Cautionary tale…I relapsed a year and a half ago after 10 years, 8 months of sobriety. The stats say that the percentage of addicts who relapse after 5 years of sobriety is very low. The longer you remain sober, the less chance you have of relapse. It is considered a rare occurrence but it does happen.
So my brain is still going ” wait….what?!?!” I was DONE with drinking. No I hadn’t gone to AA, or an addictions counsellor, and the soberverse didn’t really exist back then,… but I had successfully quit. Every day I woke up and thanked the universe for my alcohol free life. I was so very grateful and so very proud. I weathered many of life’s storms without picking up alcohol. So what the fuck happened???
This is where the tale gets even more cautionary. *DISCLAIMER: DO NOT QUIT YOUR ANTI-DEPRESSANT WITHOUT YOUR PHYSICIAN”S GUIDANCE.” My theory of why I began craving alcohol again after so many years involves an anti-depressant called Prozac, which my doctor prescribed to get me through the physical and mental roller-coaster of menopause. Yes – some doctors are prescribing Prozac to relieve symptoms of menopause. Anecdotal evidence online (and plenty of it) points to a correlation between certain SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Prozac and increased alcohol use. There is no science behind this claim. Prozac has apparently helped reduce alcohol cravings for some people. But I wonder if I was one of the few who experienced a different reaction. Because about one year after being on Prozac, I can now see that’s when the cravings for alcohol began. Once the cravings began again, I started entertaining thoughts like ” it’s been so long, maybe I can now be a moderate drinker”…And then one day I gave into the cravings.
My wine consumption quickly ramped up to a bottle per day and more sometimes. The compulsion to drink wine was overwhelming and I found lots of excuses to back it up. I also knew I wanted to quit again but it wasn’t until I discovered a possible connection to the Prozac, in January of this year, and then tapered off that drug with my doctor’s guidance, that I gained more traction with quitting. And by traction I mean that I’m finally putting together more consecutive days sober, more often.
This all makes sense to me because the puzzle of addiction involves, in part, brain chemistry – namely the neurotransmitter Dopamine, the brain’s pleasure pathway. The whole point of going on Prozac was to alter my brain chemistry so I felt better, and it worked for it’s intended purpose and I did feel much better. So I altered my brain chemistry but the drug may also have inadvertently altered the way Dopamine works in my brain. Here’s an interesting article published by McGill University: “Alcoholism: effects on the brain’s dopamine system.” It makes sense to me that the change in my brain chemistry could have caused me to crave alcohol again after 10 plus years, especially since I was already predisposed to alcohol abuse.
Don’t quit Prozac or any other anti-depressant you are on without your doctor’s guidance. Maybe you just need to switch to a different one. But your doctor won’t know about the possible correlation between cravings and certain SSRI’s because there are no proper scientific studies to back up the claims, so do your own research first. Anti-depressants are life-lines for many people, as mine was for me for a time. Sometimes we just need to find the right one, the right fit. And that is different for everyone.
Like I said, this ain’t my first rodeo but I hope it’s going to be the last of my hornswoggling addiction.