Extinction: Drinking Myself Sober

It never dawned on me how much I would learn as I claw my way out of this rabbit hole of alcoholism.

I knew there would inevitably be self discovery. But all along I thought the biggest challenge would be just not drinking. It turns out that unearthing the cause of my drinking is the hardest part. It's nothing my doctor, my friends, or anyone has brought up – it's something I need to find out for my own sake to avoid relapse, if and when I stop drinking the whole damned liquor store every day. I am trying to learn.

I am finding comfort in the stories of others, and education in the trials and experiments done over the last 200 years to cure functioning alcoholics like me. Surely, something has worked for someone. The problem is, we are all different. And different causes have different results – and different results require different cures.

I am certain that I am as addicted to alcohol as I am to the reason I drink. I just don't know what my reasons actually are.

Feeling that absence of self awareness is frustrating. I can list 40 reasons that are likely my triggers, and perhaps today I'll actually make that list. So many people think the cure to alcoholism is to stop drinking. Sure, that'll cure the physical addiction. It's the mental health part – the broken parts of me that I flood and fill up with wine every day to feel whole again – that's the part that needs a cure the most.

That cycle is the most confusing to me. I drink because of <insert this later when I figure out why> then I drink because of the alcohol-induced depression that arrives like a freeloading friend. I drink because of whatever repressed regrets and fears I have, then I drink because of the shame I feel seeing my life falling apart because I drink. I drink because I want to avoid situations, then I drink because of all the negative situations my drinking is causing.

Cycles are like whirlpools and rabbit holes – forever drawing you inward and downward.

I am hoping that through education I can build myself a little ladder. A life boat. A way to climb out.

Yesterday I discovered The Sinclair Method. I am not going to go into depth about it, and I do not endorse medicating yourself whatsoever. But, since the option for me to check into rehab isn't possible at this time, it's the best I can do. The Sinclair Method only addresses Part 1 of my addiction – the physical/mental addiction. Part 2, healing my soul – unfortunately there's no pill for that. In a nutshell, you take a pill 1 hour before drinking.

That's it.

Sinclair was influenced by the work of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, famous for making dogs salivate when a bell was sounded. Once conditioned, dogs rewarded with food after a bell had been rung would salivate at the sound of the bell itself. Over time, Pavlov would ring the bell, but he stopped rewarding the dogs with food; the salivating tapered off. This is called “extinction” and Sinclair thought the learned behaviour of an addiction to alcohol could be removed by extinction, too.

Here's an excerpt from the Sinclair Method website, that does a better job of explaining it than I can. Plus, I'd like to just place it here for later, for self-reassurance if I ever doubt what the hell I'm doing taking pills every day:

Following his early research, Sinclair hypothesized that alcohol produces reinforcement in the brain in a way that’s similar to opiates. His research indicated that alcohol produced reinforcement by releasing endorphins that bind with opioid receptors in the brain. So a solution to stopping the reinforcement cycle might be to block the receptors every time alcohol was used. Sinclair tested his theory on rats using naltrexone, an opiate blocker, and after that he conducted clinical trials in people. The results were encouraging.

The solution discovered by Sinclair effectively means you have to drink yourself sober! This would surely be the perfect solution for many alcoholics. “Extinction” of the impulse to drink takes place over time and works for around 80% of people who use the method properly. It’s important to note that you take the pill an hour before drinking, not simply when you feel like it. Over time, the desire to consume alcohol will diminish and people end up abstaining most of the time or occasionally have a drink when they wish.

Well hot damn! Sign me up if I get to drink myself to a cure! I was given a prescription for Naltrexone - the pill used in The Sinclair Method – two days ago. (Perk: it is non-addictive with modest to no side effects). I took my first pill yesterday. 12 hours ago, to be exact. I normally start drinking at noon (trust me, I do my best to not drink before then because I could gladly start from the moment I wake up). It's a good thing I'm married, because I'm pretty sure it's the judgement I'd receive if I started any earlier that delays my first drink. Because of work, I didn't have my first drink until 5pm (gasp) and as directed, took my first pill at 4pm.

As an aside, despite how wonderful my doctor is, it's frustrating to have had to find out about the Sinclair Method on my own (it's also frustrating that these pills are $19 a piece). Through blogs, through research, online searches, forums, I stumbled upon the method on my own. My doctor just prescribed a pill and sent me on my way without much explanation as to it's benefits or what to expect. I suppose I should have asked more questions – but confessing to him that I'm a raging alcoholic who needs help capped out my self confidence that day.

Quite frankly, I couldn't wait to get the hell out of that office, go home, and pour myself the biggest glass of wine ever. I picked up 2 magnums on my way home, as I do every day.

I was totally surprised at how quickly 'the pill' actually worked. Now, it was only my first pill, and my first day – and because I'm the hugest cynic ever – I'm sure it was also a lot of mind over matter. BUT. I could definitely feel a difference in how I felt while drinking. Usually with each drink I feel my hard edges relaxing, my mood elevates and I am much more easily distracted (meaning I can forget about work and serious things).

It didn't happen.

Don't get me wrong. I got drunk. I still drank 1.5 litres of wine (less than normal, but I also had 5 hours less of drinking in me yesterday. On an average day it's 2 to 3 litres). But that magical buzz I get – even with my first sip – was gone, or significantly lessened. I thought it would make me drink more to try and achieve it (after all, isn't that how addicts get to where they are? Constantly trying to reach the unattainable high like the first time?) but I didn't. I was noticeably more alert, and remarkably less sloppy.

High five, little pill.

I still passed out on the couch. I still woke up today missing parts of my evening. I still woke up re-reading my texts from last night as though it were my first time seeing them. But, I did wake up with a little more hope than I usually do.

And a little more is more than I had yesterday.

Todays Goal: Make a list of reasons that may be causing me to turn to alcohol.


Sober, alcohol free recovery blogger.

Photographer. Writer. Ex-Blackout Artist.

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