“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering ‘I will try again tomorrow’”
― Mary Anne Radmacher
I was addicted to alcohol for 10 years.
I had begun to accept the fact that alcohol was going to be a huge part of my life, even though I desperately wanted otherwise. Every day revolved around drinking— whether I was drinking or not. If I wasn’t drinking, I’d be thinking about it, wishing I was. And if I was, well, I’d often drink until I blacked out. The perpetual hangovers that made my body ache, the daily alcohol fog, and the overall unhealthy feeling started to wear on me. Every morning I’d wake up, swearing that tonight was going to be different—no drinking tonight, and if I did, it would be just one. Then, by the afternoon, I’d be thinking about alcohol, wanting it more with every passing minute. By the time 5 o’clock rolled around, I’d be racing to the store to buy the bottle of wine I told myself I wasn’t going to buy, knowing deep down the one glass I promised myself was going to mean the entire bottle. Yet again.
It was a nightmare that went on for 10 years.
Sure, I’d have bouts of sobriety—I went six months one time. Other times I’d go a week, a few days, or a month. At the start of all my breaks with alcohol, I’d feel inspired, sure that this was the time I was going to finally do it. I was finally going to give up alcohol for good. I was ready.
Then, a few days or weeks would go by and I’d begin to think of alcohol obsessively, triggered by the mere thought of a glass of wine or cold beer. Before too long, the cravings would become so intense that I’d cave in, convincing myself that I didn’t have a drinking problem. Anything to quiet the cravings and give myself the momentary relief from the constant mental chatter. The vicious cycle continued.
Alcohol was holding me back, keeping me small, and stripping away my potential. It was confusing to know that alcohol was hurting every aspect of my life, yet still be driven to drink by a desire that I couldn’t grasp or explain. The internal conflict was torture.
I had tried so many things over the years to cut back on my drinking. I tried different diets and listened to hundreds of hours of audiobooks and inspirational speakers on the topic. I attended spiritual retreats, meditated, went to group support meetings, and even read about all the horror stories and “rock bottoms” of other alcoholics. At times, I even prayed for my own rock bottom with hopes that, if something bad enough happened, it would trigger me to finally change. To finally get rid of this burning desire for alcohol that couldn’t be reasoned away.
Then, one day, a serendipitous moment came and everything changed forever.
I had been searching online for help with my alcohol problem when I stumbled across a TED Talk by actress Claudia Christian. She talked about the medication Naltrexone and how she used an approach called The Sinclair Method to overcome her own alcohol addiction. She explained that the medication blocks endorphins in the brain and helps you to drink less over time because you don’t get the same rewards from drinking. I was shocked that something like this existed and wondered why I hadn’t heard about it before. It made so much sense. I did hours of research online, and after being convinced that this was worth a shot, I started to call doctors in my area to see who would prescribe the medication.
And I was met with a cold brick wall.
Every doctor’s office wanted to admit me to rehab and require me to be abstinent. I didn’t feel like I was “bad enough” to require rehab, and I knew abstinence would not work for me—I’d tried it dozens of times. Most of them also hadn’t heard of Naltrexone and would not prescribe it. After calling more than 10 doctors, to no avail, I was devastated.
But I didn’t give up. Months went by and I continued to explore how to get this medication. I finally stumbled upon a doctor who used telemedicine and was familiar with Naltrexone and The Sinclair Method. Within a week, I had my appointment and got the Naltrexone prescription.
August 4, 2017 was the day my life changed forever.
I began taking Naltrexone before each drinking session. The first few times I felt mild side effects from the medication—mostly sleepiness and a bit of an upset stomach—but I began to notice that my drinking was decreasing. Normally I’d finish at least a bottle of wine in a night, and I was barely able to finish a glass. I couldn’t believe it. I knew this was how the medication worked, but the idea was not something I could grasp because my thirst for alcohol was never satiated before. For the first time in 10 years, my urge to keep drinking wasn’t there. I was shocked and felt more excited than I had been in a long time.
As the months went on, my drinking fluctuated, but overall I continued to drink less and less. For the first time ever I felt like a “normal” drinker; able to attend parties without worrying about embarrassing myself, and to go out with friends without obsessing over about ordering more drinks without people noticing. I started to feel in control of my drinking after it had controlled me for so long. It was so incredibly empowering, and this feeling began to positively impact all areas of my life.
It has been more than one year since I started pharmacotherapy, and now, I don’t drink anymore. I’ve lost all interest in alcohol. When I started on this path, my intention was to be able to drink moderately—Naltrexone allowed me to do that for a while, and that felt great. I was able to easily stop at one or two drinks without even thinking about it. But as time progressed, I became less and less interested in drinking. And now I feel like I’ve returned to the person I was before I depended on alcohol. I prefer sobriety. I prefer clarity, and alcohol continues to become a distant memory for me. I feel free. I feel more like me than I ever have before. And for that, I am grateful.
Post Submitted By: Katie Lain
Katie Lain’s experience with pharmacotherapy for alcohol dependence has led her to being an advocate for medication-assisted treatments like The Sinclair Method. She works with Ria Health as the director of community outreach to spread the word about this option for alcohol addiction.