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I didn’t care much for alcohol when I began drinking. I didn’t like the feeling of being intoxicated and I hated hangovers. Even at my 21st 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. Within a year after that party, I found myself knee-deep in an alcohol habit that I couldn’t seem to find my way out of. But with determination and medication, I finally quit drinking. Here’s how.
Becoming Dependent on Alcohol
I entered into a relationship in my early 20s with a man who was a very heavy drinker. I had fallen in love with him before I realized he was an alcoholic. Soon I realized that alcohol was either going to build a wedge between us or bring us together. So I picked up his habit; 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. 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 couldn’t remember. It was at that moment that I decided to take a weeklong break. I completed the full week without alcohol, but barely. And I 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 with the beast called alcohol addiction.
Though I was a heavy drinker, alcohol never impacted my life in a major way. I (thankfully) never got a DUI and I was still able to hold down a job and lead a relatively normal life. But alcohol kept me 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 20s when 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 overdo it—again and again and again. No matter how much I wanted 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.
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 the pleasurable effects of alcohol. It doesn’t make you sick or anything, alcohol just becomes less interesting. As a result, over time, many people lose interest in alcohol and naturally begin to drink less. That’s exactly what happened to me, and sometimes I still find it hard to believe.
From Alcohol-Dependent to Alcohol-Free
It’s been well over a year since I started pharmacotherapy and TSM, and it’s 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. And now I don’t drink at all. 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. I’ve truly quit drinking.
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. 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 it allowed 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 a rare occasion. But I continued to lose interest in alcohol. And now I am where I am today: I’ve quit drinking, and now I’m happily and peacefully sober.
Spreading the Word About Pharmacotherapy
My passion for pharmacotherapy and the Sinclair Method inspired me to share my story on YouTube. Now I work as the director of community engagement at Ria Health, a telemedicine company that uses pharmacotherapy to help people suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD). I love Ria. I joined the team because what Ria offers is a truly comprehensive solution to help people drink less. And it’s really effective, too. On average, Ria members reduce their drinking by 70% within the first six months of the program. Of course, results may vary. That’s why Ria takes a one-on-one approach when helping people to overcome alcohol use disorder and quit drinking—or simply drink less.
Ria’s program sets 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.
A version of this post originally appeared on the blog Sober Mom Tribe.