People who go on the Sinclair Method to improve their relationship with alcohol are making a commitment for positive change. For many, they’ve tried so many things before to stop or reduce drinking to no avail... and they have high hopes for this science-based method that is shown to be highly effective. It can be so exciting to feel like you’ve finally found “the answer” that you’ve been looking for. And, this excitement can cause someone to have high expectations for fast results.
But, it is vital to remember that progress on the Sinclair Method can be subtle, gradual and takes time. This is important to keep in mind so that we have realistic expectations of what “success” looks like on this method, and are not disappointed if our progress isn’t what we thought it’d be.
I often like to equate the Sinclair Method journey to a weight loss journey – it’s an experience where change takes time, but with persistence and dedication, major goals can be achieved.
Here are some important things to know as you embark down this road for changing your relationship to alcohol.
Changes in your drinking will likely be subtle and gradual
I want to address this point because I regularly get messages from people who express frustration that the method isn’t working fast enough. Or, they compare themselves to others who might be responding more quickly to the method, so they feel discouraged and wonder if this means it’s not working for them.
Please, don’t do that. Please, be patient with this method and yourself.
As I mentioned above, it can be helpful to think about the Sinclair Method like a weightloss journey. When someone wants to lose 20 pounds, they ought to know that this will take time, coupled with changes in their behavior, diet and exercise regime. They wouldn’t throw in the towel after a few weeks of dieting if they didn’t see major changes.
The same is true for the Sinclair Method – it took many years to develop a drinking problem, so it will take time to undo that. More often than not on the Sinclair Method, a person’s drinking patterns, cravings for alcohol and relationship to it will change subtly over time (just like how someone might lose one pound a week).
It is important that we pay attention to notice these subtle changes and celebrate them. Do not discount them for they are signs of change toward your long term goals.
For example, here are some common early subtle changes people might experience:
I am drinking alcohol more slowly – ie, I used to drink 4 beers in 2 hours, now I drink 4 beers in 6 hours.
When I drink, I drink less – ie, I used to drink a bottle of wine every night, now I am drinking two-thirds of a bottle.
I drink fewer days each week – ie, I used to drink 6 nights a week, now I drink 5 nights a week.
I am thinking about alcohol less – ie, I used to race home after work and open a bottle of wine right away. Now, I can wait to start drinking until later in the evening.
The more you stick with the method and remain compliant with taking the medication, the more that these changes will build upon each other and create bigger and bigger change. This is why it can be so important to become mindful of any changes you see in your relationship to alcohol and celebrate them.
For example in my experience with TSM, I remember after a couple of months on this method I was starting to leave wine in my glass unfinished. This was unheard of for me as before I would drink every last drop – but I was starting to feel “satiated” and like I didn’t want to or need to finish. That was so exciting for me!
Your drinking might go up and down
Another common experience that frightens people into thinking this method isn’t working is the fact that their drinking may fluctuate week over week. One week you might hardly drink at all while another week your drinking seems to be at the level it was when you started the Sinclair Method (sometimes it might even be worse!). But this fluctuation is part of the process and is actually quite normal for people.
Because our relationships to alcohol are very complex and have seeped into many areas of our lives. Our reasons for drinking and triggers to drink have to do with our emotions, our environment, people and our habits. While one week you might be feeling good and have no triggers to drink, another week you might feel stressed and fall back on old coping mechanisms.
An example I often use from my personal experience with TSM is that after a few months on this method, I noticed I was able to drink moderately when I was home alone or having dinner with my husband, but I would often drink more when I was out socially with friends.
After spending time reflecting on why this was, I realized this was because for nearly a decade I was in the habit of “partying hard” in social settings and relied on alcohol as a sort of “social lubricant.” Also, the energy of the group would cause me to drink more to “keep up” with them and not be very mindful of my drinking. So, I started to pay more attention in these environments and slowly over time (and with practice) I began to drink less in social settings.
If you notice your drinking is going up, please don’t panic. Just pay closer attention to why that could be and make small adjustments to improve.
Throughout your TSM journey, it can be helpful to track your drinking, your emotional state, your triggers and your environment to be able to identify the people, places, activities and things that cause you to drink more or drink less. From there, you’ll be able to set new habits and coping mechanisms to slowly create new behaviors around your relationship to alcohol.
Many TSM doctors recommend a full nine months to see major changes on this method
Again just like with the weight loss example, changing your relationship to alcohol will take time. In fact, most Sinclair Method doctors recommend a solid nine months or more to see major changes in your drinking. Believe me, I understand many of us are so fed up with drinking that we want the change NOW. But patience and persistence are key to success on this method.
For me, TSM was what finally led me to long-term success in changing my relationship to alcohol. As I write this article today, I am nearly two years sober thanks to naltrexone and TSM. I also feel like this method made me “relapse-proof” because it allowed me to fully unlearn my addiction to alcohol over time. I no longer think about it, have a desire for it or miss it. It’s as if alcohol has become my “least favorite food” – by this I mean, if it’s at a party I don’t want it, if someone offers it to me I can easily say no, I don’t crave it and don’t feel like I am missing out when I choose not to drink. Sometimes it’s hard to believe but it’s as if it never was an issue for me at all.
Helping yourself toward success on the Sinclair Method
Here are things you can do to help yourself move toward success on the Sinclair Method:
Tracking your progress – including the number of drinks you plan to have, your actual drink number, your emotional state, your trigger, your craving level and how you felt before, during and after drinking
Stay away from hard alcohol
Changing up your drinking routine – drink a beverage you prefer less
Have non-alcoholic drinks after every alcoholic drink
Proactively seek out other hobbies or activities that don’t involve drinking
Establish healthier coping mechanisms
Eat a meal before you start drinking
“Test” your cravings – if you have an urge to take a naltrexone and drink, pause for 15 minutes to examine that craving. As yourself: is this really a craving? Or is it just a thought? What need am I looking for to meet alcohol? Is there anything else I could do right now other than drink that might satisfy the need I am looking for alcohol to meet?
Seek peer support – through online Facebook groups, weekly TSM meet ups or through one-on-one coaching
Know WHY you want to change your drinking and remind yourself of that daily. Keeping the reason at the front of your mind can help you stay motivated
Be proactive about building an AWESOME life outside of alcohol. A happy, joyful and awesome life is not something that just happens to us but it is something we create. Seek out your passions, find joy in the little things and laugh as often as possible.
Pray. Everyday I realize more and more the power of prayer. Ask for strength, guidance, support, wisdom, discernment…you have nothing to lose!
Lastly, here are a couple videos I made about cravings, triggers and habitual drinking, I hope they help!
Sinclair Method: Habitual Drinking vs Alcohol Cravings - What's the Difference?
The Sinclair Method - Craving vs Trigger to Drink: What's the Difference?
All the best to you on this journey!