A FORMER shopping addict who found solace in a Warwickshire animal sanctuary is hoping to help others in the same way.
Author and speaker Sharon Bull made national headlines last year when she spoke out about her struggle with mental health which lead to her addiction and plunged her into some £50,000 of debt.
The 57-year-old, who helps promote the Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary (FARS) in Wolverton, said when she finally faced up to her habit – after she was forced to give up her home – nature helped her cope.
She added: “It’s generally said sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you realise your purpose. It’s not been easy. It’s been a difficult and slow process.
“I had to fill the void the addiction left, but rekindling my childhood passions – animals, nature and writing helped to replace my old lifestyle habits.”
Sharon told the Observer how befriending a swan, who regularly tugged on her sleeve for food, rekindled her love for wildlife.
The former sales executive wrote about overcoming her depression and anxiety, which struck after she left school, in her book Stripped Bare.
Her research into the healing power of animals lead her to FARS owned by Carol Webb, where she enjoys spending time with the some 400 sheep including her favourite Joey, who was rescued from slaughter.
She said: “He is a clever, handsome and a very loving young ram. He knows his name and loves meeting sanctuary visitors.
“Animals hold no resentment, no matter how badly they have been treated.
“They feel all the emotions we feel and they certainly feel fear, but they don’t stress about a situation for months, or years after like us.
“Animals are also calming to be with. I have loved farm animals, particularly lambs and sheep since being a little girl.
“When I visit FARS, it’s better than any of my past expensive spa days.”
And now Sharon is hoping to organise open days for youngsters to spend time with the animals.
She added: “My ultimate goal has always been to reconnect children – particularly the disadvantaged and vulnerable – with animals and nature.
“Carole and I are looking to work together over the coming months to encourage investors to fund the sanctuary, so that we can make it, not only a haven for the animals, but a place children can find solace too.
“The idea is not only for the children to spend time with the animals, but part of the visit will be educational too. Children will be guided by experts about compassion and kindness towards the animals, each other and themselves.”
Visit www.acompassionatevoice.co.uk for more information about Sharon and her work.
And go to www.farmanimalrescue.org.uk for more details on FARS and how to donate.