Tell us a little bit about you
I come from a scientific background. Worked in science for 35 years, until my alcohol addiction started to control my life. So I lost everything to my addiction. Until I found the 3 principles, and suddenly my life has transformed to something where I'm physically and mentally fittest I've ever been.
Just from the learning of the 3 principles, And it was that simple, and it's a miracle that I'm sitting here today well happy.
I always wanted more in life. Wanted a better job, wanted more money, bigger house. And I have nothing more than I had 20 years ago. I am so happy with what I've got. My little dog, and my little house that I've always had.
I'm ready to spread my wings and share this story. The 3 principles, and how it transformed my life. Really, that's what I want to do now. Because there's a real freedom from addiction, mental health issues, terrible depression and anxiety.
What was going on for you before?
I was very apprehensive, anxious child. At the age of 5 - my Mum had told me that she didn't want me, and she tried to abort me. And I can still remember that day. I came from a family that were big drinkers. And I was actually at my Mum and Dad's party when that was said in front of a group of people.
“The first time I got drunk, and I was 5.”
And after that, I think I thought I never fitted in. Because my Mum and Dad didn't want me. I had an older sister, an older brother. So to me, I was the oddball. And I said to my Mum in later life, "You said that awful thing when I was 5." And she said, "Well I meant it. Because I had my boy and my girl, and I didn't want another baby in my life."
I struggled a lot as a youngster, through my whole of my childhood. And I just wanted to fit in and be liked. And so at an early age, I did start using alcohol to give me what I thought was the confidence I needed to get on and be accepted. I went to college after I left school, and studied science - physics, biology and chemistry - and got a good career in the science industry.
And then I was a heavy social drinker, I would say. I always drunk more than anyone else. It would be 7 nights a week, and then weekends it would be every lunch time. If I had a dreadful hangover - if I had a few drinks, the hangover would dissipate. Hair of the dog was the thing for me.
I can only see now that I was always trying to fix a feeling. I was told in the treatment centres I've been in, that I was born with the disease of alcoholism. And I believed it. Believed it for 15 years I've been told that "You will always be an alcoholic. You will always be an addict."
I had this career in science, and I was happy in my job, and I had a lovely boyfriend and happy family around me. But I still never felt like I fitted in, even in social situations. Or at work, I wanted to be better and more popular. And I used alcohol for that all the time, all the time. But it didn't affect my career. It didn't affect my relationships at that time.
In 2000 my father went for a triple bypass operation, and he was my world. I was very close to my dad. He had a stroke on the operating table, and came out more or less a vegetable at that stage. It was shocking. I can actually remember not wanting to go in and visit him in hospital, because of the fear and the upset and the anxiety.
And I thought, "I've got to fix this before I get in." I've driven there to Oxford, and I actually had a bottle of wine in my car. I thought, "Well if I drink this now, by the time I get into my dad, I'll have the feeling of dis-ease will have gone." And that's what I've come to realise now
“I wasn't born with a disease of alcoholism. ….I wanted to fix the feeling of dis-ease”.
The same time as my father having this stroke, I broke up from a relationship that I'd been in for 10 years, because I wanted children and he didn't. I also took voluntary redundancy from the job I'd been in for 16 years. So an awful lot happened all at once. And it just seemed to escalate my drinking I was drinking more. I was drinking earlier in the day. Until it started to take things away from me.
So I started drinking at lunchtimes. Because I'd got a new job in a public boys school. Very, very good school. And I was actually lonely and very sad, and suffering with extreme anxiety. And what I didn't realise at the time, was the alcohol was causing a lot of that anxiety. And I just thought it was my life.
So I can remember going for my first drink at lunchtime at work. And it removed the feeling of dis-ease. And I thought, "Well, that was quite nice. During work to have a drink. Lovely." And I'd always drink when I got home from work. Open a bottle of wine at 6 o'clock or whatever. But because I was in school hours, it started to be 4 o'clock. So the one bottle of wine every night and 5 cans of cider - turned to 2 bottles of wine a night, and the cider.
Then the drinking started first thing in the morning. Because the anxiety was huge. And I couldn't face going to work without having a bottle of wine. So I was getting up 6 in the morning, and drinking a bottle of wine before I went to work. And then continuing to work and drink, taking it in in bags, and then going to the pub at lunchtime.
The school tried to help me, got me counselling, and everything to keep me. Because for the first 2 years, I'd done a good job. But in the end, I resigned and said I couldn't go back to work. And I threw myself into AA at that time. Because I was told that if I attended AA and followed the 12 step program, that I could deal with this disease of alcoholism.
Which I did. And I started going to the meeting 3 times a week. And asking God for his forgiveness, and would he give me a sober day? And it worked. But I always knew there was a drink somewhere coming. I'd always predict and think, "Well when my father dies, of course I'll have to drink. Because it's a funeral, and I'll be sad “
“I never liked the fact that with AA that I kept dragging up my past, my drinking. Saying, "I'm an alcoholic," every day just seemed to be reaffirming it for me“
I went to a number of treatment centres. In fact, in total I went to 8 treatment centres. And spent £80 000 - that was my inheritance, on trying to manage my addiction. But every one I came out of, I was still what they call white knuckling my sobriety. "Well I'm sober now, and if I keep going to AA every night, that's the only way I will stay sober."
In 2014, I moved in with my Mum because she got breast cancer, and started the onset of dementia. I wasn't working.
“My day was just a sheer existence of hell. I'd wake at 6 in the morning, shaking from head to foot with withdrawals, anxiety, sweating”.
I'd go down into my mum's garage and start the process of drinking. Because I had to get an amount of alcohol down me to stop the shakes, and to get rid of this awful feeling - anxiety, almost like you're dying of heart attack sort of thing.
By then I'd got to neat gin. Because I was trying to get a quick fix. They always say in AA, you try and change your drinks. And I'd gone for the stronger option by this time. And I'd start vomiting and vomiting. And then drink, vomit, vomit. It was just never-ending.
And then eventually after about an hour and a half, the dis-ease would start to pass. And the anxiety would lesson. And I'd think, "Well now I can start my day." And it'd be about half past 8 by this time in the morning. And then I would wake my mum up with a cup of tea, and the day would start. But there always had to be alcohol around me hidden somewhere. 24 hours a day, unless I was sleeping – I was thinking about where the next drink was coming from, how much would I need, where would I hide it?
It was constant, because my mum knew that I drank, and she knew that I had a problem. But she hadn't got a clue about this first thing in the morning drinking. So at lunch time, I used to say to her, "Shall we have a drink now Mum?" And she'd think it was my first drink. I'd already had half a bottle of gin, if not more. But then it was okay to drink, it's acceptable to drink at 12 o'clock.
And this went on for a year. And then early in December, 2014 I was sitting in this darkened garage as usual. By this time I was very physically and mentally ill. I was mentally shot. I was seeing shadows on the walls, talking to things that weren't there. Very fearful, fearful of my own shadow. I can't explain how sad, lonely, unwell, desperate I felt. And I just looked up at I don't know what. Then it was - I called it my higher power. Because in AA you have a higher power, which you can call God. And to me, that was - I knew there was something bigger than myself out there.
And I just said, "Please help me. I can't do this anymore. I really don't want this now." And the alcohol wasn't staying down. I was vomiting, vomiting. So I couldn't get rid of this feeling of anxiety, a feeling of dis-ease. So I rang an ambulance. And the paramedic arrived and took my temperature, did a few tricks and said, "Get in my vehicle immediately." And I told him that I was a drinker, and I'd had a few drinks. And said, "Well I can't keep it down today."
He wouldn't even wait for an ambulance. I actually laughed, 'cause he put the blue lights on and put the heater on in his vehicle, I'll never forget it. And I said,
"Are you rushing to the hospital, 'cause you want your breakfast." And he said, "I'm rushing you to hospital because you're dying."
And I had no clue. I'd packed my bottle of gin in my bag, 'cause I knew they were on their way. And I thought, "Well I'll have to have some in the hospital." I'd had so many hospital detox's, so many detox's in treatment centres. I'd subsequently found out that I had acidosis and hyperthermia, and that all of my organs were shutting down.
I came out of there and put myself into my last treatment centre in Southampton. Which - for treatment centres, it was a very good one. They treated me as a human being - and not as an addict, as a hateful person that they made you feel in the majority - all of the others that I'd been in. I was treated like a human being that needed help.
I was in there for a month. I needed 2 full weeks of detox. Because after a week, I still couldn't walk. I had what they call the broad gait walk. And the psychiatrist said, "You were too - so physically addicted, I've got to put you straight back onto detox for another week." My liver was absolutely shot. The damage - luckily I haven't got cirrhosis of the liver. I was very lucky with that.
So I left there - again with the same thinking.
"Well, I'll have to throw myself into AA again and white knuckle it for the rest of my life as an alcoholic in recovery."
Which I did. I came home, threw myself into AA. And started doing the steps, with a sponsor. And I was doing all of the suggested things.
What changed for you?
I was introduced to a lady called Jacqueline Hollows. And I was told she was a life coach. Well I'd had every type of coaching for the last 20 years - psychiatrists and counsellors and - you name it, I'd had it. But I would've done anything for someone to take away this pain and this addiction. So I met up with Jacqueline, and started seeing her once a week.
There was just something different about it. I didn't know what she was trying to talk to me about, because mainly she listened to me. She didn't have any expectations of me, or ask me to do any homework or study any steps or look at my thinking or my past - She just listened.
What I find amazing was - as I was allowed to talk and share, insights started coming to me naturally. Like, "Oh my gosh, I've just said that. Maybe that's where that behaviour came from? So I got very interested in what she was trying to do. She got me involved in the 3 principles, and gave me some books to read. And I started reading books. And then I started doing training myself. I suddenly realised that it was so simple:
I wasn't addicted to alcohol. I was addicted to trying to fix myself. And I thought I was broken.
I was told I was born broken, so I believed it. And it was the power of knowing that every feeling I ever had, had simply come from thought - and that I didn't have to act on that thought and that feeling.
At first it was difficult to sit with the feeling of dis-ease. I was frightened of it. Because I thought it would take me to another drink. But gradually I got used to sitting with that feeling, a feeling of anxiety. But it will pass. But it was like, "Oh my gosh, it's gone. Gone without a drink."
Suddenly - simple things in life were just so pleasurable. I started dealing with things that I never thought I could. I flew out to Spain on my own, and I said to everyone, "Well I can never fly without a drink, because I hate flying." And I kept everything in the moment, got onto the plane and got my seat, and looked around - and saw everything in a different light.
And thought, "Well, there's nothing I can do about it if the plane crashes. If I think about it, I'm going to get that feeling of anxiety.” I just realised that every movie I was making in my head had come from me. I could wake up and make a horror movie this morning with my thinking. Or I could make a comedy every morning in my thinking. And it was that simple.
Everything started to drop away. My resentments, my anger. The feelings that I was hard done by as a child. All of this. I thought, "Well every second of my day is a new day. Because it's a new thought, it's a new feeling, it's a new experience. So my life's starting this second. I can do whatever I want to do now. Free of my addiction. And how can I possibly be an alcoholic, because I don't drink?"
“And the most amazing thing is, I don't even think about a drink”.
If I have a feeling of dis-ease, drinking doesn't come into the equation. Which is a miracle. For 38 years I was addicted to that.
If you had to sum up the essence of your story what would it be?
"My name's Sally, and I'm not an alcoholic." Because I spent 20 years of saying, "My name is Sally, and I'm an alcoholic." And if I hadn't have come across the 3 principles, I would've been saying that till the day I died, every day of my life. And the freedom in saying,
"I'm not an addict, I'm Sally."
It's given me such opportunities. Because I always limited myself to, "Well no one will take me on, because I'm addict. No one will take me on, when they know I'm an alcoholic." I limited everything in my life. "I can't travel, because I'm an alcoholic." But I'm not. I'm a person that's got a lot to give. I've got faith in myself, and I realise that I am quite talented. I am quite a pleasant person being with sober. I wasn't really a very nice person in drink. I've got a confidence that I've never had before without a drink.
What do you see would be possible for a world with this understanding?
Possibilities are endless. Because it is so freeing, this understanding. That it would take away stigma - shame, guilt, expectations. It would bring peace to the world. It would bring endless happiness. It would free up mental health services and psychiatric units and prisons and reform people's characters. Just total freedom for people. I suppose now,
“For the first time in my life, I'm happy with me”.
I don't get lonely. I can sit at home all day and be happy with my dog. I'm not seeking anything anymore. I've got all I want in here. I have a health and well-being that I never knew I had. And huge resilience. Now I look back and think, "My God, you were resilient to put yourself through all those treatment centres and everything you've been through.
What was the big insight that understanding your mind gave you?
“Addiction is just an illusion in my thinking. Pure and simple, an illusion”.
I was never that addict. I never had to act on my thinking. Everything was an illusion. So it's just taken away the suffering. I don't suffer at all now with - I don't worry, I don't get anxious. I face everything as it comes to me. I know I can deal with it now. I've just got this confidence things will work out. - as they call it, wisdom.
How did you develop your practitioner skills of this understanding of the mind?
I went on some intensive training - EPT training, extended practitioner training with Jack Pransky. In fact, I've done 3 courses now with Jack. And a lot of reading. But I actually got the qualification in the extended practitioner training qualification last year. I've done some 3 day intensive courses at 2 addiction centres. In fact, I'm doing another one at the addiction centre that I used to attend for 20 years.
I am so excited to be going in and sharing it with them. All these counsellors have known me for 20 years, and are like, "What the heck happened to you? We want to hear this." I'm very excited about that. I've also done some work in the prison, which I loved. Absolutely love, because I feel such a bond and connection with the men. Because they were just men that made mistakes that anybody could make. And they followed their thinking, their feeling - which took them to an action. And then they're now seeing that they didn't have to follow the action anymore. It's having a huge effect on the criminal justice system.
What do you specialise in?
Addiction is my passion. If I could help one person in any area. If I could reach out to addicts out there, and say,
"There is hope. You don't need to be like this now. Let it all go. It can happen, it will happen. If you get this understanding."
Because I've got a story to tell, and people can relate to me, because I've been through it. I've got the experience.