My Story
Excerpted from: "My Way Out, One Woman's Remarkable Journey in Overcoming Her Drinking Problem and How Her Innovative Program Can Help You or Someone You Love" by Roberta Jewell

Copyright 1995 Capalo Press All Rights Reserved

Let me state up front: I am not a medical doctor. I am not a PhD. I am not a researcher-officially, anyway. In fact, my name is not even Roberta Jewell, but you don't really need to know my name because you're already familiar with my circumstances: you or someone you love has struggled with the debilitating, painful reality of life as a problem drinker.

Where did the problem come from? Well, what are the roots of any addictive behavior? I assume it was primarily genetic in my case: I was adopted as a toddler and understand that both of my biological parents had "drug and alcohol issues" but I don't know the details.

My adoptive parents provided a warm and loving home for my brother, sister and me, and were what I would consider to be social drinkers, the kind I would yearn to become later in life. They used alcohol in moderation. Dad would usually pop open a beer after a long day at the job-typically before starting an after-work second shift building our new house, developing the property in which they'd invested, or simply putting in all the hard hours it took to grow the family business. Mom usually had a cocktail only when we went out for a special occasion.

It didn't seem like a problem for me in high school or college-it was called partying back then and everyone did it. My grades were good and I saved my fun for the weekends, just like other kids. Looking back, I think I enjoyed drinking more than many of my peers, but I was generally enthusiastic about most things and it certainly didn't seem like cause for concern.

I married a man who liked to drink as much as I did by the time I was in my mid to late twenties-it had pretty much become a daily affair, and frankly I was more comfortable with someone who didn't make me feel guilty about it. We were together six years before we started a family, so we enjoyed our time fishing, camping, running a new business, and spending time with friends. Drinking not only didn't interfere with our life; it seemed to enhance it.

By the time our babies came along, it had become clear to me that abstinence was not going to be easy, but I gave it my best shot. I held out for the entire term of the first pregnancy, but despite what I knew about alcohol passing into breast milk, I started drinking an occasional cocktail at night while nursing.

When I became pregnant a second time, I again forced myself off the booze-at least for the first three months, which I knew were most critical. I allowed myself an infrequent glass of wine or light cocktail towards the end of my pregnancy when the cravings got the better of me.

When my baby was born with a serious genetic disorder, I was absolutely devastated, and convinced it was all my doing-that one of those drinks had somehow caught up with me-even though a world renowned expert in the disease assured me that wasn't the case.

Our third child was not planned and arrived unbelievably soon after the second (healthy as a horse, thankfully). But it didn't take long before I found it was all I could do to keep the bottle at bay. I was bending under the pressure of raising three young children, dealing with the burdensome debt of a business failure, nurturing a youngster with a rare and painful disability, and managing the early symptoms of clinical depression.

I retreated further into the numbing effects of alcohol, which seemed to relieve the agonizing pain and stress of my everyday life, if only temporarily.

But I hid it well. As everyone around me marveled at my strength and fortitude, I found solace at night in the sweet drinks I sipped from my endless supply of eight dollar bottles of vodka.

Over the next decade or so my family situation improved significantly. I worked ceaselessly to find help for our son's condition. My work paid off, and he benefited dramatically thanks to new advances in medical technology I was able to track down.

I also embarked upon a new career path, eventually earning an executive management position, and then other rewarding opportunities came my way. Our finances slowly crept into a healthier state, and my husband, who agreed to work part-time and manage the household-having always been a superior and more agreeable housekeeper, cook and children's chauffeur-provided solid and endless logistical support to the kids and me. Despite our ups and downs, he was always my rock and a source of endless strength and humor.

One thing that did not change, however, was my drinking. It actually grew worse. My tolerance for liquor had increased and I seemed to need more drinks, or stronger ones.

Some mornings my head ached from the previous evening's round of drinking. At times, I even drove my car when under the influence, and occasionally either missed a day of work, or watched my productivity suffer because I couldn't concentrate. I found myself making promises to the kids that alcohol prevented me from keeping, and I fought with my husband or simply became irrational.

Although I was still pretty good at hiding my problem from those around me, I feared it was only a matter of time before I did something very stupid after too many drinks.

I was slowly becoming somebody I despised.

I'd tried to stop, or at least slow down, so many times. Over the years, it seemed as if I'd read every book on the subject and investigated every possible conventional and non-traditional recovery therapy I could get my hands on.

Anyone who knows me well would tell you that I'm a proficient researcher-particularly when it comes to medical matters, a skill I developed when I was desperately trying to find help beyond the conventional and ineffective treatment that traditional medicine offered our second child. Dozens of family members and friends since have called upon me to help them investigate a wide range of afflictions and diseases, and I'm very proud of what I've helped uncover and the positive impact it has had on the lives of the people I care about.

But nothing I had found was helping me solve my own serious health problem, which continued to deteriorate.

Then an incredible turn of events changed my life. After nearly 20 years of aggressively conducting all that research, I was graced by what I can only describe as some sort of supreme serendipity, and the solution to my problem dropped perfectly and profoundly into my lap.

After all the unproductive attempts to rid myself of my misery, I stumbled upon early results of innovative clinical research with an oral medication called Topiramate for treating alcoholism. I found an article buried in a newspaper one afternoon in the summer of 2003 that reported a study by physicians at the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Center at the University of Texas San Antonio, who concluded that half of the alcoholics in their study who were given the medicine either quit drinking completely or cut back sharply. Within months, more news stories and Internet postings hailed it as a major scientific breakthrough.

Strangely enough, however, many of the popular press articles focused on the medication's unexpected weight loss properties, but my curiosity had already been piqued about the drug's apparent proven ability to curb drinking.

By the time the animated morning news anchors were introducing stories about the drug on their network programs in the fall, I already knew more about the subject than most of the physicians in my community.

I had launched my own personal research campaign and discovered that Topiramate was manufactured by Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals and was marketed as Topamax by its parent company, Johnson and Johnson. Sold primarily as a medication to treat epilepsy, Topamax also is prescribed off-label to treat migraine headaches, bi-polar disorder, binge-eating, and a host of other ailments.

Just as importantly, I discovered the drug had an impressive track record, and was reported to have minimal side effects. However, its success in treating problem drinkers in Texas was based on the patients' willingness and ability to augment the drug regime by attending an onsite treatment facility. And to participate in a carefully controlled program in which medical professionals could conduct and analyze lab work, provide medical screening, issue medication, and offer behavioral therapy sessions. All the supporting components were concluded to be the key to the drug's success.

But despite what the studies reported about limited side effects, my research begged to differ, particularly from what I read by individuals from Internet message boards who were prescribed the medication for other conditions.

Nonetheless, after weighing the pros and cons, (and confident I could address the relatively benign side effects with the appropriate nutritional supplements) I ordered a month's supply from an online pharmacy whose requirements for prescriptions were somewhat lenient. I didn't care to get my doctor involved-who knew if she'd approve? I was an adult, after all, and I'd done my research.

Also, I had adequate experience in buying pharmaceuticals on the web and keeping my private matters private, so it didn't take long to find a company who stocked the medication and was willing to oblige. I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my package from its offshore source as I prepared for a business conference and visit with "Brenda", a good friend and former college roommate in a neighboring state.

It was at a small dinner party at Brenda's that the subject of addiction fortuitously arose (not mine of course-who would ever have guessed?).

I'd been thinking earlier about the Topiramate as I forced myself to s-l-o-w-l-y sip the weak whiskey soda her husband had graciously offered. Why did it take everyone else so long to finish their drinks, anyway? I was grateful for the cocktail, but much preferred to make them myself when traveling-I never left home without a bottle in my bag.

Now at the dinner table and midway into our meal, just as I was calculating the status of that second bottle of Merlot, Brenda began to talk about her sister-in-law, who'd had an interesting experience several years earlier after attending a hypnosis seminar.

She suffered a ferocious smoking habit most of her adult life, had been unsuccessful in every attempt to quit, and wondered if hypnosis might help. However, midway into the presentation, she found she didn't care for the slick presentation, or the hypnotist, and concluded it was "a bunch of hooey."

In fact, she was so incensed at the $55 she'd paid, she walked out, venting to my friend over the cell phone on her drive home. Brenda calmed her down and insisted she listen to the tape that came with the price of admission. Against her better judgment, her sister-in-law did just that, playing the tape after she relaxed and was ready for bed. She woke up the next morning to find her cigarette craving completely gone, and she never lit one up again. Of course, no one was more surprised than the disgruntled customer herself.

Now, I love a good dinnertime story as much as the next person-but I knew this wasn't a tale, because I know Brenda well, and that she's simply incapable of lying.

But what struck me right then was the fact that after so many years of research, I had completely overlooked hypnosis as a potentially powerful therapeutic treatment for addiction.

It also occurred to me that it could complement a seemingly unrelated medicinal therapy like Topiramate, and together, perhaps they could perform a critically important dance upon the neurons of a brain-of my brain-in modifying behavior.

Combined with the other essential weapons I was amassing in my arsenal-an assortment of vitamins, minerals, and herbs I had identified as effective in treating alcohol cravings-and a simple exercise regimen I would employ for its obvious physical and emotional rewards, I became convinced I just may have found the means to defeat the demons I had been battling most of my adult life.

I had already fine-tuned the formula of nutritional supplements, Topiramate dosing and exercise schedule before leaving for my conference-I had even printed out spreadsheets to commit the program to a schedule.

But until that moment at the dinner with Brenda, it had never occurred to me to consider incorporating hypnotherapy as a behavior modification component. When the idea dawned, it seemed a perfect addition to round out the program, and might even emulate some of the benefits the patients in the original clinical trial had enjoyed, as it could provide a foundation for supporting the fundamental behavioral changes that were about to occur.

Of paramount importance to me was knowing that I was on to something that offered the ability to fight-and win-this battle in the privacy of my own home. Treatment in a public or clinical setting was simply not an option I cared to pursue.

How incredible, it seemed, that after searching for a solution for so many years that the two final puzzle pieces-Topiramate and hypnotherapy-would come together so seamlessly and within a matter of weeks. It felt like nothing less than some sort of divine intervention.

Somehow I knew before I even began this homegrown therapeutic program that it would work-but I had no idea just how effectively, and how quickly.

At the time, I had done enough research about the neurological underpinnings of the human brain to understand that pharmacological agents could help and, in fact, had already been developed by the mid 1990s to help mitigate the craving for alcohol.

One of the most promising medications, Naltrexone, had begun to offer hope for those with drinking problems and was being used at recovery centers throughout the United States. In fact, I had even managed to persuade a sympathetic young psychiatrist to provide me with a prescription years earlier and was thrilled to learn that it did, in fact, reduce the craving. For a while, anyway. And though I'd promised to do so, I ignored his advice about seeking counseling while taking it, as I'd found it difficult enough simply getting myself into his office in the first place.

Alcoholics Anonymous may have seemed the obvious route, but it was out of the question for me, as reputable a program I understood it to be. I didn't want to quit drinking entirely-I just wanted to gain control over it. And unfortunately, I hadn't had any luck with programs like Moderation Management, a popular approach, but one that required 30 days of abstinence, which I had been incapable of achieving.

So Naltrexone, the wonder drug prescribed years earlier overseas and for which I'd eagerly awaited FDA approval, was finally available, but just as the psychiatrist had predicted, it was no magic bullet. Unaccompanied by supportive therapies, its much touted powers soon lost their luster, and I quickly learned that it would take much more than a little white pill at lunchtime to reverse a lifetime of drinking.

It was a painful lesson, and while I was disheartened as I found myself back to my old habits, in hindsight I realize it was a critical lesson. It reinforced my basic belief that this problem of mine-and millions like me-was very much biochemical in nature, and that perhaps pharmacology could, in the proper setting, offer a powerful means to help flip off that damn dopamine switch, the trigger to the chemical wreaking havoc in my brain.

But back to Brenda's dinner party. One guest, intrigued by the hypnosis discussion, mentioned she had once seen a news program about the success of therapeutic hypnosis. I remarked that it seemed as if all kinds of new therapies were being developed to treat addictions.

I said I had recently read an article about an epilepsy drug. "I think it's called Topamax," I offered, "and it's supposed to help people with drinking problems." But nobody bit, so I dropped it. We eventually wrapped up the evening and the rest of the group headed home. I was staying the night and hoped to finesse another drink under the time-honored custom of a nightcap.

Thankfully, Brenda invited me to join her for a late-night, girls-only cocktail. Her cat weaved between us and we began to catch up on our lives once we settled on her couch with our drinks.

"So what do you know about this Topamax?" she asked me out of the blue, an hour later into a completely unrelated conversation.

It hit me like a truck.

I was flabbergasted to learn as we talked late into the night, that like me, she struggled with a similar secret drinking problem. Who would ever have guessed that this beautiful, successful, highly respected mother, wife, and working woman suffered the same private pain as me? Distance had separated us since our intimate days as college roommates but we had remained close friends, and I thought I knew all sides of her.

For the first time in our lives, we shared our stories, and we shared them with someone who understood, because we were both living the lie. What a relief to know that we were not alone. I had never told anyone how miserable I was because of my drinking-even my husband of 19 years, who despite knowing how desperate I was to change my life, really had no idea how truly unhappy I had become because of my addiction to alcohol.

We stayed up the entire night and I told Brenda about the endless searching I'd done over the years in hopes of curing myself; about the numerous therapies and medications and nutritional supplements I'd tried; about my reluctance to join AA or to enter a program within a clinical setting. I told her about all books I'd read and the research I'd conducted and that despite the fact this was the single most important goal in my life-because surely I would not live to see my children grow up if I continued to drink at my current pace-that nothing I'd tried had worked.

So, now, along with the medication, nutritional supplements and exercise regimen, I wanted to research and consider enhancing the plan with therapeutic hypnosis. I proposed that each therapy had a powerful and important contribution to make. Topiramate was clearly effective in curbing craving-the research had indicated participants in the Texas study were six times more likely than those taking a placebo to abstain from alcohol.

In addition, I would augment the medication with the herbs and supplements I had learned about (and tried myself) over so many years. For instance the amino acid L-glutamine had been shown effective in reducing the desire to drink; the herb milk thistle was said to repair some of the damaging effects of alcohol on the liver; and Kudzu extract, another included in my plan, was believed to significantly decrease alcohol craving.

Some of the supplements, I would later learn, would even offset the bothersome side effects of the Topiramate. As for exercise, it would also play an important role in both overcoming symptoms of depression and releasing endorphins, both of which have been proven to help reduce the incidence of relapse in patients recovering from addiction.

So how would hypnosis fit into the mix and would it enhance the success of this program?

I soon learned the answer. I can state with complete and utter honesty that the irrepressible desire to drink to excess, that gentle nagging that emerged in young adulthood and mushroomed over 20 years into an ugly and uncontrollable craving, quickly and completely disappeared.

The transformation took place quietly and painlessly and was extinguished, quite frankly, within a matter of days. I was dumbfounded, because as much I wanted to believe that it would work-having experimented with minor versions and various elements of this program over the past dozen or so years and expecting at least some favorable results from the cocktail of amino acids and herbs that often promote detoxification and craving reduction-I was nevertheless astounded by such immediate results.

I knew from the very first day I started the program that my life was about to be transformed… 
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Please seek the guidance of a qualified health care provider when starting the My Way Out Program. Back to Top
Copyright © 2006 Capalo Press, All Rights Reserved | fax: 800-877-5680