‘…Not long ago, drink was my “sun” and I was in its orbit.’ – Marie
Hello readers and welcome to the second in my series of ongoing interviews with different people at different stages of recovery with The Sinclair Method (TSM).
My friend Marie – who has been on TSM for over three years now – has very kindly agreed to share her story with us.
What follows is a transcript of our correspondence together.
When did you first realise that you had a drinking problem and how did you come to hear about The Sinclair Method?
Hello Gary. First let me say that I’m really excited to work with you on this article. Mindful, compliant Sinclair Method Is a true life-saver. I’m happy to do this as I can to help spread the word.
You ask when did I realise I had a drinking problem? The short answer is I was in my mid-40s.
The true, long answer is that I simply grew up with alcoholism and drinking. It was just what people did. I have a strong family background with drinking, so it was only ‘normal’ when I snuck my first beer at 11 or so. I got married in my early 20s to a rather large man, but I could drink him under the table at will. At that time I was still in the driver’s seat with the drinking. Months would go by and I wouldn’t touch a drop. I separated from my ex in my late 20s, and could drink ‘socially’.
Then some of the binges started creeping in. I would have been shocked at this point if anyone had told me I had a ‘drinking problem’.
I just grew up with people often drinking a good portion of the night and then recovering the next day. I tried to date at this point in my life, and had several broken relationships. My friends Jim and Jack were always there for me. though – Jim Beam and Jack Daniels. I never drove drunk, and I never missed work due to a hangover, but the drinking was becoming more and more prevalent. The binges came more and more frequently and became more and more intense as to what and how much I was drinking. I had the family history, and my own personal choices too, that had me marked as a person who drank.
The AUD started really getting bad in my early 40s. I’ve always been a private person, so a lot of people in my family even still called me a ‘teetotaller.’ I’ve never had to go to the hospital and detox, and I still tried to never miss work or any other important engagement; but I started believing more and more in the bottle of alcohol in my fridge.
Images of cold cans of beer would just pop into my mind when I was trying to focus at work for instance. I’d be home, relaxing an watching TV and, without any real conscious thought on my part, I’d be up and into the kitchen to get a glass of Amaretto. I still didn’t have a ‘problem’, you see. I still didn’t need AA, or any other form of help.
If I kept my head clear and really focused, I could still go for long periods of time without a drink.
As I initially said, it was in my mid-40’s when things came to a head. I’ve always lived on my own, so not even family members knew things were getting bad for me. I just kept it to myself. If I never missed work and never drove drunk, I was in control, right? I was all about Rum Chata at the time, and I had a very hard time getting out the door to go to work without ‘just a sip’. In spite of having lost several family members at this point due to the drinking so prevalent in my kin, I would slide down stairs because I was so buzzed. This is ‘hitting bottom’ in the worst possible way. Finances have always been rough, so I’ve never been able to carry much health care or go see a physician or get medications. So I ended up simply trying to ‘ration’ the alcohol, which left me in quite a white-knuckle state. The ‘binges’, if you could still call them that at this point, had pretty well melded themselves into a string of fights with my drinking. On my days off work, or when I had a clear schedule, I would just drink. I would eat once every other day, but always had red wine handy.
My true moment of realisation happened when I woke to an awful smell of greasy smoke one morning. I used to take several over-the-counter sleep meds, and yes, drink heavily on top of that. I went into the bathroom that morning, only to find that I had left a small votive candle burning on the back of the seat. It had gotten too hot, and the glass container it was in had exploded. There were sharp shards of glass and stinky blobs of brownish melted wax all over. It’s a good thing I left that little candle on the back of the inflammable porcelain seat. I never would have woke up if a fire had started.
That was when things came together for me. That was when I realised it was change or die. The little choices and decisions I had made one at a time all through the years had come to a head. I was torn between the image of the cold beer in my mind with beads of condensation sliding down the sides and the images of all my family members who had died from AUD. This was when I realised that it wasn’t like me to have to fight to get out the door to go to work without a few swallows of Rum Chata. I was single, on my own, but I had to somehow give up the drinking or die.
There is a strong AA community in my area, but I knew these people and would watch them suffer with the cravings to drink. There are many bars in my area, and though I never wanted to go *INTO* the taverns themselves, they would trigger the need to drink when I passed them. I’d get home and pop open the bottle. My finances cut out any possibility of seeing a doctor. I was at a very crucial point in my drinking – I call it the ‘Black Hole Event Horizon.’ I knew the drinking was going nowhere good, but how could I just leave that half-glass of Long Island ice tea?
You didn’t throw any drink out! I never got a DUI or had to go to detox, but I was nonetheless about to get sucked into some very destructive behaviours. Black Hole indeed.
I had been a follower of the sci-fi show Babylon 5 a few years prior.
One day I did an online search of the actors of the show to see what they had been up to recently. I came across Miss Claudia Christian’s memoir ‘Babylon Confidential’. I got a copy, and when sober enough to comprehend, read it quite avidly. Many things clicked into place when I did. Then I got a copy of Dr Roy Eskapa’s ‘The Cure for Alcoholism’ and was blown away by the sense and the logic to the science behind this ‘Sinclair Method’. This is the same time when it came to me that maybe I couldn’t take my own rough drinking habits for granted anymore, much as I grew up seeing the behaviour all around me.
It was also about this time that I got out to meet Miss Claudia in person. Yes, finances were hard, but it was ‘do or die’ when it came to the drink. Miss Claudia was appearing at a sci-fi convention. I have to say I was far to shy to openly discuss my drinking with ANYONE, let alone someone I was meeting for the first time. That was early 2014. I left her a copy of some of my writing, and then quietly went about my business. I gradually struck up an online conversation with her, and then saved up my pennies and nickles and went out to another convention she was appearing at. This time, I summoned up the courage to speak to her. That was later the same year. She helped me to get my first few doses of naltrexone. Miss Claudia’s wonderful non-profit, CThreeFoundation.Org, was of great help to me. I saved up a bit more cash, got my own supply of naltrexone (Naltima) and began mindful, compliant Sinclair Method. The Drinking Dragon, which had so quietly and perniciously crept up on me, was quashed. The AUD Monster, which was on the very verge of sucking me in, was removed completely from my back. In spite of a lot of odds against me, I got it done – and if *I* can anyone can.
Wow. That’s a great story of perseverance in the face of adversity. So… it’s been over three years now, right? What have those three years been like? Have you been able to keep compliant?
Oh, Gary. Have I been able to keep compliant? That’s a very good question, because it’s the whole point of the Sinclair Method after all, right? Yes, I learned early on as I was beginning TSM that LIFE has Inertia, and the Drinking Demon has a life of it’s own. I learned to keep my nal on me always. Things seemed to try to conspire to trip me up once I did realise I had to change or I was going to die from my AUD. I learned early on to keep my naltrexone on me all the time so I wouldn’t get caught out without the medication. It’s such a simple thing to do, really, and yet I had such an awful fight getting my nal!
I feel as though my pharmacological extinction moment happened in March of 2015, so yes, we’re about at that three year mark. Life itself is huge, so the last three years have been a terrifyingly beautiful time. My life is very different these days than what it was years ago, when the drinking was bad for me. For instance, when I was new to TSM, I did the research and learned about some of the science behind the Sinclair Method and pharmacologically enhanced learning (PEL) and I started exercising regularly on the days I did not drink.
These days, my life is grounded around those healthier choices instead of drinking. For me, AUD was such a huge part of life that the change was …. bewildering. What to do with all the time and energy and money once devoted to drink?
I’ll tell you about my extinction moment. Again, I had quite a fight getting my supply of naltrexone. When I did get the medication, I was mindful and compliant. If I compute how much I spent for my supply of nal, it breaks down to a cost of $2 or $3 per pill. Yes, like many other TSM folks, I had to order via a pharmacy in India. As a binge drinker, I did not drink daily. When I was having a rough day and felt a binge coming on, I would take a nal, wait the prescribed hour, then drink. I started TSM just before Christmas 2014. I drank per Dr David’s method thirteen times over the course of those intervening months. If you follow that simple math, that means I used thirteen pills at an expense of some $26 to $39. I don’t put this question forth in a ‘snarky’ or sarcastic manner – but do bear in mind the costs of hospitalized rehab and detox. Compare those expenses. Upon a time I would spend that $25-$40 in one night drinking easily.
So, I was at work that day in March when I had my extinction moment.
I worked in a laundry in an elderly care facility. The pay was not good; and I had no health care. My boss came to me and told me that hours and pay were going to be cut. I didn’t have much to begin with, and my paychecks went down by about one-third. This is part of what I mean by how life will throw you ‘curve balls’. Once the AUD has you, it intends to keep you.
I was furious. I worked nights, in a wing of the facility off by my own. I blush to admit this today, but there I was at work yelling and screaming and cussing. I kicked, and cried, and threw things about. I’m a lone wolf, and as hard as I worked I had just barely been making ends meet. How was I going to support myself making even less? AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) is a GOOD term, and covers a huge field of people in a wide gamut of drinking abuse. Some people have ‘good’ lives, and are still AUD. I myself don’t drink for a reason; if not for naltrexone I’d drink for MANY reasons.
Then the realisation of my extinction moment hit. I landed flat on my backside on the gross disgusting nasty sticky floor at work when I realised I had been so upset and angry for HOURS – but never once did that image of the bottle of Amaretto waiting for me at home come to plague my mind. As beside myself as I was in that moment, never ONCE did my internal voice say, ‘I need a DRINK!’ I had been so wild and agitated for hours, but I was no longer subject to the Drinking Demon. After the shock wore off, the tears that had been of sheer rage turned to … joy? Relief?
The past three years have been terrifyingly lovely indeed. I never expected to have that time. Now, it’s up to me to figure out what I want my life to be about, and how to cope with those awful blind-sides life throws at us all. It’s up to me to figure out how not to permit myself to be so upset. TSM is about dignity, and the personal responsibility that goes along with it. That’s what these last three years has been about for me. Not long ago, drink was my ‘sun’ and I was in its orbit.
It was a ‘Black Hole Event Horizon’ indeed. Objects in motion tend to carry on as they’re going, until acted upon by an outside force. Life has thrown a lot of trials my way. I’ve been compliant with TSM, and so it’s been a rock. I may not know where my life will take me in the next few months, but do know alcohol won’t be part of it.
I used to fight and ‘white-knuckle’, waiting for the time when I could drink. I used to be able to almost taste the alcohol, and feel the tingle in my fingertips before I even had a drop of anything to drink.
It isn’t a life for me anymore. Just a few weeks ago, I opened a bottle of root beer soda a friend had given me – it wasn’t a regular sweet soda.
It was an alcoholic beer, 5.5% by volume. Blind-side. Inertia. I looked at that beer for a long time, I grant you. I considered taking a nal, waiting the hour, and then finishing the bottle. I admit part of me wanted it. I ended up throwing it away, when not too long ago that surprise sneak-attack on the part of the Drinking Demon would have set off a huge binge for me. As strong as AUD runs in my family, the Drinking Monster still just doesn’t stand a chance against mindful, compliant TSM. It is terrifying and beautiful, but there is hope there too. For all forms of addiction – because if we’ve figured out the Sinclair Method for drinking, perhaps soon we’ll figure out how to save people from other forms of substance abuse outside of AUD.
I had a t-shirt printed that says, ‘Alcohol + Naltrexone = Your Life.’ Dr David left us a huge legacy, of dignity and hope. There you have it, Gary. Nal on.
‘…Not long ago, drink was my “sun” and I was in its orbit.’
Well said – I like that. So it’s fair to say that you were a rapid responder…
I also like the fact that you mention pharmacologically enhanced learning (PEL) and about healthy endorphin reinforcement on your alcohol-free days.
Question: given the steady growth in interest in The Sinclair Method on social media how long do you think before TSM stops being a niche thing and goes mainstream?
It IS a brave new world, once Extinction happens, isn’t it? Drinking does take over our minds and lives, bit by bit. When you’re free of that life-style, things do open up.
You asked how long did I think it might be before TSM stops being a ‘niche’ thing and becomes mainstream? Again, a very good and insightful question on your part. My answer would be I think it might depend on where you live. Having seen Miss Claudia Christian’s excellent ‘One Little Pill’ documentary – well, perhaps in India where Alcoholism is developing TSM might develop right along with it. That’s so encouraging. TSM may well be ‘mainstream’ in Helsinki, perhaps, where Dr David and Dr Hytiaa did the now-famous ‘Deprivation Effect’ studies.
Perhaps elsewhere in Europe in the next five to seven years naltrexone may become more and more readily available, along with doctors and pharmacists who understand how the Sinclair Method works. I feel as though TSM efforts are getting well under-way in these places.
And then there is America, which has always been it’s own story. In the States, TSM efforts may always have to be grass-roots. I put chalk in my pocket and take walks around town and scrawl ‘Sinclair Method’ or ‘Naltrexone’ on the sidewalks in front of the taverns in the area. I’ve considered booking one of the conference rooms at my local library and having an informal TSM Meet and Greet. I’ve pulled people aside when out at parties and told them privately about TSM. I’m heart-broken to say that financial concerns seem top-priority in my country today. I’ve sent emails to Senators and Congressmen and more local assembly folk, explaining how effective and worthwhile TSM is – I don’t think I’ve had one response. My state’s department of transportation official website reports that in 2015 there were 190 fatalities due to drinking. There were 2,900 injuries. The NHTSA (United States Department of Transportation) websites report that every day 29 people die in the country in impaired driving accidents. That’s one every 50 minutes in the US. The other pertinent fact here is that, last I knew, TSM has a nearly 80% log-term success rate.
I find that conjunction of facts bleak and awful: there are so many accidents in my state alone due to AUD, but I’ve not really heard back from any authority I’ve reached out to and notified of the Sinclair Method.
By the way, I did try and look for more recent statistics from my state department of transportation as to the impact of AUD on driving on the roads in my state, and couldn’t seem to find more recent figures. I’ve also tried reaching out to local doctors on the subject of TSM as well, and gotten as little return communication.
I’ve also reached out to famous daytime TV talk show hosts about TSM and gotten no answer.
So, for me, the hope of the Sinclair Method lies in other countries. In the US, the Sinclair Method may always be grass-roots. I’ve gotten spare copies of Miss Claudia’s memoirs and donated them to my local library.
I’ve also bought spare copies of Dr Eskapa’s ‘The Cure for Alcoholism’ and donated that too. It IS a human rights Issue. In my last job, the woman who trained me was killed by her husband because she told him she was leaving him. He would sit in the bars and drink and brag he would hurt her if she did leave. He’s in prison for life, at tax payer expense. This happened just as I was learning about the Sinclair Method. In America, it may always be people who have gone through pharmacological extinction reaching out to people who need the news.
In the States, it may always be a case of AUD folks helping other AUD folks. The attitude that says, ‘If you have drinking problem, DON’T DRINK’ is just too prevalent here, on too many levels. For my part, I’ll keep an eye on how things develop in other countries and applaud the success there.
My best to you Gary – Marie
Thank you, Marie. This has been a really good, insightful interview. Thank you so much for your time, your input and for spreading the word – it’s really appreciated. I love your chalk drawing, by the way! (and have made it the leading image in the article) 🙂