It’s a Family Affair


I am sometimes asked with the burgeoning work load we have at the Sanctuary, why there is not more testimonials and upbeat posts about being sober.

The Sanctuary operates in a very different way than those early years of only delivering a short limited Six Week Programme. I cater for other members of the client’s circle, family for the most part, but also close friends who have wanted to help but didn’t know how. Not drinking when you have been almost defined by wine time is key of course, but going forward from that, and learning to live without any kind of substance to numb and dumb out thoughts and feelings is vital too. I have many clients who stay with me for months, years too, and they gain so much from their families being involved. Importantly the families are incredibly relieved to be so open and honest with me about how they feel and to be understood, the frustration, anger, helplessness, inadequacy is searingly painful, and there are very few places where they can express themselves without consequences for either them or the person who is in the grip of this addiction, or perpetual desire to push their limits to the max.

Alcohol fractures and disables any kind of stability, trust, and meaningful memories. It has often been described as a thief, a substance that steals time and health, but completely pillages any kind of structure or happiness within the family unit. There are dozens of agencies, online forums that cater for the individual who is seduced by alcohol and cracking the code of not first buying it, and staying dry, but the services for families and partners is miniscule.

I stay discreet, tailored and very low profile. My clients prefer this, and the outcome from this is that rather than having a scatter gun approach, our very comprehensive programmes are recommended through the network, or tribe as I call them of people who I have helped. My clients see my ongoing therapy as an investment, no, we are not cheap, but we are very, very effective, treating the minds of those effected with a gentle touch and a great compassion and care.

So, I don’t need to advertise or bleat about the successes, some clients from all over the world do occasionally want to show their gratitude, for the sole reason of letting others know how this unique approach may suit others.





It is ten years since I co-wrote The Sober Revolution, a decade of extraordinary events for myself, Harrogate Sanctuary and the big wide world in general.

In 2013 there was such excitement when I was offered a publishing deal for an idea that my co-author, Lucy Rocca and I had struck upon. We were both very familiar with stories about stopping drinking, but the real era of ‘quit lit’ hadn’t really taken off. We wrote the book insanely quickly and had outstanding reviews and publicity.

Since then, my practice has grown exponentially, now a global enterprise, and a very long way from the very local clientele that I had started with way back in 2009. Along with the Sober Revolution, I also gave my permission to our publisher to release a version of my Six Week Programme which was in it’s infancy. It was not meant as a copy, as each programme I provide is tailored to individual clients, but it did offer a helpful method of stopping drinking using tips and journaling daily. 

During the last ten years has seen massive changes. Many books have been written about how to stop drinking, forums and groups have sprung up all over the internet and social media, leading to a real acceptance of being a non-drinker. Especially amongst the younger generation where sober has become the new black.

Stopping drinking, or even harm reduction is wonderful, but there is so much more involved in being truly free from dependence. AA use the expression ‘Dry Drunk’. I certainly was in the category for many years, sober but extremely discontented, which often can lead to unhappy relationships and a poor quality of life. On top of that, whatever your drug of choice was, it still remains a constant in terms of thinking about using it again.

Following the unprecedented COVID epidemic and lockdowns, studies have shown that for many our personalities have changed too. We all need to give and receive much more tenderness, kindness and empathy.

My methods have evolved and become far more flexible and inclusive. It is no longer a question of stopping the habit of imbibing but relearning how to live well and with purpose. To achieve this can take much longer than six weeks, and not just the individual but their families and loved ones as well. 

My new will book explain my professional and personal journey over the last ten years and those of some of my clients who explain how being sober has affected their relationships, friendships, working lives and their own struggles to face the world without any kind of prop.

The chapters will show all the flaws and struggles we have experienced, rather than the pink cloud of euphoria that I sat on all those years ago, giddy with the thought that not picking up was the biggest hurdle, and that would be enough. Often faking a great mood to make it. Since then, battling through empty nesting, losing my husband to a heart attack, and so much more, life has given me many tools to offer clients in times of deep sadness and joy.

Watch the space, and I look forward to welcoming you to The Sober Evolution! 


Others look at us. Not in a judgemental way for the most part, but they assume from our outward appearance who we are, the lifestyles we lead, our self-esteem, confidence levels whether we have got it together.

When I drank, I used to make a huge effort with the way I looked, which was seriously difficult, as most mornings I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. In fact, I spent about 2 years in my late thirties arranging my face to the side, so that my eyes did not stare back at me and show what was really going on. I not only avoided my gaze but everyone else’s. I believed if I made eye contact that they would see the state of my mind, and damaged, toxic soul.

I was a charade. Always glamorous, striding out after 11am at least, as if I was in full control of life. No one except my late husband, ever saw the haggard, hungover, sick woman that would stagger around the kitchen in the early hours looking for the dregs of a bottle, my then thin lifeless hair straggled around my face, the bloodshot eyes lighting up if I found some at the bottom of the bin, then I could crash onto the sofa, bashing my legs as I negotiated the route on tables and the bloody log basket, tripping over one of the dogs, with a fag often lit at the wrong end, that would invariably burn the carpet. I was I thought, clever at rearranging the furniture to hide the holes.

Even when I stopped drinking and was a dry drunk, resentful, bloshy because of the unfairness that I couldn’t be a ‘normal’ drinker, pretending that I didn’t have a problem with anyone else drinking, I still over did it with the look of a typical yummy mummy, the smile hiding the truth.

I assumed that I pulled it off. Perhaps for the most part I did, but deep down I could never show vulnerability or being sick. Thank God since then times have moved on, and coming out as alcoholic or dependent does not send people running for the hills. Still not as acceptable as other conditions or lifestyle choices, but better.

Getting comfortable with the real you who, in my case, was under the influence for over 25 years, is a long sometimes joyous, but very often raw and overwhelming.  I like so many of my clients, experienced trauma as a child, the death of my twin, and up until I was in my 40s did I truly grieve for that loss.

When I drank I wanted everyone to like me. Now I accept that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t try or worse as I know I was, desperate to please. Take me or leave me.

I am in my sixth decade, contented, intuitive, resourceful, and extremely relaxed with how I present myself, whether dressed up or not. Alcohol turns us into parodies of ourselves, harsh but true, and in this world of chaos and uncertainty, being sure of yourself is a huge gift. I have stopped assuming and comparing, I live in my own vintage skin and am happy enough with me. Save a lot of stress and need to escape.