Ria Case Study: Female Winemaker Reduces Her Drinking Using Medication

Photo: Oscar Nord for Unsplash

Rachel has an interesting story and an incredible job. In an industry dominated by drinking, she is a rare female winemaker in Napa Valley.

Twenty years ago she started as a sales rep, visiting wine shops and restaurants to “taste” people on the wines she was selling. She worked her way up and has now been making her own products for more than 20 years. Of course, being in the business gives you access to a lot of wine, and as a salesperson and winemaker you are required to taste what you are making over and over again.

Overindulgence in the wine industry is something that is not talked about. As industry executives, we are expected to properly manage our intake, but after years and years of daily drinking it was beginning to become a challenge for me,” said Rachel, who is also a mother.

The biggest issue for her was the free access to wine. She does not drink and drive, and was not blacking out, but had been noticing her own propensity to take work home with her, especially over the last two years. By the end of the day she was often two bottles in, and would sometimes find hard liquor was part of her daily drinking habit.

Atheism and Abstinence Kept Her Away From AA

Rachel looked into traditional solutions, including AA, but as an atheist was deterred by the 12 Steps’ focus on a “higher power.” And for her, complete abstinence was not really an option anyway. She had heard about naltrexone and was fascinated by some of the success stories. “I couldn’t understand why medication wasn’t being used more regularly to help treat people like me—the people out there that don’t want to stop drinking altogether.”

One of her biggest concerns when searching for a doctor to prescribe Naltrexone was her employer-sponsored insurance. She did not want to get the medication through her regular doctor, because of privacy issues with work.

Six months ago, she came across Claudia Christian’s Ted Talk and learned more about the value of using naltrexone to help curb drinking. After doing some research she found the Ria Health program and started right away.

Rachel’s results were immediate and she was able to curb her drinking for about six weeks. Then her drinking started to pick back up again, but with the support of her Ria coach she realized that the way she was taking her medication was likely the problem. Since she begins tasting wine earlier than most, she would need to take her daily pill first thing in the morning.

Naltrexone can be effective for 12 to 24 hours, depending on a person’s physiology, but in Rachel’s case, her medication only covered her through the afternoon. Rachel and the Ria team decided to change the dose and timing, and since then, she has been successfully reporting lower blood alcohol concentration levels.

Reducing her drinking has not only helped her professionally, but also personally. Being a working mother is challenging and she found little time for herself beyond the job and the kids. Not drinking has challenged her to find new ways to fill time, and new ways to relax. Since Rachel is not waking up hungover or spending her evenings pouring glasses of wine, she has returned to working out. She feels better during the day and is able to meet the challenges of her very busy life. She has also discovered how much she loves herbal teas and uses this as an alternative to alcohol.

The Ria Health program has changed a lot for her and Rachel is happy to have come across a method that is about more than just taking a pill. “My coach is really there for me when I need her, and she understands the challenges I face — without judgement or disdain — in an industry where drinking is an expectation. The combination of the pill, the support, and being held accountable using the breathalyzer has made a real difference for me.”

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