Over 60s Drink too Much – Who Cares?

On my local news programme yesterday there was a piece on how sobriety is trending these days, the young definitely getting it with education on misuse, the middle aged also able to more transparent, with empathy shown and tribal support.

However as Professor Sally Marlow pointed out, the older generation are not following this trend. They are all around us, hiding in plain sight. When you get into your sixties it seems there are two choices, you decide to make the most of the twilight years,  with a cheeky little glass or four with friends, or to almost disappear, maybe bereaved after a long partnership, kids flown the nest, friends who most certainly were affected profoundly by the pandemic, either managing to limp along with underlying health conditions or simply withdrawn into self isolation. Misery loves company, and that is often bottle shaped. The first event I went to after I lost my husband was a wedding. I was put on a table with other widows and felt completely disengaged with the rest of the crowd, set apart even more because I did not drink alcohol.

No one seems to ever highlight this generation of heavy drinkers, baby boomers, who are for the most part so wise, compassionate, useful. Ageing is a cruel mistress not helped by us being written off as useless.

We are not. Many of my clients are over 60, still highly functioning individuals, but completely empty on the self worth front. They feel that there is no point changing habits because frankly who will care?

I do. My experience shows me these people are remarkable. They don’t accept they need life coaches of any sort, they have lived life. They know they need help with alcohol,  but the process is excruciatingly shameful until it is too late. This generation rarely dreams of telling anyone of how they struggle, they just get on with it. This has consequences to their own mental and physical health.

We are not on the scrap heap, we deserve to have the same platform as all other generations with our fears and make it just as acceptable for us to be considered worth the effort. Ageism with the women is rife, and there is no chance this will change unless we older warriors get out there and stand up for ourselves because we have so much to offer. There are thousands of us who simply are too scared to tell our stories publicly because apparently we should know better, at our age! Many could be far less of a burden, a word which none of us relish, to our families and the NHS,  if alcohol issues could be discussed as openly our younger counterparts do, without any stigma.

Mission Accomplished

I am Rosemary, now a whole, healthy and honest woman. It has taken me over 30 years to be able to say that. There were some good times, and I shall treasure those, but from my late thirties to my now organised and safe fifties, there have been some very dark and frightening times. Wine most certainly was the biggest driver of the majority of them, or at least the way I handled situations, but becoming dependent on it, was an outcome of so much more. Over those years, I did try to stop, initially by going down the obvious routes, then there was advent of online resources, think I joined virtually every website that offered help for women especially to quit booze, but I could never get committed to these, call it sceptism or perhaps age, I liked to see my mentors, or at least have some one to one contact. Eventually I found Harrogate Sanctuary. It took me a great deal of time to pick up the phone, and gather some advice. Along with many others, I had read Sarah’s book, and her journey to being engulfed by alcohol, resonated with me so much. But seeing was believing, she is exactly what it says on the tin. There is no flannel, or claims that once you stop drinking life becomes a bowl of cherries. She tackles the background to the heavy drinking, is never on the clock, and of course her Six Week Programme is unique. From being thoroughly disappointed with various paid services, I joined five in total before HS, all who were completely scripted offering blanket coverage except for changing the name, often trying to get you to sign up to various websites, buy merchandise from linked websites, at last I had found the real deal. Now I am well, I was never told I couldn’t drink, but Sarah was like a brain cleaner, she helped me put my chaotic thinking into order. She gave me tools to cope properly without seeing alcohol as the answer. The Six Week Programme was intense, but in a good way, and I feel that it was my decision to stop, for now, as Sarah says, never say never, it has given me such control and acceptance. If you are looking to make changes, face the fear, you will not be disappointed, Sarah’s method is original, not frills or promises, and would recommend it, and shall be doing, without a moments hesitation.

Menopause & Alcohol

At the Sanctuary we keep many stats referencing our clients. Interestingly or alarmingly, the average age is 47.5 years. The majority of these women are either peri menopausal or are in the midst of this chapter.

All tell me that to cope their drinking has ramped up. There has been a lot of publicity on the subject of menopause recently, women being told that they should fight tooth and nail to get the right medication, and lobbying going to make leave from work obligatory for women who suffer so much.

I have not read or seen discussion or articles on the effects of alcohol in quantity during this change in women’s lives. But there is a huge impact our evidence proves this. Once drinking has stopped, so too do the unmanageable symptoms in general, as do the bouts of depression and anxiety.

There is so much judgement still of women of a ‘certain age’, responsible, possibly mothers using wine to block out many dark times in their lives, which is undoubtedly why all the publicity about this never touches on this correlation. I am the very last person to lay blame, know only too well what a grip this can have of us, but seriously how many times do we have to sweep the consequences of misuse under the carpet with so many serious health conditions before we can start to be completely honest and not stigmatised?

Any kind of prescriptive medication is almost  useless when you are self-medicating often lying to our GPs about intake of alcohol, and the upshot is usually a road to more and more pills and potions often recommended. Zillions of Google searches to find out what has worked for others whilst sipping or glugging on another white wine.

We all listen and praise the celebrities that have come out of the wine cellar and yet in 2023, 10 years since I wrote the bestselling Sober Revolution, my clients are still  very much a prisoner to it, feeling and rightly because of hypocrisy and bigotry they will potentially lose everything. Just saying no has never worked for this legal drug which is everywhere.


Across the news at the beginning of 2023 is the great news that data is showing that we are all drinking much less. A very well written article in the Guardian this week, by Maggie Doherty described her journey with being alcohol free for a year a woman in her early 40s.

As she points out, Generation Z have mostly  eschewed alcohol, as to a large extent have Generation Y, my son falls into this category, where there is both empathy with those like me who had a problem with it, had a far broader and better education about alcohol as a drug, not a frilly drink, but still struggled understandably as to why I hit the bottle, a late member of the baby boomer generation. My son and his peers do not seem to want to have any kind of love affair with booze, and are so connected through technology to fix stuff if both with mental health and frustrations in every day life, and way more prepared to openly discuss their problems openly without any kind of stigma.

My generation, the over 50s and 60s and beyond are unlikely to talk to others about their issues with alcohol, until other underlying health conditions give the game away. We are all living longer, but are we living well?

My clients for the most part keep this a secret. They also have busy lives and work well past their retirement age. Their engagement with social media is usually via their children or younger members of the office staff, and we forget that so many older people are still very highly functioning, not going on Saga holidays or sat making antimacassars. The cost of living crisis, bank of mum and dad takes it’s toll, if the go to reward mechanism has been a glass of wine or four, the impact is generally far more severe in the older generation, as many medics will attest.

The modern methods of sharing often do not apply. My age group are still incredibly useful, wise and compassionate, but they are hiding a very big problem in plain sight because of upbringing and a generational disconnect.

My experience internationally is that my demographic, this age group, is one of the biggest misusers of alcohol, dependent and unable to find a fix that suits them. It is a great shame that they are unable to be out and proud, and I and some of my posse are hoping to change that this year because one of our worst fears is being a burden not only on our children but also the crippled health service, which sadly has zero help in place that would be remotely effective with this very important group of people who are terrified of what might happen next.

Resolutions for 2023

As we move into the new year, many of us are reflecting on our lives and making resolutions to help us improve. For those of us who want to take our resolutions a step further, a commitment to an alcohol-free year can be a powerful way to take control of our health and well-being. From Dry January to finding support from online forums and apps and self-appointed experts, there are plenty of ways to stay motivated and committed to an alcohol-free lifestyle throughout the year. However, if all the hundreds of forums, groups, on and offline were working well, then we wouldn’t be still seeing a rise in alcohol related deaths and harms, fractured families, economic hardship, mental illness caused by the anxiety and depression from too much booze, and undoubtedly a massive part of the NHS’s demise, not just the patients but the staff too.  When I talk to corporate clients, the presentism is immense.

The Sanctuary has turned a lot of rules on their heads over the years, now I believe that if we started to concentrate on those things we managed to handle whilst pissed, we would begin to realise how remarkable we all were to not only survive but to function at all. Consider the determination we all showed, and the single-mindedness of our drinking, above anything else we would find a source. Nothing stopped us, loved ones, work, and other commitments, we ploughed on. I also believe that many folks join groups to listen to others and their car crash lives, to make themselves feel less of a fool, because they were not as bad as them. The entertainment industry picked up on this human trait years ago, and one only has to see viewing figures or social media frenzy when lives are going down the toilet. Stories about well adjusted, happy people doesn’t butter the financial parsnips apparently or our desire for comparison.

My thoughts are that rather than telling everyone in a group or Zoom meeting what a car crash your life was, you start to believe in those attributes you used to the max to drink, which can help you to stop. Give yourself some kindness and concentrate on the positives. No, it wasn’t clever to drink too much, it was genius to keep drinking for so long without being found out though. I have been using this approach over the last few months with great success, as ever one-to-one, we are all unique and need that, and have re-invented my six-week programme, that now is much more flexible.


How Much?

One of the biggest reasons people don’t think they should pay for help with alcohol harm is brainwashing that it was our choice to do it in the first place, therefore all our fault, and we don’t deserve to splash out on it. If all the free or subscription services out there, and there are thousands, worked, we wouldn’t still be seeing a rise in the problem, would we? Costing not only lives but household finances catastrophic consequences, cancers and other alcohol-related harms rocketing and the economy imploding. Many people don’t think twice about buying a car and all the maintenance that goes along with it, into the 10s of thousands of pounds, and yet baulk at paying at paying for self-care, unless it can be shown off on the outside.  My fees are less than a good mechanic’s or botox! It’s insanity. Of course, there are no guarantees with this, but do you trust a car dealer or unlicensed beautician more?? You NEED your health, you don’t necessarily need the latest swankest vehicle or a face that fakes it.


The challenges of going alcohol-free

Life is a challenge, we survive, and do our best, stopping drinking should not start with you having to say that you are shameful, remorseful, embarrassed, or useless, but with the attitude with all the enthusiasm you had for drinking the stuff, you can flip that to make you just as enthusiastic to stop. We were born to thrive not to constantly consider our faults. The is nothing more powerful than a made-up positive mind.

The rewards of going alcohol-free

No matter your reason for stopping, it’s important to know that not drinking so much is better for you.  An alcohol-free lifestyle can increase your productivity and help you get better quality sleep. You may also be able to save money that would have been spent on alcohol, our stats show the average was £4350 last year.  Staying sober will also improve your decision-making skills, allowing you to make more rational choices. Additionally, an alcohol-free lifestyle could improve your physical health. When we drink, our bodies become dehydrated, leading to headaches, fatigue and a plethora of other health conditions. Stopping drinking gives your body a much-needed break from the toxins and helps it to heal and repair itself. Finally, by staying sober, you can improve your mental health. Not drinking will reduce stress and anxiety, helping you to stay balanced and healthy. All in all, choosing to remain alcohol-free this year can be extremely rewarding, not just for you but all the other people in your life.

Happy New Year.

Sanctuary Inspirational Women

Six Weeks to Sober.

I have drunk happy, sad and started to drink myself round the bend after over 20 years of a nightly bottle, or two. It started probably, in my mind, before I even took the first sip. As a child of a strict, religious and probably quite controlling upbringing I knew that my ‘escape’ at 18 would be marked with getting really pissed. And it was, and as I found the escape into being someone who was witty, funny and fell over a lot I thought I had found the panacea for all my ills – for all my insecurities – hah, just get pissed; for feeling like the odd one out – a quick few pints and I was as well integrated into any party as the rest; for learning to be an adult – well I had no idea how to do that one, so I just sank another.. and another.. and another. Good time party girl, could drink any man under the table. And under that table I remained, thinking every night I can’t rise above until I’ve had a bottle of wine.

Stupid thing was that I spent nearly 20 years looking for myself, for peace, for happiness and I never found it at the bottom of the bottle. I saw the adverts that showed women like me being glamorous, funny and letting go (but just a bit) of their inhibitions – so why did I always end up like some vomity Worzel Gummidge. Laughing as I fell and threw up into a Wheelie Bin – that was fun and glamorous wasn’t it??

So why was I so sad inside, counting the units every night to try and make sure I drove to work under the limit, how on earth did I hold down quite a successful career and bring up 3 children I’ll never understand. But underneath it all, every day, like some mercenary parasite was the little voice “it’ll all be ok after that bottle” and was it? No, I was just drowning out the little voice, the stress and the sadness.

Do I consider myself an alcoholic – not sure really. I spent the first years of my career working with street drinkers and chronic alcoholics who drank themselves to death, I wasn’t like them was I? My choice of anaesthetic was Shiraz not Denim After-Shave (and yes I did work with a man who drank that – he smelled lovely but had a serious case of Korsakov’s Wet Brain). I think for me, it was the intent that went with it all – that it wasn’t for the taste, the enjoying times with friends, it was to drown all those feelings I couldn’t deal with.

Even through some major and traumatic losses in my life, one as a direct cause of my drinking I still turned to the bottle because it was the only way I knew how to cope with hard and difficult feelings. Wine turned from being my good-time friend to my tormentor – the feelings of self hate, the shame I felt – “if only people knew how awful and weak you really are” would be the little voice inside that got louder with each drink. And I thought I could stop, maybe cut down but I didn’t know how, and each time I tried and failed I felt like I would never be free of it. Like a charming con-man who becomes a tormentor, so became wine’s hold on me.

And I did manage some sober times, like some marathon runner waiting for the relief of the finish line – I would hold off drinking for a month, or two, I even managed three after doing the Alan Carr one-day workshop – but as I got to the end of the ‘sober marathon’ I would spend the next few weeks catching up in style.

So why did it have to stop? Because I got to over 40 and realised that there was no way beyond without doing so, because some days I drove to work knowing I was too near to the drink-driving limit (and hungover to boot) to be safe, because I was sick of it all. But I couldn’t see the life without my wine, I live in a society where all things associated with relaxing are also inextricably entangled with a good skin-full of the most expensive and beautifully bottled poison. Because I had to, because if I wanted to start to live I had to face life in real.

Enter Sarah (ta,da) – real, warm and beautifully honest woman. She might tell you the hard stuff, but that’s just what I needed.

Did you know that it takes 6 weeks to even clear this stuff from your system, and that that 6 weeks is a roller coaster of emotions (you know, the ones that have been stuffed down for so many years). But Sarah’s approach is calm, assured and loving  and she shows you how to start being kind to yourself – dammit I might even start to think about learning to love myself! Maybe that’s what I needed after all.

But what I also needed was a guide through the storm, I knew that my very clever neurology had created such a strong link between feeling sad and lonely and ‘curing’ it with a swift and large glass of the very best red.  I suspect that even after the re-wiring job currently underway, I will always have that neurological link in my brain and for me wine will not be something that works for me in any setting, and I’m increasingly less sad about that fact, whereas at first I could not imagine ever ‘enjoying’ sober merely tolerating it (you may recall I had a particular hang up about being the odd one out).

I am just over three months sober, and apparently a much nicer person to live with. I haven’t yet lost the three stone I was hoping to (!!!) but I look into the mirror and feel generally OK with the woman smiling back at me. What worked with the Harrogate Sanctuary approach was on many levels, but the sane voice of calm through my storm of getting sober was the biggest thing. The daily emails helped me to start to unravel what damage alcohol had done to a fragile self-esteem, and understand what drove me to seek solace in a bottle of red. The knowing I could text Sarah, when the ‘off-licence’ voice was shouting strong. The way I was heard and valued even during my silly strops about not being ‘allowed’ to drink.

I’m still early in this journey, and I have really appreciated the way that Sarah ‘never goes away’ (her own words!) and has responded to my panicked emails about feeling like giving it all up for a swift night of obliteration. One thing I have truly learned is that physically getting sober is just the start, because all that time I was drinking I was failing to grow up. So the work starts……..to grow up (I believe it is called ‘emotional sobriety’ in the AF world!). I’ve found underneath that I do have some problems with being able to cope with bad emotions, but rather than running away, I’m facing up to them and learning to learn to live with and understand them.

I’m so happy that I decided to do this, it hasn’t been easy, and I know there are many things I need to learn to deal with and to live with being happy and alcohol-free. But it is so worth it, to wake up every day without regretting what I did or said. People keep telling me I’m looking so well… the three stone can wait because I’ve got my life to live and I’ll say in honesty I was not living for a long time.



I have been worried about and ‘meaning’ to stop drinking for over ten years.  I have long felt it is something that has a control over me but at the same time I have held tight to a vision in my head of me without wine – a much healthier, happier person – but I just couldn’t get there on my own no matter how hard I tried.  I started this process with Sarah thinking that she might be able to help, but I didn’t appreciate how powerful and quick the results would be.  I thought I would stay off alcohol for 6 weeks, because I had promised her that I would, but that it would be a constant struggle and that I would secretly be waiting for the end of the 6 weeks so I could start drinking again.  I can only describe what I actually feel now as a weight that has been lifted from my shoulders.  The penny has finally dropped – I don’t have to drink, I don’t want to drink, and I believe that will never drink again.  Most importantly I won’t miss it at all, not for a second.  I have socialised more than ever since I became sober and life has been so much better than ever before.  I feel alive, happy, healthy and real; there is no more remorse and there is no more regret.  This method of help is perfect for women who don’t want to treated like ‘addicts’, but who need understanding, help and support to put down that bottle of wine and see it for what it is. I really feel as if I have been handed a passport to freedom.  It has changed my life, perhaps even saved it and I thank god for the day I picked up the phone to ask Sarah for help.


You are the first person who really understood.

You are always on my team even when I sometimes struggled to keep alcohol free.

You always gave me such encouragement when I was faltering.

You acknowledged that it was ‘probably’ one of the most difficult things I was going to do, never belittling my efforts.

You are an inspiration!

If I had been drinking, as I would definitely have been doing on a Friday night after a fraught week in a new job –

I would not have

had the energy or been ‘bothered’ to answer your email,

been able to comfort an old school friend on the recent loss of her mother,

had the inclination to cook a Thai curry in preparation for friends who are coming to lunch on Sunday.

I would have

been slumped in front of the TV – my mind in ga-ga land.

I remind myself each morning that if I have had a bad night’s sleep, think how much worse I would have felt if I had also had a bottle [or more] of wine as well…..  I can cope with just being tired, but not with a paranoid hangover!



I have been trying to give up alcohol for coming up a year,  I initially started with a week here and there back in 2012 and I also did the full 31 days of dry January (obviously rewarded myself with alcohol following this). I managed up to 3 weeks in 2013 but would always go back to my old habits, which by April of this year was well into 140 units a week, sometimes even up to 200 depending on what I was doing on a weekend.  I was miserable, scared for my health, God only knows how I managed work and my family and each day I was consumed with guilt and remorse.

It took me a little while to decide if I should contact Sarah as I really didn’t want to give up the notion of drinking for ever.  Then after a particularly heavy weekend and consuming copious amounts of alcohol I decided that if I wanted to live a better way of life – or indeed live at all I needed to get help and give up for good. I have in the past considered AA and am still not adverse to the notion of it, however it never fit into my lifestyle and alongside the type of work I do I never felt that it was the right thing for me.  I never discussed my drinking with my GP as I didn’t want it going down on my notes so for too long I never sought help. So the decision to contact Sarah was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Sarah’s service is unique in that it is tailored to your own needs and drinking patterns, The counselling starts with Sarah taking some details of your drinking patterns and history and then you will be offered an initial meeting.  This allows for you both to meet and get to know each other and the service that she offers.  You are not expected to bare you soul or talk about anything that you do not feel comfortable with, however Sarah is so effective at making you feel at ease that you build up such a firm working relationship that if needed you will feel safe in talking with her issues that may be upsetting

You will contact Sarah each and every day for 6 weeks and you will meet up on a regular basis. The daily contact allows you to express, or vent how you are doing and where you are in your recovery, plus you take ownership of your drinking – something that I had never done.   On the bad days Sarah will intervene and offer increased support. I am just coming to the end of my 6 weeks and cannot express how grateful I am to Sarah and the service that she offers and thank God that I found her service.   I am almost 6 weeks sober, I feel strong, stable and in such a better place. I feel more confident and more importantly I can now vision a future without alcohol – something that I could not do before.    I would strongly advise other women to seek help, and if you do not want to go to the other more standard alcohol agencies out there then please contact the Harrogate Sanctuary for some advice.  Sarah is so honest and open and will answer all of your questions and fears.

Good luck to you all and your journey to sobriety.



I think what helped me was being able to be honest with you about my drinking. Knowing I could tell you everything about my behaviour whilst drinking and knowing you wouldn’t be judgemental was very important. I think even if you have a supportive and loving partner, they are often upset and/or angry and often can’t understand the problem us boozers have.
I also think it helped me to be reminded that being drunk and falling over isn’t a good look for a woman in her 40’s. You never made me feel bad but I think when our friends don’t truly know the problems we have, they see these incidents as ‘one off’s .

I know I never want to go back to how I was. My children and my health are my main inspiration.



As a middle class, middle aged  Psychologist  there was nowhere to turn as far as I was concerned with a 15 year drinking career under my belt, one would have thought that I would been able to access appropriate care.

This was not the case, but eventually found the professional help that showed a different way. This was a positive approach, which left the negative and disease model of dependent drinking back in the last century.  I was shown that there was no need to berate myself with hopelessness and the belief that I had an incurable disease. Sarah is unique, niche and has completely nailed this.

Even though to the outsider looking in, I had everything, the fact of the matter was my drinking was a concern, and I knew, left to fester, that it would begin to take its toll, and I would suffer consequences.

What I have learned over the last two months of sobriety, is to above all else, to place value on myself, to not feel guilty about self-indulgence and not to self-harm with wine. That out of 24 hours in a day, there was only ever one hour where I affected a buzz or relief from a problem, that only lead to another 23 hours of abject misery and regret, and time wasted dwelling on the growing habitual drinking.

I have been able to unburden by writing my thoughts down, on a daily basis, for then they are out and are tangible rather than internalizing and then quite forgetting why I had self-medicated in the first place.

I will always have problems and issues to face, they will never go away, but I do not need to make them any worse with drinking, inevitably that is what used to happen, blowing them out of all proportion. Non-drinkers deal with ‘stuff’, and so shall I.

My thought process is clear and sharp, my precious intuition is restored.

I am no longer drinking on old painful memories. They are done, nothing will change that, I have no desire to keep hurting myself with them. Being able to off load, I have concentrated on wellness, have been given good advice on nutrition and how the alcohol had depleted my reserves, what to do if cravings surfaced, it all of course made sense once I had thrown away the cloak of denial and defensiveness. I got honest.

Now I know what it feel like to be totally AF, not an ex drinker or ex alcoholic just a woman who has dealt with a potentially life threatening illness and moved on, with no reason to ever re-visit the subject, my future is exciting and adventurous, with spontaneity restored, and life being lived, I have no time to waste!



Sorry if I sound a little smug, but I just can’t help feeling very pleased with myself 🙂 3 months sober and counting, is why!  After heavy boozing for years and trying every tactic to cut down – Antabuse, AA, counselling, 3 months off… I knew I didn’t want to turn 50 and still be consumed with self-loathing every day, because I kept failing to control my drinking. I signed up with Harrogate Sanctuary on 6th May for 6 weeks continuous support. This included daily contact at any time of day, either by email or phone/text.  It was a very personal and private kind of care.  I didn’t have to do anything but keep in daily contact and not lie about my drinking.  Yes, I did want to drink during the pull of the psychological withdrawal, but worked this through with Sarah in the moment.  Yes, I did want immediate results and to understand why I was feeling depressed and not happy, but worked this through with Sarah in the moment.  I’ve been running solo now for over two months and the techniques I learned with Sarah have kept me strong.  Sarah still keeps in contact and I know she’s there for me if I need her.  For those of you who are struggling to stop or cut down, I recommend Harrogate Sanctuary as a way of getting support as well as understanding the process you are going through – as you go through it.  I entered my 50th decade proud and pleased and I haven’t had that self-loathing feeling for 3 months and counting.  It’s a much better life to be living.


Client Thank You

Thank you for finding ME

Thank you for not losing me

Thank you for being honest

Thank you for being funny and serious

Thank you for not being judgemental

Thank you for caring about me

Thank you for telling me the facts

Thank you for not sugar coating it

Thank you for keeping going with me

Thank you for being beside me

Thank you for being behind me

Thank you for being above me

Thank you for being below me

Thank you for holding me and…

Thank you for continuing to hold me every time I fall

Thank you for HEARING my story

Thank you for sharing your story

Thank you for listening over & over

Thank you for doing all you do for others

Thank you for all you do for me

Thank you for all the insights

Thank you for the ideas and the tactics

Thank you for your belief in me

Thank you for giving me the confidence to believe in myself

Thank you for seeing beyond the addiction

Thank you for connecting with the person I am

Thank you for believing I can do this

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.



Alcohol Can Be Terminal

Women and wine time sounds so last year, doesn’t it? Dated and almost twee.

It’s nearly ten years since The Sober Revolution was published, and the near smugness of the way things were then with secret drinking and slogans like W.I.N.O.S Women in Need of Sanity, made women and wine normal and completely acceptable. Times have changed, there is more openness and less stigma, I hope in some part due to books like mine and Lucy Rocca’s, and others that followed. However, during and after the pandemic data shows alcohol related deaths rose. The quippish wine time slogans became very unfunny because the real reason for drinking too much was to try and self-medicate our depression and anxiety, the vicious circle trapped us with that misguided belief. People we drinking to cope, there was no chance of being social with it. Many became very lonely and bored, the one constant with alcohol bought in copious amounts online, is that it is everywhere and available, never lets someone down who is dependent on it.  Supermarkets and couriers did a roaring trade.

Drinking misuse is terminal. Alcoholism is a one-way ticket to certain death, directly or indirectly, via heart and liver disease, obesity, malnutrition, brain damage, a plethora of organ failures and cancer. There virtually no part of us that the toxicity does not makes its mark.

I know all about rock bottom, hit it so heavily, it is no exaggeration that was almost miraculous that I survived. There was no one event which horrified me so much that I had to stop, not obliterated after a good night out and ambulanced to A & E. I was subversive and hidden but had a series of dangerous levels of destruction. I was determined with my screwed mental health to end the nightmare of having to drink to function. I didn’t want to function, I wanted to blank everything out, and death was the ultimate answer to that. Absolute intent.  I didn’t have enough energy to jump off a bridge, but I knew alcohol would kill me if I tried hard enough whilst I languished on the sofa, floor, bed if I could get upstairs or in a bath. Whatever I made public in my book, was only a peephole to what happened to me with the insidious drug that is marketed so very well.

Anyway, it didn’t. I am one of the miniscule numbers who do survive such abuse without any serious permanent damage.

We are living longer, but not living well. Most of us take no notice of slight changes with ageing, until bits of us stop working. When we drink, we use avoidance tactics with the GP, the gateway to referral, and at my age the incidence of underlying health issues, prescription drugs, disabling conditions are common, let alone the mental health problems this crisis riddled world is leading us into. More than ever, we need to be sharp and aware.

Every cigarette packet has the warning that smoking can kill you. Alcohol now surpasses tobacco. Whether you are choosing this as an end destination like I was or pretending it’s fun and makes you well, you, take a moment to remember it’s not a substance you would give to a child, or a dog for that matter. Try to aim for a life that has quality, promise and hope.

You are stronger than you think.

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!