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The End of my Addiction

Life restored thanks to Bac


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Before I drank at 16, I was an anxious person. Not like it was always there, or obvious to others when it was. I was like the duck in the pond; I may have looked calm but underneath I was paddling hard.

I remember clearly at age 14 or so being at a school disco and too frightened to ask a girl to dance. I ending up going for a walk and crying, asking God why was I so scared, and how I felt so useless. It was a common theme, the feeling less capable and confident than most, and often fearful of doing things lest I look like a fool. Perhaps this is typical teenage angst, but I remember having these thoughts well before my teenage years.

I first had AL when I was perhaps eight or nine. It was vodka at my Russian grandparents' house, for Easter or Christmas, I don't remember. I also don't remember much about it except it made me feel warm inside. I wan't allowed more than a sip I think.

At 16 I got drunk for the first time and like all the other times to follow, AL gave me the most fantastic feeling of being part of the world, calm, in control. As with most of us, it came with a cost, which for many years I was willing to pay.

My drinking was cut short at 21 when I started going to AA with a second-uncle, who was sober nine years in AA. I took a while to get sober, including a couple of detoxes.

At 24, I finally got sober, which I remained for the following 11 years.

In that time, I still felt like a fraud in AA. I tried doing the steps, again and again. I'd go to at least a meeting a day, got hard-line sponsors, went to rally, etc etc. 

I still felt anxious, but now had no way of relieving it. Praying didn't help.

I found social situations of almost any kind incredibly stressful. AA meetings were kind-of okay, because I went to so many of them. Even new meetings, where I would be anxious to get up, I had a 'routine' I could roll out when sharing. Telling my story was easy because I had told it so many times in AA.

I had my first clear episode of depression at about 27. I was driving to Uni one morning and just burst into tears. I wasn't suicidal, but remember feeling incredibly black. AA, sobriety, praying; none of it worked. I started running again, got to the point I could do a 14.4km fun run in 67min. The running helped, but it wasn't a cure-all.

By 35, I had stopped going to meetings for 3 years. By then I was married to a woman who I felt like I talked into marring me 2 years before. I felt that being marred would make me more normal, I wanted to make up for lost time.

I was not happy with life. I felt as though I was hollow.

So one evening at home by myself, I bought beer. A year later I was separated (the best thing to happen, and not directly linked to my drinking. The marriage was going south before that).

The drinking was hell, but I had starting running again, the first time in 8 years. Being fit helped withstand the Al benders, but only for a time. I started smoking as well, so that plus increasing benders and worse hangovers, the running stopped.

I met my 2nd wife, who I am still married to, at 37. We met drunk at a party, and so that was our first common bond. My wife stopped drinking when pregnant with our first child, and so did I -- my drinking was bad, and not so easily forgiven when she was sober and not part of the fun. She could see how bad my drinking was.

So back to AA. I got a born-again Christian sponsor, and even told my wife one day that she was not close enough to God. Clearly, I was crackers.

I stayed sober from age 40 to 45. My wife had started to drink again, and we held lots of drunken parties with other parents. So I eventually cracked, and began drinking myself.

In this time of sobriety, at about 44, the depression hit again, with force. I was tired all the time, often became teary or terse. My wife suggest I get help. I ended up on anti-depressants, which helped.

At 45, I was drinking again, and it quickly became shambolic. At around 47, I started to try to get help to stop. I wasn't going to AA again.

I went to a psychiatrist, who prescribed naltrexone, then campral. Neither worked. Then Antibuse, which gave me a break from the daily drinking, but did nothing for the cravings. I would stop taking it, so I could drink to relieve the cravings. I also tried mindfulness and things like Rational Recovery. Also hypnosis. None worked.

I'm not sure how I discovered Baclofen, perhaps on an online forum. I got a scrip for it from my psychiatrist in May 2014, but didn't fill it. I couldn't subscribe to a regimen of taking several doses a day of a medication. Surely one magic pill of some type a day was enough?

By the end of 2014 I'd had enough and would try anything. Then a relative sent me a link to a Bac trial being held by Sydney Uni and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. I joined the trial in Jan 15.

The doses in this double-blind trial were either 15, 30(?) or a placebo. I was sure I was on something, as I'm sensitive to drugs. But whatever it was, it was not enough. Without Antibuse (I was not allowed to take it on the trial) my drinking took off. I couldn't get a break from it, as I could by taking Antibuse.

So by about March 15, I ended my participation in the trial, and wen to see my Dr to go on Bac proper. She declined to give me Bac, so I said I already had a script from my psych. She said to have that filled and try it. Of course she had no idea about Bac for AL abuse, or the high dosages required.

By about May, I had hit the switch on 75mg Bac per day. But in June, my mum had a stroke and and had declined. her health had not been good for a couple years, but this time it was different. She called for everyone so that she could say good-bye. 

After two weeks of going every day to the hospital and staying with mum for a couple of hours, I became depressed. My cravings returned, and I started to drink.

It took me until October to pull up again; by this time I had titrated unto 185mg of Bac per day.

I soon started to titrate down, thinking that if I could hit the switch at 75mg, then surely I could get back to a similar level as a maintenance dose.

I think the cravings returned in early December. I had titrated down to 120mg. I also had become depressed again.

We were to have a xmas party on 12 December, and I was having ideas about drinking at the party.

On 11 December, my mother died. 

When I got the call from the nursing home that she had died, i was in shock. I couldn't believe it was her -- she had rallied after illness before. Surely they had made a mistake? I had just driven past the nursing home with the kids, so I'm glad we didn't drop in to see her. She would've probably have already been dead.

The night my mum died, after I had called my siblings and went to see dad to tell him, I started to drink again.

The drinking continued until late January, when I had titrated up to 185mg again, and the cravings left. In late Feb, I had two drinking episodes. So I changed the times of my afternoon doses, and have had no cravings since.

Even though I have a couple side-effects (somnolence and back aches) the rewards are manifold. I have a life, a full life. That is thanks to Baclofen.

9 April 16 -- Baclofen has brought about a huge change in my life but it's still early days. I have found that I still have moments of depression, moments where I don't feel as though I enjoy life, or enjoy the things that usually bring me joy. I also have had a few moments of incredible peace, but it's not consistent. We have gone away for a long weekend break to a beautiful wilderness resort with my father. He has taken the death of my mum hard, of course, but this weekend has cheered him up. Lots to add, will do so soon. No cravings, just the occasional thought of having a drink, quickly dismissed.










Edited by MJM
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Thanks for sharing all that, MJM. I’ve also gone through periods of depression through my life, although starting when I was a teenager. That, along with lifelong anxiety, is what kickstarted my own drinking into high gear. I’m so glad you found indifference, and it’s great to see how you found you could manage cravings by changing the times of your doses. There should be a baclofen tips thread somewhere, where we could collect nuggets of wisdom like that.

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Thanks, MJM, for sharing your story. I remember what a struggle it was for you when you were in the trial. (I wonder how that trial ended up going? I also wonder why they stuck with such low doses, since that's already been done here in the US and shown to have little or no effect...Disappointing.)

But how amazing that you stuck with it and found indifference after all of those challenges! 

I have struggled with depression on and off for my whole life, too. And I, too, fell back into drinking alcoholically when I went down too far on my baclofen dose and then had some personal and devastating losses. I was going through an extremely stressful time in life. Then my my grandmother, whom I was very close to, and shortly afterward my beloved dog died. (Please don't think I'm comparing you losing your mom to either of those experiences, though. Losing a parent is a whole 'nother level of devastation. Not that grief can be quantified, but still.) 

It goes without saying that anxiety has been a lifelong problem for me, too. 

I love the analogy of the duck on the pond whose legs, unseen under the water, are paddling furiously. I still feel like that on some days. 


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