Trace alcohol and TSM

In this short video excerpt from our Tackling the Tough TSM Questions live stream on Twitch, C Three Foundation CEO Claudia Christian and Executive Director Jenny Williamson discuss the topic of approaching trace amounts of alcohol while on the Sinclair Method.

Watch the full video Tackling the Tough TSM Questions on our YouTube channel.

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this video are not meant to serve as medical advice, but rather, to assist people in asking their doctors questions that will enhance recovery success. Please consult your medical provider before taking any prescription medication or changing doses or frequency of dosses.



Jenny: All right. We get this one almost like clockwork, several times a year. Should I take my medication for food and drink that have trace amounts of alcohol, but are considered non-alcoholic?

Claudia: No, no. I mean, I even today drink alcohol-free beers once in a while, and I don’t take a naltrexone. Dr. Eskapa explained it to me like this when I asked him about it. I said to him: You know I drink kombucha. I eat fermented food. I do like, once in a while, an alcohol-free beer, alcohol-free wine, things like that. He said, “Claudia, the average human produces so much alcohol in their stomach just by fermenting food, by breaking foods down, especially fruit, things like, sugars. You produce alcohol every single day, so no, you don’t have to take a naltrexone.” Now, there are a lot of people in recovery who say, “well I’m not going to eat that tiramisu because the ladyfingers are literally soaked in rum.” That, if you’re going to have a massive piece of tiramisu that is soaked in rum that has not been cooked off, yeah, you might want to think twice about that, because it might trigger you to want to drink.

Jenny: But again, that’s probably, do you think that that is because of the alcohol content or do you think that’s because of the trigger of the taste?

Claudia: I think it’s, I’ll be honest with you, I believe I remember, I was triggered by, this is funny, the bitters. I had, I thought that it was safe for me to drink club soda with some bitters in it, and bitters has a lot of alcohol in it. I didn’t realize how much was in it. And I would do a liberal shake of bitters into a big glass of club soda, and that was my alcohol-free drink. Well it wasn’t an alcohol-free drink, and bitters has a lot of alcohol in it, and that was, I could feel the alcohol hit my brain, and that’s when I went, “Oh, boy, this is not an alcohol-free beverage at all.” So in that matter, you have to really look at the label. But if it’s a .005 or whatever alcohol-free beers are, and they’re labeled alcohol-free beverages, then I believe that’s, in my opinion, safe to drink without a naltrexone. That’s the whole point of it, is to have, to mimic having a drink without having to take a naltrexone and having a drinking session, and that’s an alcohol-free day.

As far as sauces and things go, I have some hardcore people in my life who say that they won’t even eat my beef bourguignon, and I’m like you know, please, I cook off the alcohol. I cook with wine. If I’m not taking a naltrexone and you’re in AA, and you’re afraid of the alcohol. Come on. There’s no alcohol in it. When I cook, I cook off the wine. Absolutely cook all the alcohol off. But that’s just up to them. If they want to eat something that is made with wine or not. But as far as TSM goes, I do not believe that you need a naltrexone when something has a trace amount of alcohol because you have that much alcohol in your stomach.  That’s according to Dr. Eskapa, because I did ask him that question. Now as far as kombucha goes, there are some hard kombucha, so you have to be really careful and look at the label. Once again, if it’s just the .005 or whatever it is, the negligible amount of alcohol, you should be safe. If it’s fermented foods, you should be safe.

“So, if it’s going to come up as nothing on a breathalyzer, then that it’s close enough to being alcohol-free, because it’s not affecting you.”

Jenny: Yeah, I don’t know if you remember, but a few years ago when we were at a conference in San Diego, there was a gentleman that gave us a couple samples of breathalyzers. So I brought mine home, and just ran a few tests. Now a breathalyzer, I didn’t know until this point you know, you’re supposed to consume what you consume, and then half an hour later without having eaten or drank any more of it, that’s when you test yourself to see what your blood alcohol level is. And so I had some kombucha. There’s a local brewery here that partnered with somebody who was making fresh kombucha, so I had kombucha on tap. I had a pint. I waited the half hour. My reading on that breathalyzer, you want to take a guess – 0.0. So, if it’s going to come up as nothing on a breathalyzer, then that it’s close enough to being alcohol-free, because it’s not affecting you.

Claudia: Those alcohol-free IPA’s, I blew just out of curiosity, and there was nothing. There’s nothing. It’s alcohol-free. It’s a negligible amount of alcohol that they use in the process of creating it, but like I said, that’s in your stomach. You already have that in your system.

Jenny: And I don’t have my notes in front of me, but I know when we were talking about this a little while back. How is it bananas have like three, especially really ripe bananas, they have more alcohol in them than alcohol-free beer.

Claudia: Hasn’t anybody ever seen the videos of monkeys and gorillas eating fermented fruit and getting hammered. Yeah that’s rotten fruit.

“If you can smell the alcohol and in baking it doesn’t necessarily cook off, and certainly not when you construct a dessert that’s made with alcohol, because then you don’t bake it at all. Constructing a dessert is like tiramisu and trifle, and trifle has a ton of alcohol.”

Jenny: Yeah. So you know, go ahead and sum this one up while you know, and what would be any exceptions to that if you can come up with them. And audience, please, if you have any questions on this or any specific, you know, comments, definitely put them in the chat.

Claudia: I would say that things like trifle, rum cake, tiramisu, flambé, there’s a lot of desserts in Europe that are served with liqueur over them. Common sense folks. That has alcohol in it, and they have a lot of alcohol. If you can smell the alcohol and in baking it doesn’t necessarily cook off, and certainly not when you construct a dessert that’s made with alcohol, because then you don’t bake it at all. Constructing a dessert is like tiramisu and trifle, and trifle has a ton of alcohol.

Jenny: How about bananas foster?

Claudia: Bananas foster, the alcohol is burnt off. You flambé it. The way that I make it, you cook the rum and you cook off the alcohol, but once again, if you smell it, and you can smell the alcohol, or if you take a little taste and you can taste the alcohol, don’t eat it. Pass on it.

Jenny: Or take the naltrexone ahead of time.

Claudia: Well, I mean now, we’re really you know, cutting edges. If you go to an Italian restaurant, there’s going to be another dessert other than tiramisu to order, so you can have a bite of it, but you know if you take a bite and you go, wow that’s really strong, don’t eat the rest of it. Give it to somebody else. Be safe. But as far as like eating beef bourguignon or coq au vin or anything like that, the wine is cooked off, you know, unless you have a really crummy cook in your house that doesn’t bother doing it. Once again common sense folks. But if you’re going to have a couple alcohol-free beers on a boat, you don’t need to take a naltrexone.

Jenny: Yeah. One of the other items that comes up. It hasn’t come up in the comments yet, but how about things that are not cooked, that have vanilla extract in them.

Claudia: Once again, common sense. I mean, did they use a half a cup of vanilla extract? I use maximum a teaspoon, and it’s for the entire dessert. So one teaspoon of vanilla extract spread out amongst a 12 serving dessert, I don’t think is going to trigger anyone to want to drink. That’s just my…

Jenny: And I think people tend to forget about that. They look at the individual ingredient and say, “oh my gosh it’s in there,” but don’t take the time to think about the fact that as you said, those things get spread out over multiple servings, so by the time you get down to your individual serving, it’s a negligible amount of alcohol.

Claudia: I mean I put vanilla extract in my homemade whipped cream, and it serves four to six people. How much do I put in? a half a teaspoon. Am I allowed to have it? Yeah, I think I’m allowed to have a 32nd amount of a teaspoon of vanilla extract without relapsing into some crazy binge. So you know, I mean, but once again use common sense. If you can smell alcohol and it’s disturbing to you, pass on that that piece of food or that drink.

“I think people are petrified of relapsing, and for me when I had that bitters and that club soda, it absolutely made me want to drink more. So I learned my lesson.”

Jenny: And I think other people have in the past, although thankfully not recently, people have mentioned things like mouthwash that have alcohol in it. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Claudia: I mean once again, you’re not drinking it, you’re putting it in your mouth. But, if it’s going to trigger you because you can taste and feel that alcohol, that feeling; They make mouthwashes that are alcohol free now. So buy the alcohol-free one. Common sense. If you think it’s going to make you want to have a drink because it reminds you of the feeling of vodka, or whatever. Some mouthwashes, yeah. This is what people drink when they can’t get alcohol. This is what people drink when they’re withdrawing – mouthwash, vanilla extract – but you’re not supposed to drink those things. So if you grab your significant other’s mouthwash, and you take a sip of it and you use it and spit it out you go, “oh my god! that really, I can tell it has alcohol in it,” there’s only remnants in your mouth. It’s okay. If you want to rinse with water now because you feel uncomfortable, okay, and then buy one without alcohol in it.

Jenny: Yeah I usually tell people. If you can legally and without question give it to a ten-year-old, you’re probably fine.

Claudia: Yeah, but you know once again you’re not drinking it. You’re not supposed to drink either of those items, vanilla extract or mouthwash.

Jenny: So it looks like we’ve got some people who use alcohol-free mouthwash.

Claudia: Yeah, and also by the way, Zzzquil and Nyquil, I always buy the alcohol-free ones. What if I use NyQuil or Zzzquil? – I don’t use those things very often or at all um, but yeah, what if I take a big gulp of that? That has a lot of alcohol in it, so definitely look at medications. Cough syrup. People get loaded on cough syrup, so use common sense with that as well. Ask your doctor. My doctor prescribes me alcohol-free cough syrup if I get sick. I had it two, three years ago, and I got really sick coming back from overseas, and he gave me, he’s the guy who gave me, finally, the prescription for naltrexone eight years ago or nine years ago. So he also knows to prescribe me alcohol-free cough syrup so that I don’t have to take a naltrexone when I’m taking my cough syrup.

Jenny: And Helen says, “when I was offered Antabuse tablets, I was warned about mouthwash and alcohol-lined desserts. Now I can take them without any worries.”

Claudia: Exactly.

Jenny: And Letitia asks, and this is a good question, “do you think this particular question is asked frequently out of a fear of relapse, or out of a fear of nullifying the effects of the medication by using it improperly, or a mix of both?”

Claudia: I think people are, really, people are like I was in France when I was petrified that I had not drunk after taking the medication after one hour, and it had been three and a half hours, and I was panic-stricken. They’re just really, really hyper-fastidious, and they should be. This is your life you know. If you think that that banana flambé has raw rum in it, ask the host and then if it’s cooked off and you trust that person, okay. But you know, you really have to do what’s comfortable to you. I think people are petrified of relapsing, and for me when I had that bitters and that club soda, it absolutely made me want to drink more. So I learned my lesson. And, because I had not taken a naltrexone, thinking this is an alcohol-free beverage, so yes there’s going to be anomalies. There’s going to be bumps in the road. You’re going to have to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. But a cake that was baked with a teaspoon of vanilla, in a cake that serves 16 people. You’re gonna be fine. You know, common sense.

Jenny: Yeah. I agree. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that people are just so afraid of doing it wrong.

Claudia: Yes, of course, of course, and I totally understand that. I’m not belittling your questions at all when it comes to, when it comes to, you know, is alcohol in this dish? Can I eat beef bourguignon without taking a naltrexone? That’s a very legitimate question.

Jenny: Absolutely.

Claudia: In all restaurants, and in I would certainly hope, home cooks, when you work with wine or any alcohol like when I use cognac or something, I cook it off. I cook off the alcohol.

Jenny: And if you’re afraid of doing TSM wrong, it’s better to ask, then to just not ask and fret over it, and work yourself into an anxiety, and still not know the answer. So even if it is asked because somebody is afraid of doing it wrong. Oh, it’s so much better to ask.

Claudia: Yeah, and you can you can say to a waiter: You know, this smells like alcohol, but is there a ton of alcohol in this dessert? and if he says Oh yeah we make it with rum, send it back if you don’t feel comfortable eating it. This is your life. It’s your recovery. It’s better to be fearful. I want you to be fearful because, listen, you know non-compliance can lead to horrible, horrible relapses as we know. So it’s better to be a little bit scared but just also, you know, ask questions and do what you’re comfortable with.

Jenny: Well especially because that fear comes from a place of—it matters to you. It matters that this works. It matters that you succeed, and that’s a great place for fear to come from, because it’s not the stop you in your tracks and make and immobilize you and keep you from doing something fear. It’s that good fear that is a motivator, that pushes you to stay accountable to yourself. And that’s how we’re wired to learn and to do better and to improve.

So, oh we do we do have one person out there, Classified, says, “I’ve been doing TSM since the beginning of March and it’s been awesome so far.” Yay, you got a nice celebration out there.

So it looks like we are done on questions about this, so we’re going to go ahead and to move on over and transition to question number eight.