A question on the lips of many people who visit the TSM forums is just where do all of these Sinclair Method old-timers go… do they drink again? Do they join a cult? (unlikely, given many users’ previous experience with Alcoholics Anonymous)
Just where are they???
I believe that to a large extent The Sinclair Method is a victim of its own success. Think about it – a person can just buy The Cure for Alcoholism, get a supply of naltrexone and awaaaay we go. All from the privacy of one’s own home. Completely independent. No more AA meetings and no more rehab clinic revolving door. You can just leave all of that behind and move on with your life.
“So how is that a bad thing?” I hear you ask.
Well, because the 12 step method’s successful dominance is predicated upon having repeat visitors… it depends upon lifers… something that keeps them in business… whereas efforts to monetise the Sinclair Method prove difficult because naltrexone is such a cheap, generic drug to prescribe and there’s simply no real profit in giving someone something that could cure them.
Hence why (compared to AA members) we’re invisible. That and the fact that we simply don’t have the media presence that Alcoholics Anonymous does.
Television and films have enjoyed a long partnership with AA for good reason… scenes involving the redemptive confessional make for great viewing, whereas there’s little to no dramatic narrative in a scene involving a TSMer sitting on his/her couch, popping a nal and then waiting an hour to drink.
As to why TSM users drift off from the internet forums after a few years, I think that they’re just busy getting on with their lives… but I also honestly think that there’s an element of familiarity breeding contempt that comes into play after some time. Case in point – after 4 1/2 years of talking nearly non-stop about the Sinclair Method I’ve began to feel as if I’ve exhausted my observations on the subject. I feel “talked out” to a large degree and envy the enthusiasm that many newcomers just newly discovering The Sinclair Method exhibit on the forums.
Oh I still keep my hand in and chat to people about my experiences, but to a lesser extent these days. Why? Well, because I’m honestly too busy enjoying my liberation from addiction, doing my art and trying to get my bench press north of 130kg!
Okay, I’ve gone and “exhausted my observations” again, haven’t I? Thanks for reading. It’s been a blast. Until next time.
Time for a new discussion: can The Sinclair Method be reconciled with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous? Can a person in Alcoholics Anonymous use SCIENCE – specifically medicine assisted treatment (MAT) such as The Sinclair Method – as their chosen Higher Power?
Time for a new discussion: can The Sinclair Method be reconciled with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous? Can TSM be used as a person’s Higher Power?
Here’s what I have to say on the subject in a piece I’ve submitted for an upcoming anthology Claudia Christian is putting together [edited to make it more readable for the purpose of this article]
Can a person in Alcoholics Anonymous use SCIENCE – specifically medicine-assisted treatment (MAT) such as The Sinclair Method – as their very own chosen Higher Power instead of the supernatural (or instead of a doorknob or a rock, for that matter)?
‘The only requirement for AA membership is a desireto stop drinking’
William Griffith Wilson, page 139, Tradition Three, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 1953.
‘Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.’
William Griffith Wilson, page 31, Chapter 3: More about Alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous, 1939
‘He [Bill Wilson] suggested that in my future research I should look for an analogue of methadone, a medication that would relieve the alcoholic’s sometimes irresistible craving and enable him to progress in AA toward social and emotional recovery, following the Twelve Steps.’
Dr. Vincent Dole, co-founder of Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) and recipient of the prestigious Lasker Award for Medicine.
‘…Whoooooaaaa, Nelly. Are you trying to blow up the fucking internet?!?? That’s a goddamn nuclear bomb, that is.’
Such was my gut reaction. My own ‘contempt prior to investigation’ to the following message which I received in my e-mail inbox one day via my blog:
‘I’m also an alcoholic and I have tried AA and it works for me for a moment, then the craving increases. I’m reading “The Cure for Alcoholism”, and I’m very intrigued by the idea that “yes” perhaps there is a cure.
I do subscribe to many of the AA ideas, but I also know that the cravings for alcohol are what keeps me from being successful. I also know that many in AA are not successful, and that the success rate is extremely low (5% – 10%???? can’t know for sure because of the anonymity part of AA) versus what is claimed here.
I just started on my 2nd Month of treatment with “the little pill”, and I’m hoping and praying this will work. I can tell you that I honestly, today, feel like I’m craving it less. Who knows? perhaps even this with the combination of AA will be even more powerful, although studies have shown that it is not necessary.
Doing otherwise, if there is a cure is analogous to a faith based family that refuses to provide a cure to a child because they believe God will do it in a miraculous manner, when God already provided Doctors and cures via the medical system. I don’t get it.’
As I say, I nearly fell out of my chair.
In short, I thought that the very suggestion was heretical; an absolute abomination – to both AA and to TSM.
So yes, you could say that I had something akin to an immediate Semmelweis Reflex upon reading that and was about to write back to this person with quite a nice and polite (but still firm) message saying that – no – actually, you CANNOT even begin to reconcile a secular, scientific method like pharmacological extinction with a faith-based one like the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous; not like she or he was suggesting, anyway.
‘Square peg, meet round hole’ was my smug thought.
Then I had to stop myself.
Because, wouldn’t you know it? I suddenly found myself having a weird light bulb moment. Put it down to the persistence of memory, but one of those odd little useless factoids that you collect in your head (much the way how a computer picks up temporary internet files, cookies and other bits of junk) suddenly flashed right onto the computer screen of my mind…
‘Ah, of course. There’s the precedent of Bill Wilson’s advocacy of niacin as a treatment for the physical component of alcoholism, isn’t there?’
Okay, time for a little history lesson. This one is about William Griffith Wilson (A.K.A. ‘Bill W.’), co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and the main author of their bible/instruction manual ‘the Big Book’…
The following is a letter that Lois Wilson (Bill Wilson’s widow) wrote to three doctors who were interested in researching what they perceived to be ‘the biological component’ of alcoholism not long after Wilson’s death from lung cancer:
MRS. WILLIAM G. WILSON
Bedford Hills, N. Y. 10507
Dear Dave, Ed and Russ,
When the matter of the AA Trustee’s ratio was finally settled, Bill felt that he had finished his job and done all he could to help AA to build a lasting structure. Then, as rarely happens in life, he was given a second opportunity to aid the sick alcoholic.
Aldous Huxley, a great admirer of AA, introduced Bill to two psychiatrists who were researching the biochemistry of alcoholism as well as schizophrenia. Bill was convinced of the truth of their findings and realized he could again help his beloved alcoholics by telling them about this probable aid for the physical component of alcoholism. He recognized that this work must be kept separate and distinct from AA and wrote a letter to the AA Board so stating.
As you know, Bill’s last years were mainly devoted to the spread of this information among alcoholics and other ill persons. With your help, he wrote and distributed to AA doctors which has twice been enlarged and brought up to date. Before he passed on, he dictated a letter stating his hopes that you three doctors who were interested in AA and had worked closely with him in the niacin field, would extend your endeavours along the latter lines.
I sincerely believe that you want what is best for the sick alcoholic who, as yet, has not been able to join AA, and that you will continue to place the principles of AA first and researching second.
Bill’s great hope was that continued research would find a means whereby those thousands of alcoholics who want to stop drinking but are too ill to grasp the AA program could be released from their bondage and enabled to join AA.
All good wishes,
(Mrs. William G. Wilson)
Of course, as I say, I had this memory – Bill Wilson and his whacky ideas about niacin stored in my head for some time. I think that I’d first read about it fleetingly quite some time ago when I was reading on an anti-AA site called The Orange Papers, but didn’t really pay much attention at the time and didn’t make that much of a conscious effort to study it or ponder upon its implications because (if I’m quite honest) back then I was enjoying feeding my hatred far too much to pay attention to an odd but relatively boring detail like that, you see.
I had, after all, only just become recently estranged from AA and was quite chuffed at how perceptive I was for discovering that there were lots of other disgruntled people like me out there who had an axe to grind after having had such a bad experience with the fellowship.
In my own instance any ability that I might have had to view any aspect of the 12 Step movement in a rational, impartial manner was burned away as a result of my ex-sponsor brainwashing my own half-brother (also an AA member) against me. Not nice, I’ll tell you. This probably goes a long way towards explaining why, for the longest time, I had such a fierce resentment against alcoholics Anonymous…
Understandably so, I’d say.
Oh that and the fact that it simply didn’t help me. Even with the peer support and peer encouragement that I got by going to the meetings, the craving – the compulsion – would never quite go away. The longest time I ever managed to remain abstinent in AA was nearly 6 months and it was pure white-knuckle… just wall-to-wall cravings throughout that time. Like being water-boarded; not nice.
But if I had to sum up the one biggest reason why AA was of neither use nor ornament to me personally then I would sum it up in these words: the 12 Step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous itself was quite simply a religious square peg for my atheistic round hole that, from my viewpoint, didn’t allow any room to manoeuvre.
To illustrate what I mean, here are the 12 Steps of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous:
THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
This is what’s read out at the beginning of every AA meeting around the world. And, as you can imagine, given the instances of words like ‘God’ it is straight away a bit of a cognitive dissonance headache for people of an atheistic or agnostic bent, given that it explicitly demands an element of faith in some supernatural force.
Sure, it tries to give some wiggle-room with wording like ‘God as we understood Him’… but essentially it demands that the participant use some resource greater than themselves and then, further into the steps, asks them to open some form of communication with said entity in order to recover from their alcoholism.
And this is a problem. People who are in AA or who who support AA often try to dodge this by saying something along the lines of:
‘Oh your Higher Power or God of your understanding can be whatever you want… it can be the spirit of the universe or it can be gravity or it can be a rock or a doorknob… anything – absolutely anything – you want to put your faith in…’
But here’s the thing…. none of those are sentient entities…. none of those are things that you can have anything in the way of a meaningful transaction with, are they? Neither a doorknob nor a rock are particularly useful deus ex machinas when it comes right down to it, really.
And this is the problem that people have – it really doesn’t leave any room for interpretation. Which is quite a big issue because how in the hell can you possibly ask a fucking doorknob to ‘restore you to sanity’ (as stated in Step 2)?!??
(Heh. Riiiight. Good luck with that)
My ‘Keyser Söze’ moment of realisation
But going right back to the original message that I received on my blog from the individual asking whether he/she could use some form of ‘God or Higher Power through doctors’ or ‘the science that God gave us that resulted in the invention of The Sinclair Method’ as their own personal Higher Power…… that’s to say, as a way of starting to reconcile the 12 Steps………. do you know what?
This is a big, big, big thought that would send a chill down my spine, but upon recollecting Mr. Wilson’s interest in niacin and his real desire (as his widow put it) to ‘help his beloved alcoholics by telling them about this probable aid for the physical component of alcoholism’, there is indeed a case that could be made for reconciling pharmacological extinction using naltrexone or nalmefene with Alcoholics Anonymous.
Well, let’s look at all of it – and I mean really look at it all – through eyes not blinded by either ideology or polemics for once, shall we?
Here goes. Here is my thought process on this. This is the chain of thoughts that I suddenly had. This is why I was now finding myself having what amounts to something similar to that epiphany moment the Chaz Palminteri character had when he dropped his coffee cup at the end of the The Usual Suspects.
Here was the cascade of thoughts that I suddenly had:
As Lois Wilson’s letter demonstrates, we know for certain (despite what any AA member might choose to tell you) that Bill Wilson was indeed interested in what he perceived to be ‘the biological component’ of alcohol addiction and thought that there could be a way of pharmacologically addressing it. We know Wilson tasked Vincent Dole with creating ‘a methadone for alcoholism’ and we also know that Bill devoted much of his own time and many of his own resources to studying niacin as one possible way of remedying this ‘physical component’. Hence the three pamphlets that he wrote on ‘the B3 Therapy’ – the first one published in 1965, the second one published in 1968 and the last one posthumously in 1971. And we also know that before he died Wilson said that he wanted to be remembered not for founding AA, but for the discovery of niacin as a way of treating the physical component of alcohol addiction.
He thought that it was important enough for him to in fact clash with members of the fellowship that he himself originally founded on this one issue – hence why it never came to fruition and why it’s not really spoken about nowadays. It’s been swept under the carpet ever since and the party line these days is ‘AA doesn’t support the use of pills of any kind’…which has quite big implications when you really stop and think about it, because here were members of his own fellowship telling their divinely inspired prophet that he was wrong. Which really is like saying ‘God is wrong’ (hence why it was swept under the carpet).
Why did Bill think that this was so important? Well, again, you have to look at history. William Griffith Wilson had, prior to founding the fellowship been someone who had suffered terribly with a serious alcohol addiction and who, if the fact that he died pleading for whiskey is anything to go by, never lost his craving for alcohol. Yes, he became abstinent… yes, he founded AA and tried to help people conquer their own addiction to booze… but the fact remains that he himself never lost this strange, visceral ‘hunger’.
This leads on to yet another thought. He had over many tears tried many things to find a solution to solving this riddle. He’d tried religion and he’d tried science. Alas, he’d been unsuccessful in ridding himself of his own craving. Niacin would prove to be a dead end – as evidenced by the fact that he died pleading for whiskey.
But what if…. what if he was actually onto something with pharmacology but just looking in the wrong place? What if he’d stumbled across naltrexone and The Sinclair Method of pharmacological extinction? What if TSM had been around back then? Would he have pursued it – would he have been very interested in it – or would he have blindly refused it as an option? Now, that’s A BIG QUESTION.
And to interject with my own opinion, dear reader (for what it’s worth) I think that he would have been very interested indeed in TSM and would have ultimately likely discarded his research on niacin in favour of that instead.
That is my intuition.
Whilst much has been written about Bill Wilson and his founding of Alcoholics Anonymous over these last eighty-plus years and whilst much has been written about him which has been (justifiably) very critical, I do not believe that he was an unintelligent man; perhaps confused and misguided about a number of different ideas, but not stupid. He was smart enough to know a good bet when he saw one and he did have the salesman thing about him – so he might well have seen naltrexone and The Sinclair Method as ‘a good punt’ – a good investment.
I mean – sure – given what he thought he knew about alcoholism thanks to Dr. William Silkworth’s ideas, I think that he would at first have had real difficulty reconciling the approach of gradual extinction as opposed to abstinence, so he would have been forced to rethink his attitude on that. It would have caused him some real cognitive dissonance.
But whereas he made a rod for his own back thanks to his other claims about being divinely inspired (‘hoist by his own petard’, so to speak), perhaps there was a loophole here that he could exploit after all if you were to argue that though articles of faith aren’t open to revision, science most definitely is.
There’s your loophole right there.
You could argue that we’ve moved on a great deal since Silkworth put forward his thoughts on alcoholism being an allergy activated upon consuming that first drink and absolute abstinence being the only way to combat it.
You could certainly argue that that notion is open to revision because it is based solely upon the questionable standards of scientific knowledge in the early 20th century, in which nobody had yet to consider gradual extinction through pharmacological means… so there is wiggle-room here.
Especially when you consider the fact that famous rehab centres like Hazelden (which uses the 12 step model) have recently become increasingly more open to the notion of the concept of what I suppose you could call a form of ‘gradual sobriety’ for heroin addicts using prescription drugs like suboxone – so, given this precedents, why ever not make the case for naltrexone or nalmefene using The Sinclair Method?
The only question then would someone begin to adapt the 12 Steps to make it workable. Well, the thing about the 12 Steps is that they are ‘but suggestions’, so they are malleable and open to reinterpretation. So with that in mind you could now rework them to this effect:
THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS USING THE SINCLAIR METHOD
We admitted that we had difficulty moderating our alcohol intake—that our lives had become unmanageable due in no small part to this difficulty.
Came to believe that a rational, compassionate scientific approach could help us to make our lives more manageable.
Made a decision to use The Sinclair Method – a sensible, scientific way to attempt to reduce our alcohol intake.
We took stock of ourselves and examined any previous wrong-doing to others.
Decided which areas of our personalities and which previous wrong-doings we could take measures to correct. If need be, we approached a trained therapist or other appropriate sympathetic professional to confide with in order to help us.
Became ready and willing to make positive change to our lives.
Put our faith in science and reason.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through research, rational discussion and private contemplation ways to constantly improve our knowledge and become better, ever-evolving human beings.
Having found a new point of view as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Starting a Revolution
So these are the arguments that you could make. There are the facts that you could use to start to begin to bring about a revolution if you decided to become invested in the notion of doing so – your own science/secular driven splinter group of Alcoholics Anonymous. You don’t have to destroy the old; you just have to build the new.
And, to summarise, in order to defend your right to exist you could do so by:
(a) Citing ‘the B3 historical precedent’ – Bill Wilson’s interest in pharmacology.
(b) Arguing the case that the blind insistence upon abstinence is open to revision because it is based solely upon the opinion of a 1930s medical doctor who had yet to discover the concept of gradual pharmacological extinction – so whilst there is not much of a loophole to allow you to ‘challenge Bill W.’s God’, there is a case for saying that outdated medical opinion (in this case the chapter The Doctor’s Opinion that serves as the foreword The Big Book) is not an irrelevant ‘outside issue’ and can and should be challenged in light of new knowledge – because whilst articles of faith may not be open to revision, science most definitely is.
(And not just that: any medical practitioner who refuses to offer a safe and effective treatment in favour of a much more antiquated and much less effective one is committing malpractice, pure and simple)
You could even, if you chose to passionately argue your case against traditionalists, say that you were fighting to both vindicate your founder’s noble desire to see reform and bring change to the fellowship that he helped create – by not shutting the door on assistance through pharmacological means.
…So you could actually take the moral high ground in that respect.
A new chapter indeed. Talk about uncharted country. One that would no doubt bring about some level of controversy and conflict with stubborn, intransigent old-timers who can’t bear to accept new ideas or new interpretations.
But in this instance you could perhaps cheekily suggest that maybe – just maybe – they should take another look at the whole niacin thing again because perhaps Mr. Wilson was a visionary after all… someone who could see into the future… but just one who evidently couldn’t spell very well, because he got the fact that it began with an ‘N’ right – but it wasn’t niacin.
….Nope, it was naltrexone.
 Extract taken from here: http://drewhorowitzassociates.com/what-is-addiction-recovery-anways/
I’m honestly not sure how to construct this. I’ve never attempted an actual linear autobiography, as such. Not even when I was writing my old TSM blog Naltrexone Confidential.
Well, it’s not like I was attempting to give myself some sort of unwarranted mystique by being deliberately vague about my history… it’s just more that I didn’t want to bore any readers. Because I’m not that exciting a person, you see.
Oh sure, there’s been some eventful stuff in my timeline but it simply does not compare to (say for instance) Claudia Christian’s story in her memoir Babylon Confidential.
But enough of the jibber-jabber. Let’s be systematic.
I was born in Hartlepool in 1972 and was really quite different to a lot of other kids from a young age on account of the fact that I was unusually hyperactive (I’ve been a lifelong insomniac, in fact – my brain doesn’t just switch off like other people’s) and I had problems with my early speech development in which a stammer really set me back. This led to my being misdiagnosed as learning disabled and being put in a special educational needs school for a while.
Well, long enough for them to figure out that I didn’t have a learning disability.
This misstep would come to haunt me upon returning to a normal school because (kids being the bastards that they are) I was made to feel like the lowest, most radioactive form of humanity for having attended a “spacker school”.
As a means of escape I just threw myself into my hobbies and own boyhood obsessions which back then were drawing, building Airfix models, collecting comic books and watching horror movies. I was a morbid kid so I absolutely loved things like the horror movie double bills that used to show on BBC 2 back in the late 70s and early 80s – things like Zoltan: Hound of Dracula followed by George Romero’s The Crazies(pure bliss to my 9 year old self).
…What I suppose I’m coming to is this: even from a young age I liked my own company, had my own niche interests, liked making stuff with my hands and had little interest whatsoever in peer activities like soccer.
Just about the art and the model making… I really think that such an early exposure to art and crafts helped my young brain to develop in quite a good way. It would be a few years before things like home computers and games consoles would come along… so what happened is that at an early age I found a form of enlightenment just from being able to make stuff with my hands (something today’s kids perhaps don’t get because of such an early exposure to things like DVDs and games consoles for entertainment).
Some people would go on to say that I was gifted, but the word meant little to me. I assumed everyone could draw as well as me really; it’s just that they weren’t concentrating like I was, I reasoned at the time.
Right. So that was around the early 80s. Between 1983 to 1988 there was comprehensive school, there was puberty and there were stupid boyish crushes and, again, (because I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly) some level of bullying during this time.
This did toughen me up, though… and upon leaving school and going onto the local sixth form college followed by art college I found myself gravitating towards weight training (specifically powerlifting) when I was about 19 years of age.
But what really drove this? The legacy of being picked on in school?
Oh sure. I definitely needed a confidence booster after that.
Then there was also the fact that I was of that age where I was noticing girls a lot more and wanted to look a bit more buff for my modest (then*) 5 foot 9 inch frame.
(* I say “then” because I seem to have lost about half an inch in height due to age and things like compression on my spine, etc)
But the truth is that I also came to quite enjoy the training; particularly when I partnered up with a former professional powerlifter during the two years that I was in Wrexham studying towards my Illustration HND. Needless to say, the guy knew his stuff and with the help of his merciless pushing I got really quite strong and was able to throw around some quite respectable poundages in the gym within the space of about a year.
I never got into performance enhancers… though I’ve known plenty of people who have; not because I’ve always been in any way morally superior to everyone else, but just simply because I’ve never had the means to buy them and have never had anyone ever push them onto me.
My honest view on steroids? I don’t think they’re the evil that people make them out to be. Sure, some people perhaps rely on them a lot, but at the end of the day it’s their body and their choice. There’s honestly much more harmful drugs out there with much more of a destructful addictive potential – and yes – whilst I understand the arguments about how they “take away a level playing field in sports” and so on, the fact is that there’s no such thing as a level playing field, anyway… just because no matter how hard I train I know that I’ll never EVER be as physically strong as the Eddie Halls of this world simply because I do not possess his freakish biology… the man is just naturally inhumanly strong. And determined beyond belief.
So time for an honest conversation on this subject, I think. My feeling is that performance enhancing drugs should be allowed… but with the caveat of proper regulation and with the athletes in question disclosing everything they’re on and getting their health properly monitored. Of course, there’ll always be purists who’ll complain, but as an olive branch to satisfy such people there could be different “all natural events” held during the Olympics.
Okay, so this takes me up to about the early to mid nineties. I finished my HND, came back to Hartlepool (a decision which I would ultimately come to look back upon with regret) and wandered aimlessly for a while, trying to get work wherever I could find it.
I did end up getting into doing some freelance illustration work for a magazine called Spit! Comic which was one of many Viz clones that were over-saturating the news stands at the time. I did two comic strips for this magazine – Sefton Ward: Paranormal Detective and Nero Ramone: Porno Star turned Hitman.
Anyway, just to satisfy people’s curiosity, here’s a couple of scans of these old strips… please be warned that they are very much of a NSFW bent…
It really isn’t false modesty when I say that neither of them were very good. They had colourful concepts and some nice artwork in places, but the fact is that the stories I wrote were unforgivable puerile rubbish that just tried to get a cheap laugh from shock vulgar tactics.
I wasn’t the writer that I am now back then, you see. I was quite immature in many ways and my sense of humour was much cruder back then. I could have done with a co-writer, now that I think back on it… someone to help me better shape the dialogue and the stories.
What has recently come as a bit of a shock to me is the fact that this type of stuff and that whole wave of 90s adult humour comics is still very much talked about and even has its own cult fanbase. What’s funny is that when a cartoonist friend of mine recently showed me a Facebook group dedicated to celebrating and preserving this work my blood ran cold when he pointed to something and said ‘Was this one of yours, Gary?’.
Why? Well, because I literally felt as if I’d been caught with my dick in my hand having a wank… hey, no kidding.
As an older, more mature man that’s how mortified and suddenly quite vulnerable I felt upon being reminded of my own previous coprographic over-indulgences in Spit! Comic. What you have to remember, dear reader, is that the guy drawing those comics back then was very different to the one talking to you now – I was only twenty three years old. So I have some very mixed feelings on the subject matter in these things now, whereas I obviously lacked insight and restraint back then. Clearly, given that I even had my little brother saying stuff to me like ‘Don’t you think you’re overdoing it a bit with the bumming, Gary? All this buggery and bestiality in your comics is getting a bit repetitive’.
Anywaaaay! …Upon eventually deciding to have a chat with the guy running the Facebook group (a talented young writer/blogger called Ryan Davies) I must say that it was gratifying to discover someone with a genuine appreciation and fondness for these comics and it also allowed me to feel confident enough to reclaim a long disowned (but actually quite significant) part of my body of work and finally say: ‘Yup. That was me. I drew that.’
It was interesting to discuss with Mr. Davies just how I would approach writing and drawing one of these comic strips now if I were to do a ‘redux’ of my old material. A good question indeed.
(‘No bumming’ would be the first thing that I would say, obviously. Haha.)
But seriously – I think I’d drop that whole gross-out thing entirely, which was very much a part of the humour of the 90s anyway (something upon which the Farrelly Brothers founded a career, let’s face it) and go much more in the direction of something that would have more pathos… where you would actually quite like and quite feel for the main character. Come to think of it, a character that might fit that mould quite well would be the dude with the dickie-bow tie in these concept sketches (see below) that I drew back in the mid 90s:
What was the concept for this character, you ask? Well, initially there wasn’t really one at all… I just came up with a cool title which came directly from a random mash-up of different words taken from multiple sources (i.e. the feature film The Ballad of Cable Hogue, the Depeche Mode song Strangelove and the Herbert West character from the Re-animator films) and what I did was to then ‘works backwards’ to try to draw a character that would fit the bizarre sounding title… sounds nuts, I know… but it’s not that strange a creative process when you remember that creatives at Hammer studios in the 60s used to just brainstorm a cool title and a cool poster image for a horror movie and then write a script purely to fit the title and the poster image they’d come up with. That’s how films such as Frankenstein Created Woman and Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde came about.
But I digress.
What I eventually came up with was a sort of meditation on loneliness and mental illness… a story about a really sweet, lovelorn middle-aged guy who starts to hear command hallucinations emanating from his underpants goading him into ‘manning-up’, taking more risks with his life and getting out there and trying to find a girlfriend (hehe… with predictably disastrous consequences, naturally).
What would have been a real gift for me when it came to illustrating this strip is that it would have been very quick to draw, given that much of it would feature a single character essentially talking to himself – so something that, in terms of tone, would not be that unlike the inspired Garfield Minus Garfield webcomic (see: http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/ ) in many ways.
Alas this never came about thanks to the combination of a few factors… these being the nasty drinking habit that I’d developed around this time… oh and the fact that the editor of Spit! fired me after stepping well over the line of decency one too many times! …Get this: my final comic strip for Spit! was in fact censored (yes, censored!) in order to not contravene the obscene publications act; which is pretty fucked up when you consider things… it indicates just how misguided and just how OTT my stuff was, given the extreme nature of some of the other stuff that they used to publish in that comic…
Haha! Talk about having a claim to notoriety!
But it’s sad, really – as I think that as I’ve got older and developed better taste I have of course become a better writer and have developed a better taste for pathos… for example, in terms of humour and quirky observations on the human condition the type of things that I’m drawn to now are movies like Lars and the Real Girl (2007) or The Beaver (2011), and I think that’s the type of sympathetic tone I would go for with any new comic strip.
About the drinking habit: it first developed as a result of the stress of working in my “bread and butter job” as an administration officer on the front line of a jobcentre in Middlesbrough. Back then there weren’t the security people that you have in jobcentres now and you really had to watch your step at times when you were dealing with some pretty desperate, unhappy people.
It’s nobody’s fault that I wasn’t really cut out for that job; it was just one of those things. What happened is that drink and bipolar disorder took over and I ended up on long-term sick, eventually getting finished from that position by my employer due to unreasonable length of absence. If you ask me, they did me a favour: they really did… and I hold no bitterness about it whatsoever.
But it wasn’t all bad. I would have some good spells where I’d be quite motivated and for a time be able to cease my drinking through sheer force of will (even being able to obtain a teaching certificate), but it was clear that I’d crossed an invisible line at some point; I’d gone from being a heavy drinker largely motivated through what was transient anxiety to someone who actively thought about and craved alcohol all of the time, despite my knowing how destructive it was to me.
I still remember that cold terror that I used to feel many mornings when I would wake up with the usual fuzzy recollection about some random outrage I’d perpetrated on Facebook or on some message board the night before.
Trust me on this: social media is not your friend when you’re a hyper-verbal drunk prone to memory blackouts.
Sheesh, even now I shudder – yes, shudder – at the memory of some of the things I used to come out with thanks to my own curious form of alcohol induced coprolalia. I lost a lot of friends because of my misuse of social media and also fell out with many members of my own family for a long time because of it, too.
So it’s no joke, really. If you’re actively addicted to a mind altering substance access to social media can be a very destructive thing and can put you in some very vulnerable spots.
Needless to say, the weight training completely fell by the wayside during this time. You can’t really train when you’re constantly strung out… and in true Red Dwarf style I woke up one morning to find that I was suddenly a fat bastard.
‘Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at.’
– Rust Cohle, True Detective
…Some wise words there from the endlessly quotable Matthew McConaughey character from the first season of True Detective (God, I loved that show – and I thought that the second season was really good, too… despite the lukewarm response that it got from some critics).
It’s something that resonates with me because it occurs to me that throughout the course of my life I’ve acquired numerous different skills and learned from some very good teachers, but for whatever excuse never truly investing myself in the one thing permanently. I’ve instead only ever proved to be a very underproductive over-achiever at different things.
For example, I’ve had the art and the powerlifting and then the teaching (something which I turned out to be rather good at, much to my horror)… but things that would all fall by the wayside thanks to my possessive and monstrously over-demanding mistress, the booze. My relationship with the booze really was a form of battered wife complex or Stockholm Syndrome – something that I for a long time had a very conflicted attitude towards and would endlessly try to rationalise to myself, but my lightbulb moment – the moment when I made sense of it all – wouldn’t come until 2012 when I read The Cure for Alcoholism and learned about the alcohol deprivation effect (also known as the ADE).
But before I go into my now oft-repeated story of how I got in contact with Claudia Christian, how I eventually acquired a supply of naltrexone for myself and start showing you some TSM extinction graph porn, it’s worth pausing to consider another skill set that I acquired (quite by accident) along the way.
I’m referring, of course, to my internet super bitching powers. This dark, enchanted weapon (an Excalibur for a troll) that would be forged in the fiery crucible of the anti-AA forums where I would find a home for a few years after leaving Alcoholics Anonymous after a not-that-good experience with the fellowship.
‘One thing that I will say about my time on the Orange Papers Facebook forum… I got pretty damn good at constructing arguments – a skill which I honed even further when I got into blogging.’
I’m paraphrasing, but that was the essence of what I said to Mike Dempsey and Roy Eskapa one nice September evening in 2015 when we were sat chatting in Benihana, a swanky Japanese restaurant in central London.
‘Seriously: it’s like I’ve got to be a Krav Maga blackbelt in kicking ass on internet forums and can instantly see through and defeat any lame debate tactic employing fallacious logic’, I elaborated.
They both nodded, but I think that it was only Michael (a tall, bespectacled man in his early 50s with a wild mane of grey hair) who really fully grasped what I meant when I stated how this type of forum can be a real bootcamp when it comes to shaping yourself into a formidable keyboard gladiator. He’d served his own apprenticeship on the similarly popular Stinkin’ Thinkin’ forum before moving on to author his own blog, you see.
But let’s cut through the shit: is learning to be a troll a good thing? No, it is not… and no, I’m not particularly proud of some of the misguided antics that I admit that I got up to… oh like gleefully attacking and tearing to ribbons certain very pompous AA members on different forums… but my word, during the short time that I aligned myself with the “antis” I was really good at it; seriously, my wrath was boundless.
So it’s a little hard to reconcile when I look back on things now. My outlook on so much of this has changed and I can see very clearly that by giving in to my basest, most reactionary urges I aligned myself with the questionable wisdom and questionable agendas of some new false prophets… false prophets who, if they had their way, would bury every bit of research confirming the efficacy of The Sinclair Method in order to defend their own longheld (but manifestly mistaken) addiction theories.
As monstrous as it sounds it’s absolutely true… certain addiction theorists simply cannot tolerate being wrong or even entertain the idea that they may have been wrong when it comes to the causality of alcohol addiction and the best method to treat it… especially when that same person becomes something of a critical darling and TSM makes the thesis of their books something of a “moot point”.
Okay, back to my timeline and after straying onto some other subjects and for the purpose of saving time I’m going to pretty much (aside from a few minor edits) just copy what I wrote for my mega-entry Naltreone Confidential in Claudia’s upcoming book, Sinclair Method Journeys:
The War Within
A shitty month in a shitty year.
I’d had several supposed rock bottoms, but this one was pretty bad by any standard and I honestly didn’t know how many more relapses I had left in me.
I was drinking easily well over 100 British units of alcohol a week (put it this way: my living room and many other rooms that I had in the house that I rented at the time looked as if I was trying to build scale models of the Manhattan skyline using cans of Carlsberg Special Brew), I was monstrously overweight, had blood pressure often bordering on what would be classed as a hypertensive emergency and a cholesterol score through the roof.
Though this had been going on since the mid 90s, I do have to stop and compliment my liver on its regenerative capabilities; it had proven to be the most resilient of soldiers in this war that I’d declared upon it and its many other sibling organs… yes, it had been a formidable opponent, but (as a doctor indicated to me) was started to feel the strain of this tireless combat.
So yes, things were bad. I could feel that tick of the hands on the clock counting down to my demise, put it that way.
‘Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock…’
And I was just tired. So, so exhausted.
You see, here’s the thing about me: I was never just a weekend warrior or, for that matter, someone who only drank to satisfy some unaddressed emotional need.
No. The compulsion was on a very deep visceral level – in some ways it was almost like an opportunistic hacker had found a backdoor exploit deep in the very source code of my brain and installed a piece of vicious malware which then took my operating system hostage.
(That’s how I explain it in my native geek-tongue, anyway. Ha! my first language! …but another way of saying it is simply that I was a fucked-up alcoholic who had very little self control)
Just on the subject of willpower: when you’re as thoroughly addicted as I was, just leaving the home to go out shopping or summoning up the motivation to doing anything whatsoever that isn’t related to acquiring your drug of choice takes real willpower.
Well, because we all have only have so much willpower, even without an addiction. Furthermore, I had the added complication of bipolar disorder – something which I’d been diagnosed with in 1999 and which proved to be a real exacerbating factor because the magnified mood states of the disorder made it so that each time I tried to abstain from drinking alcohol I was constantly having to walk on eggshells around my own triggers.
Oh, like the tendency to be grumpy.
That used to be a massive trigger. The slightest little thing that annoyed or irritated me could reflexively cause this craving for booze to come swimming up from the depths of my mind like a vengeful kraken and consume everything in its path. It would be like all of my rational faculties would be taken hostage by pure raging HUNGER.
Of course, I knew that this was not normal and over the years had tried almost everything from acupuncture to Alcoholics Anonymous – but with little to no success in escaping from the trap I was in.
In fact, the longest period of unbroken sobriety I had in this period was just under 6 months and I can tell you that it was absolutely and utterly White Knuckle City – not nice.
So: my particular narrative was set to have a sad ending, it seems. I was to be nature’s equivalent of one of the red shirts from out of Star Trek (or at least that’s how it felt).
Though I certainly didn’t want to die and was begging for help from every nurse or doctor that I could pin down around this time, there was still this feeling of inevitably lurking in the periphery of my mind (the “tick, tock” thing again).
…Until I contacted the Hollywood actress (and, as it happens, the subject of one of my numerous teenage movie-buff crushes!) Claudia Christian, that is.
Little did I know it, but this set me on a path in which I was about to effectively rewrite my own narrative, but I was about to (to some extent) rewrite my own biology with what amounts to nano-surgery using a drug called naltrexone in order to chemically castrate my kraken by reverse-engineering the way that my endorphin receptors had come to respond to alcohol.
A new dawn – ‘The Rise of Sinclair’s Rottweiler’
The 2nd of April 2013, to be precise (some dates you never forget).
Fast-forwarding over three months after my first communication with Claudia via Facebook and following a noisy Easter bank holiday in the street that I was living in at the time, I come home one afternoon to find a delivery card in my hallway telling me that my package is available for me to pick up at a local post office.
Something that I’d been expecting – a shipment of naltrexone from India.
What had happened during this lengthy period between late December and the beginning of April is that – much to my surprise – Claudia had personally responded to my query about The Sinclair Method within the space of just a couple of hours.
Unbelievable, I know – but that’s Claudia for you. So generous with her time and so eager to help people suffering (as she herself once had) with alcoholism – or, to give it its fancy-schmancy politically correct term, “alcohol use disorder”.
She was terrific, in fact. And helped keep me sane (or as sane as I could possibly be at that time, given how badly I was still suffering) as I went through the seemingly tortuous process of acquiring this treatment – which I can tell you what most definitely not made easy for me; honestly, I was made to feel like Oliver Twist begging for his bowl of gruel just trying to get any medical professional in my vicinity to even deign to discuss my options with regards to how I could even go about privately acquiring a supply of naltrexone or nalmefene to start treatment.
To make matters harder, at that time nalmefene had yet to be approved for prescription in the UK and naltrexone was (and most scandalously still is) only available on private prescription, given that it is not officially licenced for use to treat alcohol addiction here in dear old Blighty.
I remember it all feeling like a complete and utter fucking headache at the time. Having so many doors slammed in my face and being spoken to with so much needless condescension frankly only added to the intense stress that I was feeling and – of course – just fed the blazing furnace of my addiction even further.
I might well have given up if not for Claudia giving me continual encouragement throughout all of this.
And thus, after fannying around with a private clinic in Glasgow (and even starting the process of getting my medical notes transferred to them for my GP practice), I was so sickened with the UK medical profession in general I’m sad to say, that I ultimately decided:
‘Screw this for a game of soldiers – I’m gonna “cut out the middle man” and just import the fucking stuff myself.’
So I did.
(And the rest, as they say, is history)
But do you know something? As it happens, something really positive would be forged out of this crucible of seething anger that I had been feeling – a blog called Naltrexone Confidential (or, to give it its correct URL at the time, naltrexoneconfidential.com).
As I recall, the name came to me quite early on. Like the best ideas, ‘Naltrexone Confidential’ just popped into my head without anything in the way of intense brainstorming. What’s neat about it is the way how it acts as both a tribute to Claudia (by way of a ‘tip of the hat’ to her memoir Babylon Confidential) and also the way how it evokes the type of name you’d give to a magazine, doesn’t it? (Obviously, the titular magazine from James Elroy’s L.A. Confidential and its magnificent film adaptation comes to mind).
Strangely enough, having an appreciation of that type of hard-boiled fiction (I was a huge fan of Jonathan Latimer’s Bill Crane detective stories when I was younger) helped shape the style of writing that I would adopt… no flowery, morbidly romanticized confessionals about ‘my struggle’ for me!
Nope. This was going to going to go for a more refreshing‘Just the facts, ma’am’ tone, but at the same time not without personality or occasional detours into colourful humour mixed in with the grit.
It says a lot about Claudia that she got behind this idea so early on and said ‘Go for it’ to me. It speaks volumes about her very real confidence in this treatment.
…Think about it: if this had gone pear-shaped and the treatment proved to be absolutely useless then things could be very, very different now indeed.
Why? Well, the site wouldn’t have lasted very long because – as I see it – who in their right mind would want to invest the time and money to continually keep up and running an everlasting memorial to their failed attempt? (not me, that’s for sure – I would have moved onto trying my luck with a different treatment method very quickly indeed).
So thanks to the fact that it did indeed work and that thanks to The Sinclair Method I was able to ween myself off the booze in a 13 week period (see the graph below) Naltrexone Confidential existed for a good while before I eventually elected to move onto other projects.
In fact, the site itself actually survived thanks to my handing over the reins to my friend and former co-editor Joanna Duyvenvoorde who – under her captaincy – is now doing sterling work with it and has given a few extra coats of paint and subsequently rechristened the ship I built as C3 Europe, now operating as a European sibling to the C3 Foundation’s main site.
True: it’s very different to what I originally built, mainly because Joanna has a different focus and different skillset to myself, but you perhaps still see some of my DNA in it if you look closely enough!
Putting the pieces of the jigsaw together – just what is The Sinclair Method and how does it work?
‘Nal + Alcohol = Cure’. That, when you distil it right down, is the formula for success with TSM; one pill taken one hour before your first drink of alcohol of the day – always.
A formula that Dr. Roy Eskapa repeats numerous times over and over in his book The Cure for Alcoholism.
Amusingly, such was the repetition during my first read through of the book that I recall thinking: ‘Jeeeezus wept, would you give it a rest? I GET IT’.
Not that that’s any slight on the book whatsoever (which is a great read, by the way)… no, as it happens, the good doctor had reason to be firm – repetition is a useful, often vital tool in learning and both he and Dr. David Sinclair (the American psychologist and addiction researcher from whom this treatment takes its name) had both been witness to numerous depressing attempts by others to deviate from Sinclair’s formula. Attempts to effectively ‘fit a square peg into a round hole’ by prescribing naltrexone alongside abstinence rather than with continued drinking.
You see, what is crucial to understand about The Sinclair Method is that it works through a mechanism of pharmacological extinction in order to selectively ‘delete’ an unwanted behaviour (in this case alcohol addiction) at a neurobiological level, but here’s the thing: the pill is no good for this purpose on its own.
Why? Because, with naltrexone or nalmefene in your system, your brain only goes into delete mode when you add alcohol to the equation one hour after swallowing the pill. It’s called ‘selective extinction’ for a reason, in other words.
YES. As nuts as it sounds, to ensure success you absolutely have to drink alcohol on the days that you take the pill (at least one hour after taking it, to be specific) in order to drink your way sober. Furthermore, you do not take the pill on days that you do not drink.
Completely counter-intuitive, I know – especially given the way that our culture has been conditioned to think that complete and utter abstinence was the only way to conquer alcohol addiction thanks to the popularisation of Alcoholics Anonymous
Upon first hearing about The Sinclair Method, I’ve gotta admit that my own Semmelweis reflex (ha!) was to discount all of this as a load of old horse shit, but upon further study it makes a lot of sense.
To tell you the truth, I was surprised by the amount of research on this and how far it goes back. The genesis of all of this goes right back to the late 1960s, in fact, when David Sinclair was tasked by the Finnish government to pull a rabbit out of a hat with regards to finding a solution for their country’s seemingly insurmountable alcohol addiction epidemic.
Just because I’ve already done a fair amount of exposition with this bit (so much so that I’m starting to feel more than a bit like the Michael York character from the Austin Powers films), I think now would be as good a time as any to pass you over to a citation taken from David Sinclair’s definitive statement about The Sinclair Method:
‘The brain has two primary mechanisms for changing its own wiring on the basis of experience. First, there is learning for strengthening behaviors that provide reinforcement. Second, there is extinction for removing behaviors that no longer produce reinforcement. The best known example involves Pavlov’s dogs that learned to salivate to the sound of a bell when the bell was followed by food, but then had the learned behavior extinguished when the food reinforcement was no longer given after the bell was rung.’
Yeah, that explains it well. Upon going through the process over the course of 13 weeks (see the graph below), I found that the sound of my own internal Pavlovian bell grew ever dimmer until I could no longer hear it.
What’s most surprising is that I frankly wasn’t that impressed upon my first drinking session with naltrexone. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but despite any dramatic anecdotes (ha! the four yorkshiremen and the “we lived in a hole in the middle of the road” thing from Monty Python comes to mind) you might read from any other TSMers on the forums, I myself felt no bolt of lightning.
Just a vague thought that I perceived my very first can of Carlsberg Special Brew to be “somehow less sugary tasting”, but after the first can I frankly stopped even noticing any difference.
Not that I’m trying to diminish anyone’s experience here, but I guess I was lucky because – as I say – I didn’t perceive of much of anything in the way of an immediate change. Not the first few nights. It was only as I persevered with keeping my logs that I could measurably see (as you can now by looking at that graph) the quite rapid decline of my consumption.
Okay, I think that about covers what happened up to 2013-2014 quite well.
The question is how am I doing these days?
All things considered, quite well I would say. Life isn’t perfect; I do have my ups and downs thanks to my mental health condition and some quite recent devastating trauma – but at least I’m sober.
Which is all I wanted, really. As for my art and my other interests, I still keep my hand in when I’m able.
As the drink diaries below show, my Sinclair Method start date was the 2nd of April 2013 – reaching my extinction point approximately within a 12-13 week timeframe.
As to side effects, I was quite fortunate as there was very little discomfort in my instance. The only two things of note were that I perceived my can of strong lager (specifically Carlsberg Special Brew) to “taste less sugary” upon my very first exposure to the drug and that I had a bit of a bad case of stomach cramps on the second day of use.
After that there were no other real issues.
The only other thing of note is that prior to TSM my average weekly alcohol unit consumption was >100 British units so it would be fair to say that there was a very rapid and marked reduction in my drinking quite early into the process. As my craving for alcohol decrementally reduced I noticed that I started to favour brands of a much weaker strength.
***Update: 9th April 2018***
Since publishing this post in December 2016 the C3 Foundation has in fact created an impressive TSM drink log app for Android – see HERE.
(At this time of writing they’re also in the process of creating an identical app for the iOS platform – I’ll be sure to update this post when that comes out)
However, if you’re (like me) more of a PC lover rather than a touchscreen person, you can download a copy of the Sinclair Method drink diary Microsoft Word template that I used in the above images by clicking on the below icon:
And you can download a copy of the Excel spreadsheet that I used to create my extinction graph here:
(As you’ll notice when you download the spreadsheet, it contains my weekly drink data… my advice to you is just to go in and replace the data with your own in order to custom build your own graph)
…If you should have any compatibility issues due to whatever version of these Microsoft programs your computer has installed please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to send you a version that will work with your machine.
It’s been an interesting couple couple of weeks. Since finishing off the last couple of caricatures of some of my fellow volunteers from The Artrium gallery in Hartlepool (see HERE to have a look at those), I’ve just put down the pencil after completing this one – a caricature of my friend Beano illustrator Gary Whitlock.
And… I think it’s okay (as far as these things go)… a little overcrowded, perhaps – but yeah, it’ll do.
About t’other Gary: he’s a really cool guy; just a terrific artist… and (given that he’s been in the comics biz since the late 80s) an old hand at this whole cartooning thing.
To quote a famous catchphrase from the superb TV show The Wire: “Shyeeeeeeet”.
But enough of indulging in misery. “Gotta keep truckin'”; “onwards and upwards”, and all that… so without further ado, time for a bit of a review of things.
Like, for instance, where are things going with this blog? What’s my exact purpose with continuing it?
Well, there’s not been much doing for quite a few months now – tumbleweed, I know – very much because of what’s been going on behind the scenes in the wake of my mom’s death and the fact that I’ve needed to be far more discrete than usual (to the point of practically gagging myself) in order so that due process would not be impeded come the trial.
But in my spare time I have kept myself busy with a good bit of writing as a contributor under the umbrella of another project being headed up by a friend of mine… something yet to be published, but which should be quite good once that project gets further into development. Sounds all very hush-hush, I know… but there really isn’t that much of a mystery as to why I’ve not discussed it or publicized it… the fact is, I don’t like to make a fool of myself and make a noise about things (especially with regard to other people’s projects) when the traffic lights are still on amber, as opposed to green – that’s all. Understandable, really.
I’ve also got back into my art in a big way, working as a volunteer for a not for profit art gallery/studio in Hartlepool (one of two voluntary roles I’m currently doing to help keep myself occupied, in fact) and have had a bit of fun recently doing some caricatures of some of my fellow studio peers (see below):
What I intend to do is to finally overcome my phobia of Adobe Photoshop and start doing digitally coloured versions of these things. Over the years I’ve played about with things like Photoshop and Corel Draw (as well as a popular Android graphics app called PicsArt recently), but I’ve got to admit that I’ve never invested much time or patience in them and have in fact had a bit of snootily dismissive attitude towards them… something that’s coming back to bite me in the bum big time now that so many illustrators use Photoshop and now that so many publishers expect you to be so well versed in various different graphical formats when you’re sending art to them (e.g. JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PSD etc, etc, etc).
But more than that, having become a big fan of the likes of comics illustrators like Lee Bermejo, I now realise just how wrong I really was and just how much digital colour can add to a drawing when applied well (if you’re unfamiliar with Bermejo’s work, please do check him out… especially his Joker graphic novel with Brian Azzarello and his self-penned Christmas Carol-themed Noel Batman graphic novel… just amazing, amazing work).
So anyway, that’s one little goal for myself… that’s one of my New Year’s resolutions already set down – to become much better acquainted with Photoshop.
…That and to continue things at the gym.
As many people know, I was in really bad physical shape a couple of years ago – dangerously so; morbidly obese and with blood pressure and cholesterol through the roof, so getting into the gym was motivated more by necessity rather than vanity… and much to my surprise, I picked things up rather well and have got into much better shape than I expected (get this: I’ve gone down from a 41 inch waist to a 34 inch waist!), but oh my Gawd, it’s taken some work… the hardest part being the diet much moreso than the weight training / cardio aspect.
Now THAT takes real discipline to adhere to… throwing some weights around and doing the whole gerbil thing on a treadmill is nothing… sticking to a rigid diet is a 24/7 job, I’ll tell ya!
Of course, given the events of this last year, it’s been really difficult to stick in at anything… I’ve really had to force myself sometimes… but what keeps me going is the memory of how proud my mum was to see me finally trying to sort myself out – hence why it’s so important for me to stick with it. Plus I also remember how fiercely motivated she was (at the age of nearly 80 years old!) with her line dancing and how she’d attend even if there was a snow blizzard… a fact that puts me to shame when I start to hear that little voice in my head telling me things like “Oh I would give it a miss… you’re far too tired today”.
Yes, that’s a good word. That’s a good summary of where I think I’m at right now. In this godawful inbetween stage (until January, anyway) until I can move on… though “move on” is perhaps a poor choice of words. I can’t guarantee how myself or any of my family will be, coming out of this. Or whether I’ll be the same person ever again.
But, again, I have my mom’s memory. Though there’s no guarantees, as long as I keep that in my mind that should be enough of a compass to help me from getting lost.
As to any other stuff… well, I’d like to get into doing some more stuff around The Sinclair Method on my blog next year. As much as I’ve walked away from a lot of the forums just because I’m frankly tired of reading the same old shit recycled and seeing the same over-opinionated pigs having their feeding frenzies in the troughs comments sections of the likes of The Fix and bullying everyone else out (shades of Napoleon from Orwell’s Animal Farm, I know), but I have to admit that I still do find the whole subject of addiction endlessly fascinating.
I just want to get back into it at another time, that’s all.
Okey-dokey, well that’s about it for now, I think. Nothing much else of note to report… but just on the subject of addiction, please do check out Monica Richardson’s documentary The 13th Step if you get the chance. I finally got round to watching it on Amazon Video about a month ago and it’s quite good. Better than I expected, actually. In fact, I much prefer it to Penn & Teller’s 12 Step thing… which I thought was quite informative, but very over-rated and I really didn’t care for the way how it fell into the trap of misrepresenting the whole debate as a two narrative paradigm, with Jeffrey Schaler effectively “representing” everyone who is opposed to the 12 Steps (which is highly misleading because I can tell you that not everyone on the other side of the fence to the Minnesota model agrees with many of Schaler’s views on addiction either).
Right. Well, that’s me done for now. Thanks for reading.
Okay, so here’s the score: it’s been nearly three and a half years since I went onto The Sinclair Method – a treatment method that enabled me to get sober in a thirteen week time frame.
In other words, more than enough time has passed (certainly enough time by AA’s “one year yard rule”, put it that way) for me to start thinking about putting myself out there on the dating scene.
And so it was, with no small amount of apprehension that I started the process by joining a couple of dating websites earlier this year – these being Plenty of Fishand Local Companions.
And the result? Urrgh… the result, dear reader, was that I very nearly lost the will to live using these things.
To explain: at the grand old age of forty four years of age I’m finding that I’m a bit of a dinosaur; someone completely unaccustomed to dating website etiquette and the cruel brevity of modern textspeak.
Meaning, of course, that whenever I use one of these dating websites or dating apps to connect with someone whom I like the look of, I’m often treated with suspicion or thinly veiled ridicule for speaking in properly constructed sentences and paragraphs.
In other words, I increasingly feel like the main protagonist from Idiocracy whenever I communicate with people in my natural writing style and in fact feel pressurised to “dumb it down” in order to fit in better and/or avoid ridicule.
Of course, I could just sit here and take a smugly superior attitude… defiantly saying that I “refuse to compromise for stupid people” and I could spend the rest of this article venting my spleen by ridiculing these dating social media platforms… or… or I could stop and honestly look at things and assess where I might have been going wrong.
Very interesting reading, indeed. This extract is real food for thought:
“Just as we have different styles of speaking in different situations, so do we have context-dependent styles of writing”
You know what? The author may have a point there. For instance, I can tell you that in his e-mails Roy Eskapa has a habit of typing everything in upper case WHICH MAKES IT LOOK LIKE HE IS SHOUTING… but do you know what? He actually isn’t. As Roy explained to me once, writing everything in uniform upper case is simply more expedient because it’s far less time-consuming than having to press the shift key every few seconds as he’s typing one e-mail after another.
Another example that comes to mind is an old school friend of mine who (despite being one of the most literate, intelligent people that you could ever meet) reads as if he’s had the most severe of lobotomies if you were to judge him by the standard of his writing on his Facebook timeline… something that’s just littered with the dreaded LOLs and the type of phonetic writing that you might expect from a young ‘un just out of nursery (example: “yeah ano! LOL” replacing the more formal “Yes, I know!”).
…Which makes me think that the author of the blog is correct in what she says about how many people use textspeak as a method to be perceived to be less formal and therefore far less threatening. The latter becoming especially more important in this day and age where people are so quick to manufacture reasons to publicly shame people on social media (see Jon Ronson’s excellent So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed to read more on this very real modern phenomenon)… so, as much as it hurts my ego to admit this, perhaps the use of a “LOL” comes in handy now and again as a seat belt of sorts to avoid embarrassing social media car crashes; a form of pre-emptive damage limitation, perhaps?
Okay, so maybe I should loosen up a bit. Point taken.
Or (here’s a better idea) maybe I should simply tighten up on my match criteria for these dating sites?
…Which, in a roundabout way, leads me on to talking about the two new dating apps that I joined over the last month or so – Tinder and Badoo.
Now this is where it gets interesting because, to tell you the truth, these two apps aren’t that bad. Tinder, in particular, I quite like because of the way that by linking to your Facebook profile and reading your work history and qualifications and interests/likes, etc its algorithm actually attempts to match you to people with a similar personality and similar interests.
Which is great.
I can honestly say that I’ve been quite impressed by the matches that it’s given me and some of the nice ladies that I’ve communicated with through it… but here’s the thing: it’s frustratingly un-user friendly in that you’re limited by a specific word count for your profile write up and it offers scant little else in the way of any other special features to recommend it, whereas Badoo (a dating app recommended to me by a friend) is a different kettle of fish because whilst it doesn’t offer anything nearly as good in the way of matching, it does offer numerous appealing extras such as photo verification using your mobile device’s camera (something always reassuring in this day and age given the increased awareness of the number of fakers out there thanks to things like the documentaries Catfish and Talhotblonde) and other appealingly daft perks such as Xbox-style achievements for the number of views your profile has had and also, using your phone’s GPS technology, the app gives you an alert if you’ve unknowingly bumped into a fellow Badoo member of the opposite sex that same day… which is quite a cool feature, because it certainly gets your curiosity going.
So, depending upon what appeals to you the most, there’s things to recommend about both apps.
For me personally, though, Tinder has the edge just simply because it gives better matches.
Not that this makes things that much easier for me personally. To explain – even with a well-written profile and some nice photos of myself looking all debonair it is no guarantee of success whatsoever.
There are still things like the dreaded (but all too common) ridiculously unachievable Andie MacDowell-esque bullet lists to endure on these things and then, once I do get talking to a nice lady, there’s still a vetting process and numerous questions that get fired at me (which, again, is the Catfish legacy at work); something which I’m okay with and am quite sympathetic to – after all, there are some pretty damaged, dangerous people out there.
No – when it comes right down to it, my problem has a lot to do with my own confidence level thanks to a lot of my own baggage.
I’m specifically referring to my history of mental ill health thanks to my bipolar disorder and also my history with alcohol addiction and how I was very much “in the wilderness” thanks to both for so many years.
A story that makes for great reading as a recovery narrative on some Facebook forum or blog or Message board or whatever, but NOT – I can assure you! – on a fucking dating website!!!!
…Hence why, when I’m asked awkward questions like “You’re a reasonably good looking man, how come you’ve been single for so long?” I’ve had to develop appropriate ways of communicating (in a drip-drip style) some of the health/social challenges that I’ve had without laying it on too thickly; not something that I’ve been entirely happy about doing because I despise dishonesty, but then again I frankly don’t want to scare people off.
As my friend Robert Rapplean recently pointed out to me, you have to be both pragmatic and strategic in your choice of what you disclose about yourself… as if you were going for a job interview – meaning that you have to “accentuate the positive”.
You got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive E-lim-i-nate the negative And latch on to the affirmative Don’t mess with mister in between
Johnny Mercer, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, 1944
I think that there’s a number of things that I’ve learned since starting the ball rolling in January of this year.
“You get what you pay for in this life”. Meaning that, if I am really serious, it may be worth investing a little bit of time and money in a membership to a good dating website with a solid reputation rather than messing around with cheap freemium dating apps.
Just on the time aspect – I’ve read elsewhere on the net that fifteen hours a week is actually considered a reasonable investment in order to find success. A lot of time, I know, but it makes sense not to be half-assed about finding the right person and to really put in a lot of effort in doing a good write up and keeping it regularly updated with new photos.
I perhaps need to “get over myself” a bit with my pedantic hang-up about people who use textspeak and accept that maybe – just maybe – some level of dialect switching is going on there. A good way to spot whether this may be the case would be to check out their profile and attempt to read between-the-lines.
Most importantly, I think that I just need to HAVE FUN. Accept that rejection is inevitable, that I’ll have to go through a lot of ugly step sisters before I find my own personal Cinderella and – oh, yes – to make sure that I never EVER post something like this on a dating website…
Okay, as usual, it’s been a blast. Thanks for listening to my ranting and raving.
Peace and love,
P.S. just one last interesting point: both myself and Mike Dempsey were talking about the whole online dating thing and the challenges that people with stigmatising illnesses face in getting back into the dating scene and we briefly mooted the possibility of answering this demand by setting up a dating site or dating app for people in recovery… however – after about, oh, thirty seconds of thought on the subject – we both concluded that (despite it not being a bad idea) the reality is that moderating such a thing would be an absolute frickin’ nightmare; just too much.
P.P.S. Another thought that does spring to mind: I suppose that this is yet another type of discrimination that people in recovery face. Much like how we face discrimination when applying for jobs or in the way that we are sometimes treated by members of the medical profession when complaining about other health problems. I guess the biggest difference, of course, is that (unlike the other examples) when it comes to the dating game it isn’t remotely a meritocracy to start with anyway… in fact it’s entirely discriminatoryby it’s very nature. It’s brutal and unforgiving, in fact; positively Darwinian. A heartbreaking truth which I learned for myself when I stumbled across a disabled lady’s profile on Plenty of Fish in which she was pleading with people to ignore the wheelchair she was sitting in in her profile photo and just to talk to her like a proper human being… so sad.
Now I come to write the post that I was dreading writing because I didn’t quite know how to articulate my feelings in a way that would do them justice. However, I could not not write a tribute to Mum on here.
No. I instead had to write about this. I had to write a tribute to Mum.
As I wrote on Facebook on 17th May, 2016:
So today we got to say goodbye and pay tribute to our beloved Mum – our hero. I have only just come back from the wake and, all things considered, it all went very well and she got the send-off she really deserved. I think that she would have been deeply proud of the dignified way that her family were able to hold it together so well despite having to also labour under the burden of the circumstances in which she was prematurely taken from us.
Again, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone for their kind, comforting words during this sad time. Also, it was lovely to be reacquainted with so many old friends… thanks for that… it is touching to know just how many people loved and thought so highly of Mum. Everybody thinks their Mum is special, but do you know what? Ours really was… more than even I ever truly appreciated until now. Bless her heart.xxx
Regarding the statement “labour under the burden of the circumstances in which she was prematurely taken from us”, it is a matter of public record that she was the victim of a homicide and that her home was robbed and set fire to. But I don’t really want to go into any of that, just because it is painful to discuss and I also need to be mindful of due process given the subsequent arrest and pending court action against the suspected perpetrator.
But yes, these last eight weeks have been emotionally stressful. How could they not be?
Thankfully we’re a big, strong family so I know we’ll get through this with love, courage and dignity. We’ll do Mum’s memory proud, I’m sure. We are united and we will prevail.
Speaking for myself, I’m as proud as hell to have called Norma Bell “Mum”. As devoted foster carers she and her husband the late John (AKA “Dad” – sadly missed) took me in as part of their family when I was just ten days old and together they gave me a wonderful childhood and, as I got older and developed many of the little glitches that come with adulthood, never gave up on me and left a real imprint on me – helping to shape me into a far better man than I might have been had I never known them. I have much to be grateful for. This is the reason why I am proud to now carry their surname.
And it is this that I shall choose to remember in the years ahead – the joy and the laughter and the warmth… not the way that Mum was cruelly taken.
I will not let that have power over me. I could so easily let this turn me into a cruel, embittered man but I will not simply because I was raised by good, kind people to be better than that.
In fact, just regarding my previous social media work surrounding The Sinclair Method, here’s a little-known fact: I might not have put myself out there and got into it all as much as I did if not for Mum.
After Claudia Christian had asked me whether I would be interested in taking part in her wonderful documentary One Little Pill I agonised for a while. I didn’t immediately say “yes” just for the simple reason that I was afraid of the exposure that it would bring and it was in fact Mum who helped put my head straight on whether or not to take part.
Mum: “Will this documentary help save lives?”
Me: “Yes, probably.”
Mum: “Then you should do it“.
…This coming from a woman who was quite risk averse in the way that she would always be the first to try to shield me and any of her other children from any potential dangers in their lives.
But, you see, she had seen how much healthier I was, how TSM had worked for me (and is STILL working, I should point out) and – bless her heart – being the type of person that she was always thought of ways to help other people above her own needs. And that is how she stirred me out of my own moral cowardice on the issue and I subsequently hopped on a train to London to spend the day with a certain American actress and a certain well-known South African psychologist for the filming of OLP.
So her benevolent influence has indirectly touched a lot of people, I think.
‘For the British people the advent of the early home computers was perfect… and why we were so dominant in the world is because the British have got this crazy creativity going on… it was all about invention… it was all about creating things that had never existed before.’ – Peter Molyneux, From Bedroom to Billions
What I can say is that it is like I am the perfect demographic for this film – that is to say a British guy of a certain age (*cough!* north of forty *cough!*) whose very first home computer was a ZX Spectrum +2 in the mid 1980s.
Aaaah…… the memories…… these were the heady days of monochromatic graphics, horrible attribute clashes, bleepy-bloppy sound effects and having to endure screeching, seizure-inducing loading screens for five to ten minutes every time I wanted to load a game from cassette tape (disc drives??? pfft! …they were a luxury, I tell ya… a luxury!).
But do you know what? Back at that time I absolutely loved it… this was how I first got into videogames, this sparked off a decades-long love affair with the medium, and this is how I first got really curious about computers and what they could do… and the Spectrum, as primitive as it was, was my ‘gateway drug’ (mind you… if I’m truthful, I was slightly jealous of many of my peers who’d been gifted Commodore 64’s instead… because, as it mentions in this film, the Commodore had better sound and allowed for more than one colour in each 8-bit character block).
But still, ‘You never forget your first‘ and all that, I guess. Plus, even despite its limitations, the Spectrum wasn’t a bad little machine… it really wasn’t the Ŝkoda of home computers that some people unfairly make it out to be (indeed, there’s a lot of love for that little machine in retro-gaming circles to this day – something which, thanks to crowdfunding, has led to the recent emergence of the ZX Spectrum Vega). But I digress. Back to the film:
At two hours and twenty nine minutes in length it cannot be accused of understaying its welcome, that’s for sure; but it certainly isn’t a chore to sit through, has real replay value (I’ve already watched it about two or three times) and does a really good job of giving a snapshot of what was going on with this then very new, burgeoning cottage industry in bedroom programming back in the 80s, prior to the emergence of consoles.
It is particularly gratifying to see people like Jeff Minter, Mike Montgomery of The Bitmap Brothers and Matthew Smith make appearances in this film… the latter (looking like he’d seen better days, to tell you the truth) being the creator of ZX Spectrum classic Manic Miner. The contribution of these people and many, many others should not be understated. What’s most surprising is just how young most of these guys were… many of whom, ultimately, weren’t prepared for the tough realities of the multi-billion dollar industry that they helped create from their bedrooms… hence why it’s gratifying to see the work of these individuals getting rediscovered and finding a new lease of life on platforms like Steam.
Just as an aside: I was really interested to recently read that a redux of The Chaos Engine (an old 90’s classic by The Bitmap Brothers) is out on Steam. Since I have fond memories of playing that on my younger brother’s Amiga back in the day, I may well purchase that. I loved the whole steampunk aesthetic of that game, the evocative industrial music score and the clever A.I. controlled two player co-op of that game… well worth revisiting (it could make for an interesting future review on here, come to think of it).
So overall, when it comes to the documentary and everything that it covers, it does a good job and Anthony and Nicola Caulfield (the film’s directors) deserve special praise for their tenacity in pursing crowdfunding for this project, having had knock-backs from both Channel 4 and the BBC prior to this.
It’s on the long side, sure, but it doesn’t outstay its welcome and is also (unexpectedly) moving. You come away from viewing this film with a renewed appreciation for this artform and the efforts of the young British pioneers who played such a pivotal role in what would evolve into the important creative industry that we enjoy today.
‘Respect long overdue‘, in other words. Recommended.
I look forward to hearing other people’s thoughts on this film.
If you’re interested in this subject matter, some other films that you may well be interested in checking out are (in no particular order):
Right, then. What I’m about to say makes me a bit nervous… just because it may indicate that I have a bit of a problem and may need some help… so please be gentle with me, dear reader. It isn’t easy admitting to something like this out loud, okay?
Alright, here goes: despite the fact that over four months have now passed since Batman: World of Tanks was unleashed upon the over-expectant, hyperbole prone fanboy masses… and yes, despite the fact that I was badly disappointed by the way that the Batmobile dragged down the game with these horribly drawn-out tank battles and the obscenity-inducing Riddler race tracks… yes, despite even that… I still keep myself returning to it…
…Again and again and again.
I’ve tried to deny myself, I really have… but dammit… wouldn’t ya know? All that freeflow combat and all those really cool stealth mechanics (not to mention all of the fantastic graphics, voice acting and narrative) in the non-tankety bits make this particular game a still alluring, yet cruel mistress.
So there we are. I sort of have the videogame equivalent of have a form of Stockholme Syndrome when it comes to this game… like returning to an an abusive lover.
Hehe! I’m weak, I know! (Well, until the next Hitman game flits its eyelasses at me, that is…)
P.S. Oh, and while I’m on the subject of the Batman Arkhamverse games – for the record, Arkham Origins was nowhere near as bad as many people say it was. The fact is, it only got so much hate poured upon it because it was so damn glitchy early into its release and was produced by Warners Bros Montreal instead of Rocksteady.
Was is it as good as Arkham City? Nope. But it did have a surprisingly good plotline – one that made it so that it made sense that Batman had all of these encounters with multiple villains during the same night – and it also featured excellent depictions of Deathstroke and Bane (indeed, to me this felt like the “real” Bane for the first time in any medium outside of the original comics).