Posts

Jane’s Testimonial

I contacted Harrogate Sanctuary in the middle of the night as I had hit rock bottom with my drinking, and I was feeling both physically and mentally exhausted.  On average I was drinking two bottle of wine a night, seven nights a week.  Every morning I would wake up and say to myself I would not consume any wine that night.  However, by the afternoon I had deluded myself and so “one more night isn’t going to hurt” became a never ending cycle which I could not break.  With this came shame the next morning that I had given in yet again to alcohol.

Sarah contacted me the very next morning, and after an insightful ice breaker meeting I booked a start date for  the Six Week programme began.  She was the first person I have been truly honest with about my drinking and the effect it was having on family life.  She showed real empathy and was not judgemental in the least.  By opening up to Sarah it felt a huge weight had been taken from my shoulders.  She gave me practical ways to deal with the alcohol cravings so I would not give in to alcohol and she was always on the end of the phone if I needed her.

Sarah is passionate about helping women who need help with their drinking habits. She has a wealth of knowledge on how alcohol is so devastating for you and your family.  No matter what I asked her she always had the answer for me.  She has become a friend rather than a counsellor and I will be forever grateful to her.

 I have tried every kind of counselling and therapy out there to help me with my alcohol consumption and was pleading for help from my GP as I could see I was in a spiral of self-destruction.  None of them could help me!  Sarah did, and still does on our maintenance programme, a safety net in these early days of sobriety, which is such a bonus.

I am in a much better place both mentally and physically without alcohol.  I no longer get to that time in the night where I see wine as a reward, quite the opposite, as I am more productive, which means I worry less about the things I have not got done on my “To Do” list.  I sleep like a baby every night and my physical exercise has improved as I now have the energy to get out there and do my daily 10,000 steps if not more, and there is no more procrastination.

I highly recommend Sarah for anyone who are struggling with alcohol.  She has been my saviour.

Jane

Thinking Drinking, Even When Asleep

When we are habitual drinkers, habitual being the operative word, whether we plan to drink daily, every other day or weekends only, the rest of the day is spent thinking about our drinking. This also can happen even in our sleep. We are all very aware of the 3ish wake up, parched, not consciously wanting a drink, but in fact are brains are craving it, especially when we are in a constant topping up mode, and stumbling to the bathroom dreading the morning light.

But we also have dreams, and these are full of anxiety situations, and often we dream about the fallout from our drinking. The ugly juice never leaves us alone. Even when we stop, in the early days there are vivid ones, of being drunk. I remember waking up crying convinced that I had hidden some bottles in my wellies, and did go downstairs to check. I can laugh now, but at the time I was terrified that the whole bloody cycle had started again.

Habitual drinking seems fairly harmless, it has been normalised to drink a bottle of wine a night, after all it’s ‘only’ 3 glasses of the bucket variety , the tolerance allows it at this plateau stage. The constant pecking of shall I or shan’t I, no I won’t yes I will, (but it will be only one) is exhausting, and we long to turn off this perpetual thought pattern. Not everyone wants to go sober, but I am sure that lots would like to not have this droning on and have some peace from the whole merry-go-round. Alcohol occupies us.

A Husband’s Story

I’ve never written anything like this, nor have I been on a journey like this before.

So where do I start?

I’ve known for many years that my wife has a problem with alcohol, but it’s only in the last 12-18 months that I’ve realised the extent of the issue.

I’ve gone from love to hatred of my wife and everything in between during that time.  There have been lots of lies deception and false promises.  Whilst she’s sought help, it’s been purely because I begged her to,  and not because she’s admitted the problem.

But what about me?  What about our kids?  Where’s the help for them?

There’s very little information on the internet, helplines, NHS or mainstream agencies.  The focus is always on the alcoholic; nothing for the ‘victims’, those that truly suffer the fallout of alcohol misuse.

I’m well educated, switched-on, modern kind of guy…but I simply didn’t have the tools, knowledge or mental strength to deal with an alcoholic, abusive wife.  On the recommendation of a friend, I approached Sarah at Harrogate Sanctuary.  Whilst my journey has resulted in divorce, I recognise that everyone’s outcome will be different.  For me, there was no going back.

As a ‘victim’ of an alcoholic, I’ve been through pretty much every emotion imaginable.  It’s tiring, draining, you have anger, self-doubt, fear and uncertainty.

You question:

  • Is it my fault?
  • Have I allowed this to happen?
  • What do I do when my wife falls off the wagon?
  • Why do I feel like this?
  • When did it all start?
  • Why did it all start?

I spent an incredibly rewarding, informative and educational 6-weeks with Sarah, who has helped me understand these emotions and questions.  Some very difficult decisions have been made during our time,  but speaking to Sarah has allowed me clarity of thought and understanding.

Being colloquial, I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on my worst enemy.  There is no shame in asking for help, and Harrogate Sanctuary has been absolutely brilliant.

Sobriety & Emotional Hygiene

We have all been zealous in our quest to stay as safe as we can during and after the pandemic, all the different companies that deal in cleaning products and santizers have jumped on this band wagon.

But what of our mental health hygiene? There are no lotions or potions that will kill 99.9% of harmful toxins with that. Of course there is a very quick fix with a bottle of herb infused disinfectant, not so with our brains. When we stop drinking there is a real impasse, a plateau of… is this it? Unless we are aware that the contentment party has only just started with stopping drinking we will stay on a very difficult plateau, that does not allow us to reward ourselves with the dopamine hit that was such a trickster with booze. The most important lesson is to keep our expectations manageable. The doomsville tribe will always tell us that once an addict, always an addict, referring to us always having alcohol in our sights as our weapon of choice. Given our enthusiasm for the bad stuff, we can also reboot and use that incredible determination for doing ourselves a whole heap of good, and I show clients how to flip this switch.

It does take patience, time, and a great deal of digging deep. The Sanctuary works with the background noise, the chatter we all had and tried so hard to shut up by harming ourselves, with the realisation that we all need to resolve this self doubt, fear and unworthiness to become intoxicated with who we are rather than comparing ourselves to others and ignoring that we were bloody fabulous in the first place.

I don’t offer a quick fix, but I do offer an understanding of why we became so entrapped in the first place.

Sanctuary Solutions Programme – Family Matters

Over many years of using The Sanctuary Six Week Programme to treat clients with alcohol dependence, I am now seeing that there has been a dramatic change in lifestyles. The pandemic made the family dynamic much more in focus, and often with negative consequences. On top of that, because of circumstances home drinking has increased, and in my opinion, this will continue to be the norm. It’s not only the fear of infection or even having the get up and go to make the effort, but also the huge financial cost of a night out. Although the prices of food and fuel are going up, alcohol remains cheap, affordable in supermarkets considered to be an essential part of the weekly shop. I would like to say this has been organic, but that sounds too clean and positive. Many restaurants, bars and clubs will tell you that even with all the restrictions lifted, business will not be the same as pre pandemic for many moons to come.

The Sanctuary has formulated a new programme, post pandemic. This takes all that lies behind the drinking, and piece by piece begins to put it into order. Chaos of the mind lets alcohol take control. Rather than starting with the drinking, we are finding solutions that caused it in the first place. This centres on the use of alcohol in the home, not on a night out. The main aim is to reduce harms, to oneself and others.

Our Six Week Programme is still an option, where we concentrate one to one with calling time, the Sanctuary Solution Programme involves not only the person who drinks too much, but those who are within their family. It may seem complex, but it makes sense quite simply by getting behind the scenes and giving confidence to clients to be able to talk and communicate about the reasons behind the misuse, giving understanding and joining up families through openness, kindness and realising a joint enterprise approach can be very powerful. Family matters more than ever

My Way Ahead with Harrogate Sanctuary

I was at the bottom of the heap buried in guilt, shame and failed promises to myself to stop drinking. Of course I DID NOT have a problem – I just relied a little too much ‘sometimes’ on wine and gin in the evenings to get me through a difficult day. I went through a divorce (fuelled by those ‘odd’ glasses of wine and gin) to smooth my pain and loss and the fury and hurt of my two children. But I was OK. I was going to the gym, building a new business, looking after my teenage boys – I was strong and powerful and nothing was that wrong provided I had the ‘odd’ glass of wine or the white stuff to help me through. Sometimes I drove when I shouldn’t have – I needed to get the boys from A to B and they began to realise and ask awkward questions like ‘how much have you had to drink?’ Evenings were tricky – they knew not to ask for lifts but I was drinking from the moment I got up in the morning so I wasn’t safe at any time.

The ‘odd’ glass became a couple or more bottles daily and I had to go out each day to fuel the craving – I never allowed myself to go and buy crates of alcohol because, well, honestly I didn’t drink that much did I? If I did buy a crate of six it was gone in two days – having to go out daily meant I had to slow down. I just needed the ‘odd’ bottle from time to time but it was a real pain to have enough supplies every day. I had to plan on which days I would go to the convenience store where they knew me and would know how much booze I bought and when I went further afield to the anonymous big supermarkets – although even there I got to know the assistants who needed to come and ‘clear my booze’ and ‘verify my age’ – about which we always joked. Increasingly I had to get rid of empties in the public waste bins at the bottom of the street – too ashamed to fill up my own recycling bin. Turning round furtively to see who might be behind me as I dumped my noisy bottles in case it was a neighbour I knew – or one of my boys.

I will stop soon I told myself. I tried to stop and I would manage for a day or so – joy! Then I could drink again because ‘I knew I could do it’. But I also I knew as I got older my body was less resilient and less able to heal but I still had time I thought. I was only in my 60s. I had some medical investigations around alcohol (utter shame but mandated by my GP) – the state of my liver and blood count. I was on meds for high blood pressure. The consultants said things were not critical but I was warned that they would become so soon and I should drastically reduce my alcohol consumption. Soon? So when was that? Not yet. Not tomorrow. Just get through the next hurdle and then I would stop. Of course I was totally in control.

I did acknowledge that things were not great – I told a few very close friends in quiet desperation but they seemed quickly to forget I had ever said anything and had no issues themselves so I thought well this can’t be that bad. I tried AA several times but I did not meet like-minded people of my age, gender and situation; I did not relate to the framework, the premise of the recovery programme nor the structure of the meetings (although individual people there were very kind and welcoming). I was terrified of meeting people I might know in my local meetings or – even worse – patients I was working with on other issues. It felt risky and exposed and anyway everyone celebrated their sobriety of hundreds of days, months and years but I had to have a vodka just to get to the meeting and a few when I got home to get over it.

I knew my sons were increasingly concerned but I felt helpless. Then one of them told me about Sarah Turner and her programme. He had heard it from a friend of his – I didn’t ask how or why but I was intrigued. Here was a personal programme – perhaps I could even be totally honest about my drinking in the way I had never been with doctors or even AA? But what would she ask of me and how could she help where I myself had failed so often? Could I allow her into my private world and help override my own rigid structures and mind games? I was on holiday away from work and other stresses. I called her. That was the beginning of the most amazing journey that I am still travelling.

I understood I needed to stop drinking, at least for a while. Not ‘give up’ or deprive myself – just stop for now. This was not about an occasional or weekly or weekend drinking – I needed to STOP and clear my body and mind of the effects of alcohol. Sarah is incredibly knowledgeable about the physical effects of doing so after drinking heavily for so long and what happens to the body and how to begin the healing process. We discussed many aspects of my diet and appropriate antidotes and supplements to reverse what I have done to my body through alcohol – not to put me on a myriad of pills but to explain where I have depleted essential nutrients and how to replenish those in a healthy way. She did this with a very through personal discussion about my health and my experiences of operations and illnesses – so that I felt I was getting a tailored and sensitive analysis that would work for me – rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Most importantly Sarah was not judgemental in any way – just endlessly supportive, practical, focused and firm. She enabled me to be honest. She asked the really difficult questions and took on board the answers without widening her eyes or sharp intakes of breath. I realised she had been here before many times. I was not a monster nor a failure – I was someone with a disease who had been ill for a long time but this is a disease that is treatable and of which many of the adverse effects can be contained (if it has not gone too far). I felt throughout that she was on my side. I made a lot of strides in stopping drinking in the early days of her programme but I also fell back into it for various reasons or for no reasons at all for a day, a weekend or a week. She encouraged me to tell her honestly day by day how it was going, how I was feeling, what I was achieving, what was really difficult and what else was going on in my life. She helped me make connections with drinking and the good stuff and bad stuff I was experiencing in day to day life. Really importantly she was honest that the bad stuff in my life would not go away but it could be managed (much more effectively) without being drunk. She offered reality and honesty not a fairy tale nirvana. Her insights were extraordinary. She helped me look forward and back. She shone a light on stuff I was burying at the back of my cupboards along with the empty bottles. Once I lied to her to avoid the shame and she figured it out pretty quickly – not at all in a judgemental way but in an understanding but firm realisation that our connection had been ruptured in some way and needed to be re-set. Amazing mindful connection! I realised there was no point in lying – I would get a lot more guidance and help and useful input if I was honest when I had failed than pretending I was perfect and just needed praise that sat so heavily if it was based on a lie.

I have not yet conquered this beast. I am in the midst of my healing process but I truly do believe that with Sarah’s help I am on my way. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done and I realise how drink is promoted so heavily within our culture at all levels not only as “norm” but as fun, sexy, interesting, racy, adult and so on. Sarah is not just a health professional delivering an antidote to a horrible disease. She listens to the ups and downs of my life and understands implicitly how that relates to my use and craving for alcohol at certain times. She never judges – but that does not mean I get away with stuff – because she always questions and takes me to a new understanding of why I have done what I have done and how I might respond differently another time. She is uniquely insightful given her long experience with this drug – personally and professionally. I feel understood and helped in a way I so desperately needed. I had thought I would find that in alcohol. She has insight, humour, understanding and empathy and is available in a much more open way than any professional I have encountered in this field.

I wish I had never got to this point. I hate what alcohol has done to me. I hate my weakness in succumbing to this disease. I hate what I have done to my family and friends and to my body which is the only one I have. But Sarah has helped me to heal – to soften the self-hate – to minimise the crippling shame – to look to the future and to see that I CAN find confidence and pride in myself again in a world without alcohol to prop me up and bring me down. I feel like I owe to her massively this portion of my life and my future.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

It will be totally different for everyone (and that is what Sarah intimately understands but these are some of the core elements of working with her that I think are helping me):

Total honesty and zero judgement. I never told any medical professional nor anyone else honestly how much I was drinking because I feared the dire consequences that I could not face and I felt they could not understand. Someone telling me to stop is useless. If that is all it took, I would have done that years ago…

Empathy and attempting a real in-depth understanding of who I am and why I drink and what it does for me. Helping me to face the positives I get from drinking and what are the negatives. No punishment –just curiosity and pointing out what happens when I drink. Helping me to think about how it feels when I wobble and drink again. What did it achieve? Why did I do it? How did it feel? Quickly I see how utterly useless it is and why it achieved nothing for my enjoyment of an event even if I go ahead and do it again.

No orders to STOP. I can go on drinking myself to death if I choose. My end goal is my own – not Sarah’s. It is my choice and my responsibility and not hers. I can’t lay it on her if I fail. It is crucially important that she does not profess to hold the responsibility – what I do in my time and to my body is my own choice. It is both harder and easier. And I learn to be humble and honest instead of boasting to her how great I have been. And she never punishes because what on earth would that achieve for either of us?

On going contact and support. I started with a six week programme – I did ok (much better than I expected) but it was very hard and when we reduced contact I fell off the wagon. Sarah picked this up instantly and we went back to a greater level of ongoing contact – I clearly wasn’t yet ready to stand alone without support. Again no judgement or criticism – only empathy , support and unending encouragement. I am still struggling but I can honestly say I am much further along and I do feel I hold the key – I just still shut the box sometimes, I forget I have the key and I forget to turn it sometimes to the life outside that black box. I still forgo the sunshine but I can feel its warmth.

Interaction and personal interest Sarah wanted to know all about my life and my family and how that impacted on my drinking. She got to know us all – my family and friends, my journey to a new professional career at the age of 60, the sad history of my divorce, my life now with my wonderful boys and my experiences of loneliness, ageing and wondering about my future. She had an uncanny knack of seeing where things were going wrong or right and I felt she was truly invested in me as a person not just another sad drunken client. She also readily shared some aspects of her life, work and her previous experiences so she was real to me and engaged with me. It felt like we were friends and not just a medical professional and a miserable failure of a client. I also felt that she really knew and understood my struggles – she had been there and was working with others who were struggling. I was not alone.

My future –helping me to think ahead and plan for a life without alcohol. Sarah helps me to think about ways to navigate social occasions (Christmas, New Year, parties, dinners out etc). I went through Christmas and New Year 2021 without a drop of alcohol and I had a ball! At her suggestion I did a 10 year plan (very scary!) and I started a journal. I learned how I could speak to others about my choices and handle their reactions. I am encouraged to think about my priorities and my goals. I learned to bring my beloved sons back into my life of recovery rather than into one of disease and sickness. I started to realise I could actually think OUTSIDE the alcohol wine box.

I am not there yet. This is a very, very difficult road for me. However, for the first time since I realised my drinking was dangerously out of control, I carry within myself the hope that I can do this – that I can stop alcohol being any part of my life and that I do not need it in order to be the person I want to be. Sarah has shown me all of that – she cannot work the magic for me (I wish!!) but she has shown me the way and supported me so strongly and so gently.

Anne’s Testimonial

Sarah provides exceptional treatment & service, this is about so much more than drinking too much. My lifestyle has changed dramatically, and there was no guilt or shame that I had experienced from other methods. I was never powerless, quite the opposite, I simply didn’t have any real value on myself, and put way too much emphasis on what others felt or thought. My wellbeing seemed to depend on them.

Now I am resilient, self motivated and resourceful, have also disconnected with most of my social media, it was too toxic for me, comparisons abounded, and that was not healthy.

Sarah has also made me look at my Company, and how I can improve productivity within my work force, which has not only been affected by my drinking, but also by their own. There will not be a hidden agenda with this subject again, all other mental health issues are encouraged to be talked about, alcohol dependence is now on that list.

Superb programmes that suit all demographics.

Harrogate Sanctuary is authentic and original, Sarah is individual and remarkably perceptive.

Ashley’s Testimonial

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 cant 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 – (Sometimes we all need a good bit of old fashioned love it’s one of the things that we have been missing for a long time) – 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.

Ashley.

Vivienne’s Testimonial

I had met a lady months before who said that she had stopped drinking with the help of Harrogate Sanctuary,  I dismissed it then, but last September I got in touch with Sarah in readiness for Sober October, my OCD personality always wanted a plan, and I had lost it with my wine habit. With her help and support I have been sober for over a year, and feel wonderful. Life is not a bowl of cherries, but at least I can remember it, and once I had admitted that I had a problem, I was amazed at the amount of support I got. As a Mother, wife and business owner being a heavy drinker is guilt ridden and frightening, and I do miss somehow the ritual of it, and delusions of having a cosy evening with a glass of wine on an Autumn evening in front of the log fire but now have the tools to counter any kind of temptation, addressing what was happening behind the scenes with me rather than only talking about my drinking was life changing. Another bonus is that I have more than £3,000.00 in the kitty by putting away the money I would have spent in my No Longer Sloshed Account and counting….