December 12th 2015 marked day 1 of my Sinclair Method experience.
It was with some trepidation that I took the first pill. I’d read up on the potential side-effects, and there are some horror stories out there, but I got off pretty lightly - I’ll come on to those in a separate post.
I was braced for nausea, followed by sleeplessness, which seem like pretty commons side-effects, but I didn’t get either of those. I got a much bigger surprise instead.
My first glass of wine - for at home it is almost always red wine – went down much more slowly than usual, and I didn’t get ‘that feeling’. I can’t quite find the word for ‘that feeling’ because it was something I hadn’t really noticed before.
It is the sense that everything is returning to normal again. The day is finished, work is done, the front door is closed, the kids are in bed, and, finally, that first drink. Simultaneously a rush of comfort and relief, a sense that everything is okay in the world, and an immediate hankering for the next one.
The first glass is usually down and the second poured in ten minutes. Then on a good night between one and two bottles.
On a night when I open a fresh bottle I’d drink that, and maybe open another. On a night when I finish off a bottle from the previous night I’d usually finish that, and work my way through a second.
On a busy night – packed lunches, lots of washing up, and a couple of loads of laundry I’d often make it in to a third over a couple of hours.
And all the while it’s just to keep topping up that euphoric feeling.
I’ve never understood how someone could leave a glass unfinished, or go to bed when they could stay up another half hour and have another drink or two.
Why would anyone stop when they could have more of this feeling?
I don’t think I’d noticed it before, or if I had I certainly wouldn’t have tried to describe it, because I always thought this is just what drinking was like. If anything I had always wondered what was wrong with other people. Why don’t they just want to have this feeling every at every opportunity?
On 12th December 2015 I had a glass of wine, and it didn’t feel like that. That glass lasted 40 minutes, and there was a 20 minute gap before I poured a second. I just didn’t have that thirst for a second.
That finished a bottle, I opened a second and poured another glass out of habit. I didn’t really want, or much enjoy, the third, and instead of finishing off the bottle and crawling to bed at 2am I called it a night and was in bed before midnight.
This was the first of many firsts to come.
On day two I was parenting alone as my other half was out at a Christmas do. It was a fractious bedtime and I literally reached for the bottle a couple of times. I held back and took the pill, and when I did get to have a drink there was definitely some comfort from the ritual but, again, that feeling, that surge of warmth and relief that comes with the first drink wasn’t there.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it, and two thoughts started to run through my mind. The first was the dawning realisation that this is what drinking is like for normal people, and by extension, that my problem was more real, and more physical, than I had ever appreciated.
The second was that I missed it. I started to worry about the temptation to just skip the pill now and again. To allow myself that experience again. I started to feel a sense of loss – grief even – at the prospect of never having that rush of joy again.
This was another three-glass night, but by the third I couldn’t remember ever feeling so ambivalent about a drink, and the idea of skipping the pill seemed ridiculous, almost alien, to me.
And another first – I went to bed that night with the same open bottle of wine on the kitchen work top that had been there the night before. This would only have happened before if a dry day had followed a night where a bottle was unfinished. The idea of the same unfinished bottle spanning two drinking days would have been inconceivable only a few days earlier.
Day three I was thinking of trying a dry day, but the urge to drink after work was all-consuming. On a night like this I would have told myself I’d just have one, really knowing that once that was poured the brakes would be off and I’d plough through at least a bottle.
The difference this time was that after taking the pill the first half a glass lasted just over an hour, and in all it was another three glass night.
This is when I realised that, despite not infrequent dry days – maybe one a week most weeks, though mostly after a particularly heavy drinking day – this was the soberest I’d been for the longest period in well over 20 years.
And I was already starting to feel better. While at that point only a week earlier I would be finishing the dishes, and the wine, falling asleep on the sofa, and crawling to bed in the early hours, now I was finishing the dishes, dancing in the kitchen, and heading to bed on the right side of midnight feeling good.
I think the energy has been the most surprising thing. And the dawning realisation that I have a lot to learn about what normal is like.