Escaping from Alcohol: Megan’s Story
Aug 17, 2022
It was the day after Christmas 2020. Once again, I had woken up at 3 a.m. Sweating, head pounding. I could feel the self-loathing and anxiety start to hit me like a tsunami.
How did I do it again? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I seem to stop drinking wine as a way to cope with stress and anxiety?
The holidays were a particularly triggering time for me. My kids were with their father, so I had spent the previous night alone. The quiet and loneliness had set in.
I spent the evening with sushi, Netflix, and—of course—my bottle of wine. Ever since my divorce three years earlier, this has become a typical night for me. The silence crushed me. So I drank: I couldn’t bear to be alone with myself. I was so uncomfortable. The guilt over my divorce was overwhelming. Had I ruined our kids’ lives forever?
The last thing I remember was sitting on the couch, about halfway through the bottle of wine. The rest is a blur. I had apparently drunk the entire bottle, as per usual. At some point, I must have stumbled into bed and passed out.
Blackouts from drinking had become a regular occurrence. By this point, it didn’t even take much wine to either black out or have foggy memories of the night before. The next morning, my phone log showed I’d had long conversations I couldn’t recall.
What really scared me was that I apparently sounded articulate and totally “with it.”
But I wasn’t. As my blackouts increased, so did my fear that I was causing serious damage to my brain.
Most nights I drank alone. Wine was my most loyal companion. It was there for me when I was sad, anxious, happy, bored, lonely. Wine would never abandon me.
I tried to quit many times, but I usually only made it to a few days. Then I’d have amnesia, forget why I wanted to quit, and start the cycle all over again.
My then-therapist was not very helpful. Throughout my years of therapy with her, I’d expressed my desire to quit drinking. But I wasn’t making any progress. I needed more. I needed someone who understood addiction, so I decided to get a new therapist.
I started with my new psychologist at the beginning of 2021. Within a few appointments, she had given me actionable steps. She made me feel my situation was fixable. That I was fixable. She gave me hope.
We discussed my concerns about my drinking. I explained that I was struggling to stop, and that I was depressed, hopeless, and exhausted from trying to moderate. She advised me to work with a psychiatrist.
The idea of seeing a psychiatrist made me nervous. At 36 years old, I had never seen one, and I worried my up and down moods would mean a serious psychiatric diagnosis.
Turns out it was the alcohol that was the problem.
We talked a lot about my drinking and how I desperately wanted to stop. I didn’t want alcohol to continue to control me. I wanted peace and happiness. Most importantly, I wanted to actually like myself again.
She suggested a medication that could help me with my alcohol cravings. I had only ever heard of Antabuse, a medication that made you sick if you drank. This other medication was apparently different, but I was skeptical. I immediately shot down the idea.
I couldn’t possibly be someone who required medication to help them with their nightly wine habit.
She advised me to go home and research naltrexone. That night, I went to the Oar website and took their questionnaire. My responses were all “yes.” It indicated that I was experiencing several symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD).
So I began researching AUD, and realized I wasn’t an alcoholic after all. Before Oar, I wasn’t sure if I qualified for help, which had kept me from seeking it.
One sentence on Oar’s website really stuck with me: “You don’t have to hit rock bottom for things to start getting better.” It was a revelation. I didn’t need to have an intense, catastrophic event happen to be able to stop drinking. There was help available for me, and I could ask for it.
Learning about AUD was a game changer for me.
I learned that naltrexone can help you have fewer cravings for alcohol, fewer thoughts about alcohol, and make drinking less appealing.
As I devoured every piece of literature about naltrexone I could find, I realized it could really help me.
What did I have to lose? I could continue drinking, wreaking havoc and permanent damage to my body—or I could temporarily take a medication that could help me kick this habit forever.
I work in an emergency room, where I see women younger than me who have already suffered devastating effects from drinking alcohol. I didn’t want to end up that way.
So I made the decision to start naltrexone. The benefits outweighed any risks. If I kept drinking a bottle of wine several nights a week, I knew I would be slowly killing myself.
I started naltrexone the following week.
On the first day I took naltrexone, I was so nervous. I took it in the morning. By the evening, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t want wine. It started to work for me on day one.
I couldn’t believe it. Each morning when I took my medication, I felt a little jolt of energy. But the pill wasn’t what was giving me energy; it was that I was starting to feel alive again.
The plan was to take naltrexone for 30 days, then circle back with my doctor. I decided to stay on it for a few more months. I was afraid that after 30 days, I would go back to drinking.
I felt so much better without drinking, and I didn’t want to jeopardize that. I needed a little more help, and that was okay.
Naltrexone is not a quick fix or a magic bullet. It’s one of many tools I used to help me stop drinking. I also had to work on myself to sustain this new lifestyle.
I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t found naltrexone. This medication—combined with therapy, physical activity, and support groups—has given me my life back.
I no longer need to use alcohol to escape, because there’s nothing to escape from.
About The Author
Megan Wilcox is a single mom of two boys. She spends her evenings working in a busy emergency room, and her spare time helping women break free from the chains of alcohol. You can find her on Instagram @Sobahsistahs.
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Medically reviewed by Joshua D Lee, MD, MSc