I saw Betty, age 32, in follow-up yesterday. She has now gone 20 days with no alcohol.
Making Choices Based on Freedom
She came to our office weekly for a Vivitrol injection to help her deal with her drinking. For the past year, she had been resistant to quitting alcohol altogether, so she used naltrexone in the form of monthly injections to help cut back. I never learned how much alcohol she was consuming a day.
Betty had been coming into the pharmacy faithfully for her Vivitrol shots. Every time she came in, it seemed like she had less to live for. Betty had learned last year that her liver enzymes were elevated. It scared her enough to cut down on her drinking, but not to stop. She was making most of her decisions based on fear, not freedom.
Ready to Hear the Answers
When someone walks through the doors of the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine for help getting off any substance, our team moves swiftly. So many patients are not committed to quitting drinking altogether. The fear of being judged, labeled, or trying to quit and failing can keep a person from asking for help or even more information.
If you’re afraid to hear the answers, it may keep you from asking the questions. Our job as I see it is to first understand what our patient wants.
Betty never missed her monthly Vivitrol injection. She defiantly held on to her 3-4 drinks a day and stated she was content with the fact that she had decreased her alcohol consumption from sometimes 18 beers/hard seltzers a day down to this ‘minimal’ amount. (Even at this greatly reduced amount, Betty meets the criteria for At-Risk Drinking.
Filling the Void
As I got to know Betty and she opened up a bit more at each visit, I came to realize that her deepest desire was to stop drinking. And it was her deepest fear. First, she was fearful of the physical aspect of quitting. She had considered stopping on her many times but was aware of the possibility of an alcohol withdrawal seizure. And then she was afraid of the looming question: how will I do anything without alcohol in my life? What will fill that void?
So yesterday was twenty days without alcohol. She had tears in her eyes. Covid or not, we hugged when we saw each other. She is so proud of herself already. She doesn’t remember the last time she has gone this long without a drink.
Finding the Right Treatment
She is still feeling a bit foggy, but her sleeping has improved dramatically. One of the things she is most delighted about is her skin and her face. She told me she has no more bloat upon awakening. Since I’ve mostly seen her with a mask, I didn’t have anything to compare, but I’m taking her word for it.
Tips for Staying on Track
In October of 2011, Halloween was listed as one of the Top 10 Drinking Holidays in America. So I asked Betty if she celebrated this holiday. She told me that she did, but her plan to stay sober over the holiday weekend was clever. She opted out of a party where people would be drinking caramel apple pie shots and pumpkin spice brew. Instead, she had a couple of friends over to watch the original Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis.
I encourage you, especially if early in your sobriety to plan ahead. Here are some suggestions for Halloween:
- Mix up some Halloween Mocktails-In a 2-second search I found recipes for Autumn Harvest Punch
- Apple Moscow Mules
- Sparkling Cranberry Cinnamon Mocktails.
- Find a local haunted adventure.
Our founder and leader, Dr. Coleman, is celebrating thirty-seven years of sobriety this fall. His gratitude for and devotion to recovery is the most important part of his work, and it has been with our clinic since the beginning. If you’re looking for medical treatment with compassion and understanding, we want to be the place for you. We provide non-judgmental, competent care. Stay safe out there!
Joan R. Shepherd, FNP