Sarah at the Sanctuary

Sarah at the Sanctuary

The Musings of a Well Woman

Victory over Booze - So Inspiring.

With permission from this wonderful client, I think that this email I received yesterday totally encapsulates what Sacntuary women are all about. No smugness, no tambourine bashing, just freedom.

Day 42

I woke at 5 am this morning, looked around, then cried.

The tears were of utter relief and joy.  I used to think, oh God listen to that when someone spoke of a 'rebirth,' it even made me shudder and conjured up an image of the nutter with the sandwich board walking up and down the high street crapping on about Christ.

Today, on the 3rd of August 2014, at one of my favourite times of the year (my absolute favourite is Spring), I am feeling like someone new.  If i could really pat myself on the back I would.  (I'm off again and drippy nose is not the look I had envisaged for today).  Six weeks ago I was broken, plenty of shop front but knackered, old stock inside way past it's self by date rotting and stinking.

My 'friends' would rip me off for as little as a quid, had such opinions about me - shit! They knew more about me than I did!  They thought.

Well, this is not just a new broom, it's a golden broom, one that flies.  It swept and cleaned and dumped all the rubbish in a huge fire pit and now I am flying round on it,  'the new Witch Hazel'.  Sparkly and optimistic wearing a lighter suit, one with very tiny pockets so that I decide what goes in them.  they are not wide open and sagging any more ready for someone to pounce and make themselves at home before sapping me dry.

I really thought that I would have to make a positive effort to avoid these people and although I have only mentioned, when pushed, that I'm not drinking, the ones that I really could do without seem to have run for the hills in fear.   I am very flattered, the bastards knew what was inside the real me but loved to see me broken and lost, I think it's called 'Drawing attention to themselves, at the expense of someone else'.  See how they like being 'lost'.

Today I am going to take my youngest great niece to the pool, she really needs to be able to swim and I want to help her, rewind 6 weeks and by the time the pool was open it would have been time to open the wine,  No contest. Then.



Home Drinking & Self Medicating

My clients invariably are not social drinkers. They don’t go out to meet friends for a chat and a glass or two of Chardonnay, their drinking is usually at home, and most often alone. Weekdays especially.


This is not enjoyment drinking. It’s self-medication. There is no banter or sharing, purely a way of getting the hell out of Dodge, whether that is represented by unhappiness or the simple inability to break the habit. Wine is by far the easiest, if not the most devious, escape route there is. No raised eyebrows at supermarkets, you are faceless, no chance of standing out from the crowd, because most of the crowd that you know are making the same trip, to not use alcohol is unusual.

There is no seen or reported outcomes to this style of drinking. Quietly becoming stupefied in the comfort of one’s own home is de riguer for so many women over 35. Only a little later down the line physical problems may occur, but the emotional hurt and despair is rampant.

No thought goes into the process either. It’s normal. If attending a fitness class, or running a couple of miles that gives a natural high was as easy as opening a fridge door and unscrewing a bottle top, I am fairly sure that most women would do it. The buzz that way is too much effort, too inconvenient. Even if a visit to the gym has been slotted into the daily routine, more often than not, it will be followed by a couple of glasses of wine (three quarters of a bottle at 250ml a pop) to ‘relax’.

Am I saying women are lazy? No I am not. What I am saying, and I know this to be true, is that they are exhausted. Meeting the needs of their families and their work along with coping with financial stress and this endless pressure to appear to be all things to everyone has worn us down.

I listened to a great lady on Desert Island Discs on Saturday, an eminent scientist and mathematician, who was probably one of the first women I have heard admit publicly, that she could not have achieved her success if she had had children. She made a very conscious decision to put maximum effort into her work, as she said, with a driven and perfectionist personality such as hers, she would have had to have put similar effort into child rearing.

If we admit to being tired it seems to mean that we are inadequate. Being able to either zone out with alcohol, or get a quick lift from the first sip, just has become what valium was back in the 60s, Mothers little helper, without the necessity to go to the GP.

Children and work are difficult to balance, both are going to be with us for much longer than ever before. If we are lucky we are all living longer, but our responsibilities are with us for longer too. The middle aged women I see don’t drink for fun, they drink to cope, to keep up, and sadly the progressive nature of misusing alcohol is catching up in the most insidious way.


In the spirit of true liberation, whether it's from the Wine Witch or the Vodka Vipers, I have committed life and limb to a Sky Dive in support of the British Liver Trust, a charity which is very close to my heart.

Many might prefer me to jump without a parachute, but I shall be accompanied by both an expert, and apparently a video camera. In my emails to many of you I have banged on about fear being courage in action, and I am terrified, but am putting my words into practice. 


In the Declaration of Fitness which had to be obtained from my GP, it categorically states that those suffering from alcohol addiction cannot take part, so I think this is more confirmation that living life without the cage of booze simply has no boundaries, even for vintage broads like me!
So if you follow the link below to my Just Giving page to help the stellar work of the British Liver Trust, they and I would be enormously grateful for your support and kindness. We have to do whatever we can to de-stigmatise the whole subject of once drinking a bit too much, and change the taboo into a more honest and open conversation, and to show that life without alcohol is far from dull and boring!


Thank you very much, and to my clients, you are a constant inspiration to me.

Marketing & Myths Surrounding Wine O'clock


As more women are becoming alcohol free, and understanding that life, partially intoxicated by a cheeky little Pinot was really not the sparkly marshmallow world that the marketeers would have them believe, I have been making some interesting observations, and I really hope this blog will just blow away some myths.


First of all, just because supermarkets smother us with promotions and attractive pictures of how life will be if you drink, does not make it true or right.




This promotion is hardly indicative of a grocer is it? But it suggests that this enormous bottle of wine, not some crisp rocket or fresh brocolli would be the main reason you would do an online shop. Other supermarket items are just as heavy, milk, bottled water, or perhaps laundry powder. We seem to just accept that it's quite normal to encourage us to ditch any obstacle that might come in the way of home drinking and women particularly, I am sure the marketing department were not thinking of men when they came up with this image. So let's just put this into an appropriate place mentally. If you are going shopping the first thing on your mind should not be how much the wine is going to weigh, if it is then you must becoming concerned. This is not normal at all.


Secondly the constant battles that women I talk to do with their thoughts of how people will perceive them without a glass of wine in their hand. Rather than focusing on how nice it might be to meet up with old or new friends, chat about fun or serious stuff, the whole process of going out seems to focus on whether or not they will get some awful stick for not drinking alcohol. Hours can be spent getting worked up over this. If these people are really friends, what difference will it make to them whether you are imbibing or not? They like you for what you are not for how much you can drink. There is nothing dull about being able to string your words together without losing the plot, or having no recollection of what actually went on with the night or lunch. Being out of control in some quest to become more likeable is just madness. For the most part no one cares what you are drinking as long as you don't interfere with their habits, and anyone that does really isn't worth knowing. So all that time wasted on the what ifs of not drinking is just pointless.


Thoughts of being seen as a 'do gooder' really get my back up too. No disrespect to do gooders, but we are just being real without a crutch of alcohol, who should have a problem with that? None of us in my posse are trying to change the world, ban booze, but we are saying that we are quite enough without it, so now let's move on.


After 35 I am not sure where the good times come from with wine time. Most clients now drink at home, alone. Where is the fun in that? It's isolating and lonely. If your drinking revolves around socialising and being responsible, that's great, but I have not met that many women who have families and work commitments that are able to do that anymore. So they retreat into a world of sofa, tablet, teli and Pinot.


I am still amazed that so many people, especially women, are not more upfront about not drinking anymore. What's the problem? You have stopped hurting yourself, and possibly others, you are able remember everything you do, and more than likely are looking a 100 times better than you once did.

On the whole, people don't judge these days, they are all too embroiled in their own lives, why should it matter so much to others

Campaigning For A Sober Revolution

Campaigning For a Sober Revolution


Now that the Sober Revolution has been on sale for some time, and word spreads, I am really heartened by the reviews and comments that we have had from our readers. It does not come naturally to me to be 'out' there, and like so many women who once upon a time, drank too much, shaking off the shackles of both judgement and bigotry that surrounds this subject, takes a fairly thick skin sometimes, and wearing my teflon coat has not been an easy ask, most especially with media attention and speaking with the press.


I am not into self promotion, just an untiring desire to help more women become well, and also to kick start a campaign for appropriate care, not just with the Sanctuary, only one of me, but also make mainstream agencies see that clearly, that this problem rising at a rapid rate of knots year on year, that whatever is in place just is not effective. I spoke at the last Soberistas meeting on this subject on 15th March 2014, and thought that the transcript of the speech may be an interesting read for those who could not attend, and for anyone else who might be interested in brief what I would like the thrust of my Campaign to be about.


Years ago, I drank too much, I worried too much, I projected too much and now I don’t. I dealt with it all, and moved on.

For me, there is no room for self-flagellation, or what if’s, my time is concentrated on the here and now, and the exciting times ahead.

Today, is one of those exciting times. I am always inspired by women who make a stand, and most especially against anything that could potentially harm them or anyone who they love.


Soberistas has shown how huge the problem that I once had is, a hidden epidemic that we in this room have faced.


In my work, naturally confidentiality has always been key, but the more empowered The Sanctuary women become the more they are now beginning to start the BIG conversation in real time, about what was once a very toxic issue for them. Without stigma or tambourine bashing, they have overcome the fear around talking openly about their reasons for not drinking to excess anymore, and I hope as they do, that they will in turn encourage others who find themselves in the same concerned and worrying position to be able to do the same, casting aside any shame or guilt.


For after all, it was never a choice that we became so dependent on such a well marketed and dangerous, legal drug.


Wine is dressed up so adeptly as being very acceptable and glamorous.

It is also completely normalised, that for many of us, it was never considered ‘proper’ drinking until the wheels fall off, With the added easy edge, that it needs no prescription, just a grocery shop and a fridge.


Of course it is not the first time that we have been seduced. Gin was the craze in the first half of the 18th century, the Absinthe movement in the latter part of the 19th Century, and more recently, Mother's little helper Valium washed down with Gin and Dubonnet in the 60s was a favourite mix for middle class Mums. My Mother was a victim of this over prescribed prescriptive drug, trusting advice that it would make all the tragedy and angst in her life disappear, sadly the reverse was the case.

65% of my clients last year were prescribed Ads, Prozac, washed down with a cheeky little number, oblivious of the fact that their drinking totally negated the effects of the other legal drug they were taking. I am delighted to say that only 12% still take them, free of booze, a proper clinical diagnosis could be made. So in many ways history is repeating itself.

But this is a modern problem, faced by modern women, who wanted it all, and for the most part got it, except for the indisputable fact, that biologically we just are not equipped to drink like men. In everything else of course, we beat them hands down!

This BIG conversation will only start with us. Like minded women, from different backgrounds, who have had enough of the self destruct button. Without being preachy or evangelical, by playing our wellness and clarity forward, we can make a change. We do not have a rule book, or belong to a cult, but we are very obviously, savvy, intelligent, articulate women who have now got control and choice.


Methods at the Sanctuary are not mainstream, I have no time for the depressing thought that I will be burdened with a lifetime of regret. The gold standards of care that are in place today, are antiquated and inconvenient for many. What I would love you all to do, like me, is to campaign for at the very least gender specific care, and at best combine that with age specific care. To be told once you have decided to cork it, that there is a waiting list of many months is also totally unacceptable. If you broke your leg, would you allow a general practitioner to fix it? Would you not feel safer with a specialist, most especially if there was a particular nuance to your break? There is a very lackadaisical approach to alcohol misuse, borne from the legality and acceptance of this drug. There is no value in poor and ineffective care, waste of time and money. Because of the drip feed with drinking, rarely do we count the financial cost of it. We did the stats at the Sanctuary.

Last year the average saving per client, was £4674.00 per annum, and that did not include, any wild online shopping, guilt purchases or taxi fares. I have been doing a starfish impression for many years, and it’s now time, with the brilliant attitude of women like you to start to make a change. We have to be proactive, vocal and concise in the inappropriate way our once problem is handled. We need to speak with the powers that be, from GPs and upwards, we need to make bars and clubs give balance to the drinks on offer, and we we need too to tackle our supermarkets and get them to address this balance also. You are the consumer!


We have to banish the taboo, there is none with , sexuality or smoking, so why the hell are we still frightened of talking about once drinking too much? It’s insane, and the best definition of insanity provided by Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to change. We have all been there! We live in the 21st century not the dark ages.


Non drinking is attractive and glamorous, I cannot remember ever being dull and boring sober, kindly my beloved never took a picture of me at the end of my drinking career, needless to say it was far from pretty, witty or wise, which were the three things that I really thought drinking gave me. I became purely entertainment value, and then just an embarrassment. Shipwrecked on a sea of Chablis.

One of the only rules I have with my programme, is honesty, and it’s time in real life, we all got honest. No one will judge if delivery of your decision is short sharp and to the point. No more secrets and lies.


For me to be able to survive breast cancer and alcoholism was a fairly bleak prospect at one time, but not any more. I needed logic and a deep understanding of women just like me, and studied hard to be as successful as I am today. I do know that there has never been a more rewarding time and if we can keep the conversation going and growing, I’m sure you will all feel the same as I do. Empowered and inspired. As I look at you in this room today, it has to be a no brainer for you to see that you all have had enough of this hyped and insidious drug. Be the Mistresses of your own Destinies, and help others be the same.


Thank you all for your time today, and welcome to the Sober Revolution. 

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