The Golden Rule - A Tale of Compliance, Complacency and Catastrophe

Last week I added a post here with an optimistic story of receptor upregulation, and Sinclair Method success, that told a positive tale.  It hasn’t all been just that easy though, and there were bumps in the road and lessons to learn along the way.

There is one thing we are always told, the Golden Rule - take naltrexone or nalmefene before drinking.  It’s just that simple.  But I think, no matter how often we read it, or are reminded of it, we all have to learn this lesson for ourselves.

Forums and groups are awash with the same story, and it has become my story too.

I was fully compliant for a year, always following the Golden Rule, and then a few things happened at the same time.

I got complacent.  Alcohol had lost its sparkle, and I felt like I could handle it again.

Drinking sessions were becoming infrequent enough that some of the side-effects, particularly the fierce irritability I’ve described elsewhere, began to emerge again.

I looked at the cost, and how little I would now drink in a session.  Where I could originally stack the cost of the pill against the bottle or two of wine that I’d save, the nal seemed to be getting more expensive, relative to the booze I’d not be drinking.

The online pharmacy I was using stopped prescribing nalmefene, which made securing a supply more complicated.

So I decided that on the nights when I was only going to have one drink I’d skip the pill.

I was cured after all.  I could drink like a normal person.

I don’t think I realised, and it’s difficult to judge objectively now, but I suspect if I’m completely honest, over the year that I drank without the pill my drinking nights probably did get more frequent, and the amount I was drinking probably did increase.

Not to pre-TSM levels, but probably an extra night or two per week, and maybe an extra drink or two (using slightly bigger glasses!).

It just creeps up on you, and there’s nothing more dangerous than complacency.

But then, in November 2017, it all went catastrophically wrong, and the real damage of a year of non-compliant drinking became clear.  My shields were down and the control I was maintaining over my drinking was, it turned out, illusory.

The details are unimportant (for this purpose) and not all of the story is my story to tell, so in the vaguest of terms...  In November I was hit with a kind of double emotional crisis.  In terms of immediate and local factors, I hit a major crisis in my personal circumstances which cast lasting doubt and chaos on every aspect of my life, and which continues to do so now.

At exactly the same time, some events way outside my life opened up some traumas from about 20 years ago that I thought I had resolved, but, it transpires, I had boxed up and stored away like some kind of mental health time bomb, sitting on a shelf, just waiting to explode.

And boom!  Without even realising I was doing it I found myself on a Tuesday night, alone in the pub, knocking back double gin & tonics at a rate I hadn’t drunk for over two years.

In the ensuing fog I got through Wednesday at work, and without evening thinking what I was doing, made a stop on the way home for a bottle of gin from the Supermarket.  I stashed that under the sink, waited for everyone to go to bed, and then sat in the dark drinking it on my own.

And there you have it.  In 48 hours I had completely relearned all my old drinking habits.  Drinking fast, drinking spirits, drinking doubles & triples, hiding booze, drinking alone, drinking furtively, drinking to feel in control, drinking to not feel anything else.

The lot.

Luckily, I suppose, how fast and how far I fell back in to the old habit terrified me.  Red flags went up, alarm bells sounded, and I asked for help.

Also luckily, people answered, and I guess that is a story for next time.

For now, I’ll just add my voice to the many who shout about the Golden Rule.

But more than remembering it now, when you break it - and the internet is littered with stories that suggest you probably will - remember it again then.

We may all have to learn this for ourselves, but when that time comes, may we learn it quickly, and learn it well.