I didn’t care much for alcohol when I began drinking—I didn’t like the feeling of being intoxicated and hated hangovers. Even at my twenty-first birthday party I remember giving away the endless flow of free drinks as I slowly sipped on a light beer. Despite this early dislike of alcohol, things took a turn for the worse and within a matter of one year, I found myself knee-deep in an alcohol habit that I couldn’t seem to find my way out of.
Becoming dependent on alcohol
I entered into a relationship in my early twenties with a man who was a very heavy drinker. I had fallen in love with him before I realized he was an alcoholic, and I began to see that alcohol was either going to build a wedge between us or bring us together. So, I picked up his habit and a couple of drinks in the evenings after work quickly turned into late night binges and booze filled weekends. At the time I thought it was fun, innocent and what people my age were supposed to do. I never intended to become addicted to alcohol and in fact, I distinctly remember thinking it was just a phase and I’d outgrow it someday. I was terribly wrong.
Trying to moderate my drinking
It had been a couple years since I started my heavy drinking habit--I recall sitting on the beach, sipping a warm cocktail out of a can, and not being able to remember the last day that I hadn’t drank alcohol. Could it have been six months? A year? I could not remember. It was at that moment that I decided to take a weeklong break. I completed the full week without alcohol, but barely, and was so glad when it was over because all I wanted to do was drink. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my very first of dozens of attempts to try to wrangle in the beast called alcohol addiction.
Though I was a heavy drinker, alcohol never impacted my life in a major way—I never got a DUI (thankfully) and was still able to hold down a job and lead a relatively normal life. But alcohol had me functioning in a daily fog, with perpetual hangovers and incurable feelings of anxiety—that is, until I had more alcohol. After the addiction had set in, I couldn’t figure out why I was no longer a moderate drinker. I would recall the days in my early twenties where I didn’t really care for alcohol, and could easily just have one or two drinks and then go for months without thinking about it. But things were different now. Each time I would try to quit drinking, I was met with incessant cravings and thoughts of alcohol. Sobriety felt like torture because I’d just be thinking about alcohol and everything triggered a craving to drink. Eventually, I would cave in and over-do it— again and again and again. No matter how much want and will power I would put in to my attempts to quit or cut back, I would always fall back into the habit of heavy drinking. That is, until I learned about pharmacotherapy and something called The Sinclair Method.
So, what are Pharmacotherapy and The Sinclair Method?
Pharmacotherapy is a fancy way to say that I used medication (combined with therapy support) to help myself drink less and crave less alcohol. The Sinclair Method (TSM) uses a technique called targeted dosing—where a medication is taken prior to drinking that blocks pleasure effects of alcohol. It doesn’t make you sick or anything, alcohol just starts to become less interesting. As a result, over time, many people lose interest in alcohol and naturally begin to drink less—and that is exactly what happened to me… and sometimes I still find it hard to believe.
From Alcohol-Dependent to Alcohol-Free
Today, it has been over one year since I started pharmacotherapy and TSM, and it has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I watched myself go from a daily heavy drinker, to a moderate drinker, to a light drinker, to someone who does not drink at all anymore—and I felt like it all happened naturally, no white-knuckling-it. Over time, I simply lost interest in alcohol and began to genuinely prefer and enjoy sobriety. Alcohol is no longer a thought or factor in my life. This experience is a stark contrast to what quitting alcohol was like for me before pharmacotherapy—where even though on the outside I was sober, on the inside, I couldn’t stop thinking about alcohol and drinking. I was triggered by bars, advertisements and even the mere thoughts of alcohol. I always felt like I was missing out at social gatherings if I wasn’t drinking. The chatter never stopped and I would eventually cave in to the urge to drink—convincing myself I didn’t have a problem even though deep down I knew I did.
I was biologically addicted to alcohol
What I’ve realized through this experience is that on a biological level, I was addicted to and dependent on alcohol. I was wired to crave it and when I didn’t have it, I craved it more because I felt deprived of it. What pharmacotherapy did for me (and my brain) was allow me to unlearn the alcohol addiction that I had learned in my 20s (think Pavlov’s dog in reverse). Each time I took the medication combined with the alcohol, I was slowly undoing the biological addiction. In fact, when I first started down this road, my goal was to be a moderate, “normal” drinker—consuming alcohol only on special occasions. I got to that point, and I felt so empowered being able to easily just have one drink on the rare occasion. But from there, I still continued to lose interest in alcohol, which has brought me to where I am today—happily and peacefully sober.
Spreading the word about pharmacotherapy
My passion for pharmacotherapy and The Sinclair Method has lead me to sharing my story on YouTube, and working as the Director of Community Engagement with Ria Health—a telemedicine company that uses pharmacotherapy to help people suffering from alcohol use disorder. I love Ria. I joined the team because what Ria offers is a truly comprehensive solution to help people drink less alcohol—with great effectiveness too—on average, members reduce their drinking by 50% within the first 30 days in the program. Of course, results may vary which is why Ria takes a one-on-one approach when helping people to overcome alcohol use disorder. Ria’s program sets their members up for success, helping people achieve lasting results in changing their relationship to alcohol. The program is personalized, confidential and everything is done from home. If you’re curious about pharmacotherapy, check us out, RiaHealth.com
I’m not sure if it really was the conversation 102 I had with myself, I lost track somewhere along the way, but today I am back to where I had particular one I remember, one of those conversations in my head. It kind of went like this:
Me: what the hell is wrong with you?
My head: what the hell have you done again?
Me: this is it, I am done.
My head: you really don’t have to be done, you should just cut back.
Me: you could just cut back, but you should be done.
My head: you really don’t have to be done, you could just cut back.
Me: who is mad at me?
My head: really, you really don’t have to be done, you could just cut back.
Me: how bad did you f up?
My head: you really don’t have to be done, you could just cut back.
Me: I’m done, I’m not drinking again. That was it.
My head: Take some time off, you really don’t have to be done, you could just cut back.
So what would I do? I would take the time off, like 7 – 21 days or so, and then slowly would ease back into it. The first few times would go ok, I could do it, I could be a social drinker, I can lose my binge drinking label. Bam, another one would come out of nowhere, one meaning another morning waking up at 3am, gasping for water, judging myself and what I would do, then once again the conversation in my head.
This particular one, conversation 102, I really hadn’t planned it this way. I didn’t plan to get wasted, those are the ones that get ya, the ones you don’t plan for, this particular drunk night that led to conversation #102 really hadn’t though.
The day went like every other volleyball tournament day. Woke up super early, drove 2 hours to the tournament, watched them play all day, don’t eat because the food choices aren’t the best here, work out in a hotel room, go out to dinner with team. It was the go out to dinner with the team thing that got me, well more specifically, the martini’s that got me. I hadn’t eaten, worked out, went to dinner, drank 2 martini’s and bam…wasted!
My girls were there, the team was there, I didn’t offend anyone and wasn’t a mean or angry drunk, honestly, the parents thought it was great, I was fun, but I was wasted. My middle daughter asked my older daughter what was wrong with me, she had to explain it to her. I ran up the escalator, ran through the hotel, and remember every single step of it. I never blacked out, never forgot. I woke up in the middle of the night with that familiar, you f’ing idiot.
The next day I walked down an empty hallway in the convention center. I sat on the floor, wrote myself a note, and told myself I had to get this in check, I should be done. I grabbed both my girls, apologized, and told them how alcohol affects different people and it was clearly effecting me bad. I felt remorse, guilt, shame all the usual. I never told them I was done drinking, I told them I wasn’t going to drink for a long time. I made it through the grease cravings, the shakes, the heart palpitations and the restless sleep so now it was time I was going to stay straight, giving it up. I had told my girls, I won’t drink for a while and I didn’t. But like always I crept back. I knew I wanted to quit, I knew I wanted to be done, but the thought of never drinking again, scared me. Wtf is wrong with that, quitting drinking forever scared me more than acting like a fool in front of my kids. Wtf! something about never again, freaked me out. I think more so failing at never drinking again was the scary thing, not the not drinking. Or getting through events, holidays, outings without drinking, I couldn’t do that.
The difference about conversation #102 that I had with myself in the particular place I am in right now, it was the closest I came to stopping. I had typed a text to my non-drinking friend telling her I was quitting which was going to be my accountability, she would keep me on track. How silly is that thinking, I am the only one that can keep me on track. Yes, I can have accountability and friends along with support along the way, but ultimately, it is me.
I had this conversation maybe about 20 more times before the last day. Well, what I am hopeful is the last time, before the change really took place. Although conversation #102 wasn’t the one, it was a little deeper and a bit more meaningful than the ones before it, even the ones that came after.
Currently I am super grateful I had it, where it led me, it got me to where I am now and while it may not be the path I envisioned, I like the path and I am grateful that I get to navigate it! Today back in this place, back where it all went down, I am thankful to be here without remorse. The remorse I am hoping to have today is the amount of junk I will eat while watching the matches. Thankful to be here with my girl I had freaked out a year prior, clear minded.
Authors - Various