How I Finally Fixed My Drinking HabitNov 16, 2021
👋 Hello, my name is Katie Lain. I want to tell you how it is that I finally fixed my drinking habit that was slowly and subtly destroying my health, happiness and control in life. This isn’t a story of how I “finally got sober” and committed to recovery. In fact, the method I used didn’t require me to go sober…it actually required that I continue to drink alcohol to change my unhelpful wine habits. Sound crazy? Too good to be true? I know. But it’s not crazy, and not too good to be true. Here is my story.
My Drinking History
Like most American girls, I started drinking in my early 20s. I was under the impression at the time that it was only a phase I was going through – “it was what people my age were supposed to do” – right? Man was I wrong. I discovered this years later when I tried to take my first real break from alcohol – only one week off. I remember how difficult this week was because I was constantly craving alcohol and wishing I could drink. I didn’t know what to do with myself in the evenings when I wasn’t drinking. Most nights I would pop a sleep aid and go to bed early just to avoid the alcohol cravings and urges to drink.
After one week of this, I returned to drinking again and was so happy to be back in the ol’ saddle. And so began the near 10-year battle of trying to reign in my alcohol use disorder. That is until in 2017 when I learned about something called The Sinclair Method.
This isn’t a story of how I “finally got sober” and committed to recovery. In fact, the method I used didn’t require me to go sober…it actually required that I continue to drink alcohol to change my unhelpful wine habits.
The Sinclair Method – aka, the Best Kept Secret
After a night of a horrible binge while I was nursing a hangover – I was (as usual) scouring YouTube for a solution to my drinking problem. “There HAD to be other options outside of the traditional abstinence-only approaches or joining AA, right?” Even though my drinking was becoming more and more problematic, I wasn’t ready to give it up. I still enjoyed drinking and wanted to keep it in my life – but I desperately wanted more control and to stop having hangovers on a regular basis.
Then something happened that forever changed my life.
YouTube suggested a TedxTalk video to me given by an actress named Claudia Christian. It was about how she overcame her own alcoholism through a medication therapy known as The Sinclair Method (TSM). She explained that it wasn’t an abstinence-based approach and that it worked by fixing the issue of alcohol addiction on a neurological level.
And, it was a scientifically-proven method that had been show to have a 78% success rate.
This all seemed too good to be true – but I was hooked. I watched that video over and over again – and for the first time in I don’t know how long, I felt a sense of hope that there might just be a solution to my problem.
Here is that video that forever changed my life and has done the same for thousands upon thousands of others as well (well, maybe even more given that the video now has over 3 million views!). If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must-watch.
The Medication Part of The Sinclair Method
I must admit – I didn’t love the idea of taking a medication to fix my drinking problem. I had always been someone who preferred to heal the natural way. And despite my bottle-of-wine-a-night habit, I would always opt for organic food, exercise and tried to maintain my health to the best of my ability.
But as I learned more about this medication used for TSM called naltrexone – I realized it was actually a very benign drug.
- It’s generic so it was cheap for me and is for most people (less than $1/pill without insurance). Also no big pharmacy company behind it making tons of money
- It’s approved by the FDA for treatment of alcohol use disorder
- It’s not addictive and non-habit-forming
- The medication is only taken 1 hour before drinking – so the longer you’re on TSM, the less you need the medication
- It was proven to be safe with very few side effects and no interactions with other medications (except opiates – more on that below)
- The only people whom naltrexone may not be good for are people with severe liver damage (talk with your doctor)
Naltrexone is an opiate-blocker medication (not an opiate). It works by blocking opiate receptors in your brain’s reward system which would otherwise receive endorphins (aka, pleasure hormones) when you drink.
When naltrexone is taken repeatedly over an extended period of time following The Sinclair Method – a person begins to gradually lose interest in alcohol and it starts to “lose its appeal.” This is because they are not getting the usual “reward” from drinking.
This is true for anything in life – right? If something is giving us less pleasure we will likely do it less often.
The longer a person is on TSM and naltrexone, the cravings for alcohol gradually fade away until they are completely gone. And a person can still choose to drink if they want to, but do so with much more control and in moderation because the experience is less rewarding.
And this was exactly what happened to be.
I was someone who almost always polished off a bottle of wine each night – then would spend the weekends day drinking until I passed out. Mondays were usually serious hangover days where I was nursing my body from the weekend of heavy drinking.
But when I started on TSM – I began to notice small changes in my drinking. I was no longer able to finish an entire bottle of wine but rather would have a few glasses. I also started to notice that I was thinking about alcohol less. I used to begin planning my evening drinking session in my head around 11am while at work – but I started to notice that it would be 3pm or 4pm before I would even think about drinking. I was also able to start having more alcohol-free days that felt quite natural and not “white-knuckled” or something that was the result of a horrible hangover.
I saw myself gradually becoming more and more empowered over my relationship with alcohol. And this was the most freeing feeling I’d ever had.
The Protocol for The Sinclair Method
The protocol for TSM is quite simple: it includes taking the naltrexone medication 1-2 hours before the first drink of the day. That’s it! (Well, sort of. We also do have to change our drinking habits, and our genuine “relationship” to alcohol which can take some time. But more on that below).
The medication is not taken on non-drinking days. When this protocol is done consistently over a long period of time (usually 6-9 months or more), a person can watch themselves regain control over alcohol because the medication is working to “undo” the wiring in the brain’s pleasure center which has been driving alcohol use disorder and cravings.
The medication and The Sinclair Method work wonders on the issue of alcohol use disorder on the brain. But what happened with me and I see it over and over again with my clients as well is that once we start to lose alcohol cravings and see our desire to drink decrease – we can often drink out of habit or continue to use alcohol as a coping tool.
I often tell people it’s like when we’re eating and we feel full and we’re not hungry anymore – we can “push through” that sensation of fullness and keep eating anyway.
The same thing can happen with TSM – where a person might not want to drink a third or fourth glass… but they see themselves do it anyway out of habit. But the good news is is that anyone can change habits – especially when coupled with the right support system, and when they are changed gradually and consistently over time.
Check out this candid video of Dr David Sinclair talking about his discovery of extinction – aka, The Sinclair Method. Bless this man! 🙏
My Journey With The Sinclair Method
As I noted above – I saw changes pretty quickly with my drinking habits when I started on TSM. Within the first month I could see I was drinking less and having more alcohol-free days. While the journey had ups and downs throughout – the one constant thing was that my drinking continued to slowly and steadily decrease, and my cravings for alcohol were getting less and less each day.
I felt so empowered to witness myself becoming a “normal” drinking. I would go out to dinner and watch myself leave my second glass of wine unfinished – and go home and finish the night with tea (trust me when I say this NEVER happened to me before).
I was also able to have alcohol in the house and literally have no desire to drink it (where-as before I would have consumed everything we had).
I could listen dozens and dozens of other ways my relationship to alcohol was changing. It was a miracle. I was not the same person. I was…becoming more of myself…the version of me that wasn’t obsessing on my next drink.
All in all I was on The Sinclair Method for one year – and I saw myself go from a very heavy drinker, to a heavy drinker, to a moderate drinker, to a social drinker, to a special occasion drinker to ultimate quitting drinking after one year on this method.
When I started TSM – I had NO intention to stop drinking.
And that is the beauty of this method – it allows for people to continue to drink if they want to but with control and in moderation (so long as they’re taking the naltrexone before-hand).
And I have known countless people over the years to have a happy and moderate relationship with alcohol thanks to TSM. They are able to have a drink or two on occasion, but have regained total control in their relationship with alcohol and no longer fear binges or blackouts.
But as for me, after a year on this method I had just gotten to a point where alcohol wasn’t adding anything to my life anymore. I noticed I wasn’t really enjoying it when I was drinking, and I actually preferred my days where I didn’t drink.
I was genuinely beginning to prefer sparkling water over wine. I never thought that would happen.
Moderation or Abstinence
The Sinclair Method is so appealing for many people because it gives us the ability to choose if we want to keep alcohol in our life in moderation – or if we want to go abstinent. It doesn’t require people to quit drinking as the first step toward changing our drinking habits.
Honestly – I still keep naltrexone on-hand just in case I have a desire to drink one day. It’s been over 3 years since I last drank, and I can honestly say I have had no desire to drink in that time. But, I still keep the option open that I can drink if I want to at anytime following The Sinclair Method.
This is a stark contrast to a life that is “total abstinence” where if I have one drink it would ruin me (which was true before TSM).
Now I know if I want to have a drink – I can take naltrexone and have a drink – knowing that it won’t spin me out of control. That is so freeing.
I would say that the majority of people who go on TSM have a goal to drink moderately – and most of them are able to do so because of this method (again, because it has a 78% success rate!).
Over the last 4 years since I’ve been in this world, I have personally encounter hundreds (if not a thousand or more) of people who have reached “extinction” with TSM (meaning the AUD has been erased from their brain) and they continue to have a moderate relationship with alcohol. They’ve gotten to a point where they can “take it or leave it,” they no longer obsess on alcohol and when they do drink, they usually have one or two. I see this over and over again.
For others who have a goal of abstinence in the future – TSM can also get them to that goal as well. And for most, abstinence comes so much easier – almost naturally – because when you don’t have a desire for something it’s really easy to not have it.