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/
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.