less demanding and more highly paid role. I am also actively pursuing other interests to meet needs that I previously tried to meet through my work.
I was confident the programme would work for me because it had worked for lots of women whose experiences of drinking, and drivers for drinking, sounded similar to mine. I was particularly inspired by the women who said the stuff they were drinking to hide from or cope with didn’t magically go away when they got sober, but they were much better able to deal with it sober. That’s certainly been my experience. I feel more empowered and confident to tackle the hard stuff and I’m much more aware and appreciative of everything good in my life. I am so grateful to Sarah.