They say that the answer is never at the bottom of the bottle. I checked into it – turns out that’s true! 193 days, 21 hours, 19 minutes, and 27 seconds ago (you know, roughly speaking), I took my last drink after almost 20 years of near daily drinking to inebriation. I owe it all to a chemical called naltrexone. Let’s back up.
My drinking career started at the ripe age of 19. Like many people, college for me was a time of reinventing myself. In high school, I was never a part of the social crowd. It’s not that I was an outcast or anything, but I was just sort of invisible. I had a couple close friends and we had a good time, but I never got to experience much of a social life. So when I went away to college, I decided I was going to learn how to be more social. The only problem with that is that I’ve always been the shy type. Again, not painfully awkwardly shy, but I always felt uncomfortable and out of my element. Guess what does a great job of masking that anxiety – yup, booooooooze. When I discovered alcohol, more specifically, getting wasted, I discovered two things: 1) I felt more confident, and 2) it. made me feel happy. Long story short, college was a drunken blur for me. I had fun, I admit, but I also got myself into trouble too. For one, my grades sucked. And two, I managed to get a DUI my senior year, which was (rightfully so) humiliating.
After graduation, I had a great job lined up. I was wearing a suit everyday, looking sharp, and feeling good that I was starting life. One would think that the party was over. It was, at least socially. I was in a new town, living with my parents, and didn’t know ANYONE. I was incredibly lonely and bored. Guess what “cures” that ailment – yup, booooooooze. Eventually I started dating my now ex-wife and we started a life together. But just like college, my 20s are a drunken blur. I honestly didn’t see what the problem was. Yes, I got drunk everyday, but I was an adult. What did it matter as long as I did my job, paid my bills, and didn’t hurt anyone? I had learned. my lesson about driving drunk and truly never did it again after being arrested, and so I easily justified that getting drunk was something that made me feel good and that was fine for discerning adults.
Fast forward to my ex-wife and I splitting up. I was 30 years old, and as my marriage crumbled, my control over the alcohol became more tenuous. I remember waking up on the kitchen flood one morning with an empty fifth of vodka in my hand as my cat licked my face. Pathetic. Did that stop me? Hell no, but I did pull my shit together just enough to stay off anyone’s radar.
Now jump forward to this past summer (2016). Remarried, new job, two year-old daughter (apple of my eye). This was my DAILY cycle: wake up in a bit of a fog, feelings of guilt and shame hanging over my head, get in the shower tell myself “no drinking today dammit,” get dressed, drink lots of water/scoffee, go to work, feel like shit until around noon, start feeling better, 3:00 I crave my next drink, leave work at quitting time, somehow find myself at the liquor store, try and keep it together until my daughter goes to bed, drink, get drunk, pass out on couch. Rinse and repeat, every. single. day. I desperately wanted to quit. This wasn’t fun anymore. It had LONG since stopped being fun. It was a compulsion from which there was no escape. I had tried quitting…several times. Once I even made it 30 days, which I promptly pissed away by “celebrating” with a six pack of my favorite high-test beer.
I had long since accepted that I was a full blown alcoholic; there was no denying it at that point. I just didn’t know what to do. It seemed I was destined to die an early death, and I had nearly given up and resigned myself to that awful fate. Then one day I read about a drug called naltrexone. It’s an “opioid antagonist,” which means it blocks the effects of opioids on the body. Thus it is extremely useful in helping opioid addicts quit. It also happens to have the same effect on alcoholics. I was desperate, and scared. As it turns out, there is a clinic near me that administers naltrexone in an implantable, slow-release tablet, and also as an injectable version. The former is a minor surgical procedure conducted every other month for a year, that entails making a small incision in the outer fat layer, inserting the implant, and sewing it back up. The injection is done on a monthly basis, also for a year. I signed up for the implantable version. Insurance doesn’t cover it, and it’s not cheap, but I saw that as my last real hope to ever get and stay sober.
So I checked into a rapid, medically supervised detox program. You can have seizures and even die from alcohol withdrawal, so they hook you up to an IV of electrolytes and minerals (AKA a “banana bag” as featured above), and pump you with hourly shots of phenobarbital . After I was safely and comfortably detoxed, the doctor surgically inserted the naltrexone implant into the fat around my stomach…my beer gut, as it were. Irony is not without a sense of humor. On the drive home, something felt different already. I had NO cravings. Normally, at that time of the day, I’d be crawling out of my skin with withdrawals and cravings. I felt nothing. It was a miracle. Today, I am nearly seven months sober. I go to a therapist once a week to talk about all the reasons I began drinking and to help give me strategies to stay sober. Since my implant, I haven’t had a single relapse, and I feel very confident that I can stay sober. I am NEVER going back to drinking. Never. Fuck alcohol!
Unfortunately, quitting alcohol did not cure my depression the way I’d hoped it would. I figured that without the constant influx of poison into my system, my mental health would surely benefit as well. That was not the case unfortunately, but I regret nothing. Recovering alcoholics have a saying (they have lots of sayings actually): “I got a million problems, but drinking ain’t one of ’em.” I guess that’s me. I still have to contend with depression, and I have to take life on its own terms, and bad shit will always still happen, but at least now, I’m not a drunk, and that counts for something.