An email exchange between me and D, one of the Team 100 members.  She’s on day 116 today.

D: Any thoughts on  Antabuse?  I haven’t been able to find any comments or discussions about it on any sober blogs…or any blogs for that matter.

me: I think that antabuse and other medications are tools in a toolbox.  and frankly, the bigger the problem, the bigger the toolbox you need – counselors, sponsors, groups, sober friends, blogging or private journaling, diet changes, moving states, sober penpals, reading other peoples blogs – they’re all tools.  So you’re asking me, how many tools do you need? (ha!) guess it depends on how big a nail you need to put into the wall 🙂 sometimes you can get a nail into the wall with the heel of your sandal, sometimes you need to ask for help, sometimes you need to rent equipment, sometimes you need to get your most irritating and preachy neighbor to do it with you because they’ve done it for themselves, even if you hate them… how’s that for an answer to your question 🙂

D: I’ve read so many stories online by women who struggle with drinking and shared the fact that they didn’t drink during their pregnancies (me too!), which is kind of fascinating to me.  I remember not drinking was hardly an issue for me during that time, and I’m not sure if it was the hormones or just a powerful mind shift that occurred when the option was taken off the table completely.   Since I already have plenty of children, I’m really glad that I found another way to have the option removed for a while until I can firmly establish my new normal.  The funny thing is that I’ve sought help from psychiatrists, counselors and therapists during the past 25 years for various reasons, including to address concerns about drinking too much, and until three months ago that “tool” was never offered by any of them.  I’m happy I elected to try it, but I’m perplexed by the lack of information and shared experiences with it on the Internet.  One thing that I’ve learned by reading so many blogs this past three months is that at any point and time in my life there are probably many people out there who are feeling the same way or going through a similar situation, so it’s seems weird that others who have used that tool haven’t posted any pros, cons, or otherwise.   Hmm.

me: I think that antabuse works because … well, I’m not a counselor, and I have to put these big disclaimers everywhere. I’m not a doctor, or a counselor or a genius. but I think that part of what is behind drinking too much is a mini version of ocd or some other kind of mini-compulsive-ness.  one drink becomes 4 or 12. And then we can’t have any, because we’re trying to be sober, then our brain REALLY WANTS it. We crave it. there’s an itch to be scratched, and we feel like drinking will scratch it.

once drinking is absolutely removed from the equation == pregnancy, medication == maybe our brain stops trying to find ways to get us booze, because it knows we won’t drink it even if we have some in front of us.  The need to fill the urge is gone because the urge isn’t going to be filled.  well, does that make sense?

the question is how many people can ‘decide’ not to drink, and can stop, just by willpower, by using thinking, talking, writing, and with support.  the answer is lots. but not everyone. some people go to rehab.  some people go to jail.  some people die before they find anything that works to shut off the compulsive thinking. and so why not use all the tools available? I wonder if a small amount of anti-anxiety medication wouldn’t help, too.

in milder versions of alcohol abuse, I think the booze itself causes the fucking OCD, and so for some of us just removing the booze for a length of time will virtually shuts the thing down. ok, not all of it, but it shuts it down enough that it seems manageable again.

but for me, I’m all about “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” if you have something that’s working, then do that.  if 2 meetings a day works, then do that. if praying to god works then do that. if taking anti-anxiety medication works, then do that 🙂 I would be happy to learn more about why you think antabuse works so well … since I haven’t taken it, I’m only speculating as to how I think it would work if I were to take it.

D:  You are so smart!  You just articulated and explained exactly what I found so interesting.  I think have been comparing myself to people who are staying sober by using only their willpower, and letting it make me feel inferior.  Like I’m cheating.  Like my 90 days should have an asterisk next to it.  I feel like a woman who elected to have an epidural trying to compare child-birth war stories with mothers who did it the old fashioned way.  I just have to remember that the outcome can be the same either way, and results are ultimately what matter.  I plan to spend a lot of time mulling over your other ideas in the coming days, too.  It’s good food for thought, and I enjoy mulling!

… so does anyone else have some thoughts on antabuse? Can you inform us? Or anything to add to my idea of alcohol misuse being along the lines of a mini version of OCD…


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Firstly I wanted to say who cares how many tools or indeed what tools? Same as who cares how you give birth- surely it’s the result that matters?
    And I’m going to put this out there because I read all the time about people being able to stop drinking when pregnant.
    I felt terrible throughout all 4 of my pregnancies because I couldn’t stop drinking. The shame and dread I went through. Yes I cut down; but for me I couldn’t just stop and I certainly didn’t “go off it” and I didn’t feel able to ask for any help because I was so ashamed. I guess I’d like anyone out there to know if they’re struggling to not stop while pregnant then they aren’t odd or a terrible person.
    And to reach out for support without fear of being judged.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I had a perscription for anabuse, but took only few, and that’s the problem, you have to take the pills for them to help I guess. Also they don’t take away the cravings, they just make you sick if you drink. And it also depends how much you drink and how strong is your perscription. You can still drink on a low dose and not have any symptoms. As far as quiting when pregnant, I was able to do it too with no problem. Could not understand that for the life of me! My sponsor said it was because I knew that it was just temporary and I was going to be able to drink again. And that in my mind I was able to justify that I didn’t have a problem with drinking. And, I did pick up soon after and my drinking spiraled out of control quickly. This the craziness of addiction,- a person allergic to nuts doesn’t keep trying to eat them and hope they don’t make them sick. Why do we? well, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter in the end, sometimes you just have to put the debate away – it is what it is.

    Sorry so long…. I hope this helped a bit. Keep trudging forward! 🙂

    • this is so helpful, thanks for sharing your ideas. The thing about maybe knowing that you’ll maybe drink again “later” – that’s sort of what the 100 day challenge is about … it’s getting to a sober place so that we can see that it is possible. and somewhere along the line we can realize that the noise in our head doesn’t have to be listened to : ) and like you said about the peanut allergies, no need to ‘retest’ the waters of booze again. that’s just wolfie talking. we already know the answer…

  • Have any of you read the book, “Kick the Drink Easily” by Jason Vale? I would HIGHLY recommend it in order to change the way you view alcohol and stop feeling deprived in some way without it. Antabuse is nothing but a bandaid and you actually have to drink at least once for it to work (it works by making you very sick if you consume alcohol, therefore conditioning you not to). If you are already on day 116, the alcohol is long gone from your system and there is no physical reason for you to take it. It doesn’t just get rid of the craving because the craving is not physical at this point, it’s mental. Antabuse was essentially created for chronic relapsers. Please read the book! Good luck : ) Jennifer, day 447.

    • HI jennifer, thanks for your ideas : ) we’ve talked lots about the Vale book on my blog and others – we’re all big fans. i’m trying to encourage an open dialogue about choices. if someone feels that antabuse is working then i don’t see the harm… changing your thinking only works if you’re not feeling compulsive! As you can imagine, D. is working carefully with her doctor to figure out what’s best for her. I think the goal is Sober First, and the rest is all second. Thanks for your input : )

      • I’m so glad you are all fans of the book already! Thank you for all you are doing to help others : ).

  • I will preface this post by saying that I have never taken antabuse or Naltrexone or any other alcohol related pill or shot.

    These topics come up very frequently in the recovery forums I am a part of. I have read the responses to the questions of whether those medications work or not. And the responses are generally the same.

    In regards to Antabuse, like simpsonsister stated, it generally is not a great deterrent. As one forum member stated, it’s not for the “motivated drinker”. While drinking on it is apparently quick horrific, some people do – the compulsion to drink it too strong. For some, they see it as a kick-start to their recovery – a buffer while they get started in AA or some other program. The overall consensus is that Antabuse does not replace a program of recovery – it’s something (a tool?) that can be used in the short term.

    As for Naltrexone, some people find it helps a little, and some find it doesn’t do much. Some find that it helps get them over the humps and others find that they would have gotten over those humps without anything. I have no clue as i have never been on that either. Again, the common idea is that it too can be a tool, but is not a magic pill nor does it replace a program of recovery.

    Like simpsonsister, if it works and it’s helping (regardless if it’s a placebo effect or not) then go for it. We use what we need to. I never heard of those things when I got sober – who knows if I would have tried them before going to detox. Probably the Naltrexone. Would it have worked? no clue! I would have been one of those people who tried to drink on Antabuse. I can guarantee it 🙂

    Regardless of your views and experience, the overall sense is that these are short term tools and can be effective when paired with a program of action, whatever one that it.

    Great post / topic.


    • Thanks Paul. I too am of the school that says “if it works, it works.” And you’re right, medication might probably be short-term AND used in conjunction with something else (some other form of recovery work). But if there are underlying anxiety / depression issues, they may need ongoing medical treatment once the booze is removed.

  • I have not read or heard much about this drug – but my thinking is I would rather try the alternative tools to taking medication to control a problem if at all possible. I do realize for some this is not an option.

    I went through a phase of depression/anxiety when I was drinking (and I didn’t tell the psychiatrist how much I was drinking ‘really’) but I chose the alternative tools to taking medication to resolve the problem – I started blogging and worked to eat healthier and exercise more. I lost weight, lowered my blood pressure and didn’t feel so depressed. Exercise is the best medicine to so many things – it provides you with the stress relief, the boost even to get that natural high after a good sweatin’ workout.

    I like your comments Belle about using whatever tools we need to get us through. If you’re beyond 100 days of being sober, you’re obviously doing something right … and if you’ve done it without the drugs – why consider it now?

    • thanks for this … i’m not considering taking medication, i was just curious about what other people’s experiences were. me personally, i’m doing quite fine : ) but there are lots of newly sober people who might like to explore as many ‘tools’ as they can …

  • What a great topic! I do have some opinions on this, and I guess I am speaking from experience. I also agree that we all need to have tools in our toolbox, and the more we have, the more likely we are to have something that works in times of need.

    It has been shown through research that antibuse doesn’t work. Not that it doesn’t work for some people, but rather that it is not the be all, end all, magical pill. The idea behind antibuse is that a person will get violently sick if they were to injest alcohol. I don’t know about you, but at the end of my drinking, I drank enough for this to happen anyway. Another blogger was writing about “alcohol amnesia”. Its the idea that we tend to forget just how bad drinking is after we are sober for awhile. The feeling I had while hanging over the toilet of “I’m am NEVER doing this again,” tends to diminish after a few days or weeks of not drinking. Some people take antibuse and it is enough to keep them from drinking for fear of what will happen.

    I have taken another medication that I really believe can work. It is not an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety but something that is used specifically for active alcoholics. The medication is called Naltrexone (which comes in a pill form) or Vivitrol (which is a shot you take once a month). This medication is being used at some of the top treatment centers in the US. The idea is that you take the medication and if you drink – you simply don’t feel the effects. It blocks our receptors in the pleasure center of our brain. What do I mean? Here’s an example:

    I drink because I like to feel relaxed. I like that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with the first few drinks. My body tends to chill out and my then my crazy chaotic brain can slow down. When I am on the medication – I don’t get this feeling. I have drank after taking the medication (lets just say I tested it out). I took a drink, and then two. NOTHING. So the idea is that if someone doesn’t get the desired effect from drinking – they won’t keep drinking. Its true. Why would I keep drinking if it didn’t give me what I wanted? It would be like drinking an entire pitcher of lemonade in effort to get drunk. I stop after one glass.

    The medication is also supposed to help with the physical and psychological cravings of alcohol, especially in early sobriety. Its not a long term medication, but rather a short term tool to use. I think it is recommended to take for up to a year. I have been on the medication (although now I am taking it faithfully) for awhile now. I think it helps. Maybe others don’t. I don’t really give a crap if it is a placebo. Its one more thing I have in my tool box. All I know is that I am not drinking, so I am going to keep doing what I am doing – including taking the medication!