I no longer take any medication. I quit baclofen about two months ago, and I quit Wellbutrin roughly two weeks ago. Life has been very good. I haven't had a cigarette in over nine months, and it's been almost 13 months since I've drank or used any recreational drugs. I have entered into a committed relationship, and I'm still doing well in school. I now work full-time and I'm in excellent physical health. I take daily vitamins and fish oil and other healthy natural supplements that I believe have expedited my physiological recovery. My life has completely changed, and I still credit that largely to baclofen.
Baclofen seems like a distant memory. I crave alcohol occasionally, but it isn't difficult to avoid it. I go to bars with friends and just order a Coke or something. It's really not a big deal. To the people who are struggling, I really hope this post is not off-putting. I respect anyone's individual opinion, and I believe that anyone in active alcoholism/addiction should abstain from alcohol and drugs for a significant period of time. I would like to preface what I'm about to write by saying that I believe abstinence is the most effective way to change one's life for the better. Extensive abstinence is necessary to allow the body to heal itself and the brain to repair. But I have done an incredible amount of research because I still do not believe that alcoholism is an irreversible, incurable, black-and-white "disease." It has always felt wrong to me. There is just too much contradiction.
Take, for example, the Cohen et al. (1971) study which demonstrated that alcoholic patients had the ability to control their drinking if provided sufficient incentives.
“The studies by Cohen et al. (1971) demonstrated that alcoholics could maintain control over their drinking if appropriate contingencies were in place that supported non-alcoholic patterns of alcohol ingestion.”
The above statement would not be possible if alcoholism were a brain disease characterized by immediate and sustained loss of control. The Cohen et al. (1971) study demonstrates that alcoholics DO HAVE willpower if appropriate incentives are put in place. Again, this would not be possible based on the disease theory of alcoholism.
Take the next example of a Johns Hopkins study which demonstrated the same effect:
In a five-week experiment, inpatient subjects were given the option to drink up to 10 ounces of alcohol every weekday. Every other week, the subjects were given access to an improved environment – including telephone, television, pool table, games, and reading materials – provided they drank fewer than 5 ounces of alcohol for the day. If the subject exceeded that amount, he was put in a more Spartan environment and was not allowed to drink the following day. On the alternate weeks, the subjects remained in ascetic environments no matter how much they drank. All five subjects drank less during the weeks when privileges were available than during the weeks when no privileges were available.
A 1977 review of scientific literature cited 58 studies that have corroborated the finding that alcoholic drinking is a function of "environmental contingencies."
Again, these studies CANNOT be possible if alcoholism triggers a complete loss of control and willpower and is a legitimate neurological malady!!
We quit because we have sufficient incentives to quit. No scientist or alcohol researcher can point to a specific time at which the power of choice is regained. Obviously, at some point alcoholics can choose not to drink alcohol, despite the fact that they supposedly have a brain disease that requires them to drink until their lives fall apart. What is also clear is that alcoholics can go several days without drinking given sufficient circumstances. A common story you will hear in 12-step rooms is that a person relapsed for "one night." And then they abstained again for several months or years. That one night means that a person with a supposed disease controlled his or her drinking. That is because choice is never truly lost. Yes, when a person is physically and psychologically dependent on a substance, he chooses to take that substance to alleviate extreme discomfort. The key word in the previous sentence is that he chooses to take the substance. Any reasonable person who is in agony will alleviate herself if the antidote is within reach. A person who is physically and/or psychologically dependent on a substance most likely will need to abstain from the substance for a period of time in order to regain control and establish sufficient incentives to fix the problem behavior. The most important thing for a dependent person to do is to realize that they have agency in their life; the substance is not magic, and your desire for it is not illogical. The most difficult thing for a person to do is to forget everything about the “irreversibility” and the harmful label and the false notion that the brain is hard-wired and will never return to “normal.” This is all 12-step, $45 billion a year treatment-industry dogma that was birthed out of the temperance and prohibition eras. Almost 80 percent of people at inpatient treatment centers are not first-timers; treatment programs are designed to get repeat customers. It stems from religious zeal and the scare tactics used to keep children from consuming drugs and alcohol. The brain does get conditioned to pursue pleasurable activities, but all studies have found that after roughly 14 months brain functioning returns to near-normal levels in all respects. Brain imaging shows this with methamphetamine users: (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-abuse).
In conclusion, please choose your own path. Perhaps abstinence is the right choice, but it shouldn't feel like the only choice. It should feel like an option. If you do decide to change your life, try staying sober for six months or a year. Create a real plan for moderation and put things in place to make it happen. Wait until you have reached a worthwhile place in life (have a job, a family, etc.). Please do not let the identity of alcoholic or addict consume your entire life. Those who have lived in AA for a long period of time are going to have the most difficult time because their entire world view has been corroborated by other “alcoholics” who have bought into the idea that they are completely powerless. My drinking became 10 times worse after being exposed to rehab and AA. Perhaps this is completely false. Perhaps I will be too scared to drink again. But as of right now this is how I feel. I think I have been psychologically corrupted by the idea that I have no agency whatsoever.
If I do decide to drink again, I will be sure to share my experiences as objectively as possible. Sorry for the longest post of all time.