Most treatment facilities center around abstinence when it comes to alcohol use. For many years, the primary approach to managing alcohol use disorders (AUD) is giving up alcohol. Furthermore, abstinence is the backbone for support groups such as AA and SMART recovery. However, in more recent years, moderate drinking has been examined and experimented with by researchers and those managing recovery alike. There are even programs that now center around learning how to drink in moderation. With these recent studies, there is a lot of confusion and somewhat oversimplified opinions on whether this is a viable approach for those with a substance use disorder. Let’s take a look into moderate drinking, whether it is something for you to consider or if abstinence is still the best approach.
What is Moderation?
When it comes to alcohol use, moderation is the idea that you can limit and control your drinking. Moderate drinking means that instead of practicing abstinence with your AUD, you closely monitor, record, and report your drinking. Additionally, moderation shows some success for those who have not yet developed a dependency on alcohol. Therefore, if you are diagnosed with an AUD, abstinence is likely the best approach. However, for a problem drinker who does not experience withdrawal, moderate drinking might help to curb the habit and possibly prevent dependency. It is essential to recognize the term “possibly prevent” because there is always the risk of developing dependence when you continue to use.
Moderation Management (MM) offers an alternative approach to the more popular alcohol-related programs such as AA that promote abstinence. MM acknowledges that alcohol use causes problems and can be addictive but does not require members to admit powerlessness over alcohol. Instead, MM works to empower members to manage drinking in moderation; however, this is for individuals who don’t identify as having an addiction. This form of management uses something called the steps of change. Steps of change help address how alcohol has influenced their lives and learn how to control and manage triggers related to drinking. In doing this, those who seek this treatment can take an honest look at the influence of alcohol in their life and determine whether they should reduce their drinking or give it up entirely.
There are rules for this treatment in that both men and women are not allowed to have more than a certain amount of drinks per week. Additionally, when committing to MM, a person is required to go 30 days without drinking. Such a duration helps measure the severity of your alcohol use, including if you experience withdrawals and the things that trigger you to use. After 30 days, a person can then decide if they can introduce alcohol back into their life.
Does Moderation Work?
While some research is encouraging in showing MM and success rates, not everyone who attempts to drink moderately will succeed. MM programs are most successful for individuals who are not dependent on alcohol. If you have a more severe form of alcohol use, you should seek help beyond just a moderation program. Additionally, studies have shown that heavy drinkers who participated in MM were able to reduce the amount they drink over 12 months. Those who used MM combined with moderate drinking were also able to reduce consumption more than those who only used the MM program.
Is Moderate Drinking Right for Me?
In short, the answer to that is, “it’s complex.” How you overcome or regulate drinking depends on the severity of your dependency and the kind of individual you are when managing triggers with willpower and practices. Therefore, knowing yourself is a big key in the decision-making process. Further, being physically dependent on alcohol will make it that much harder to control your drinking.
Success in Recovery
Successful treatment relies on an array of different treatments and therapies that speak to your individual needs. It also takes being honest about who you and how you prioritize your life concerning your AUD. If you understand that drinking is not an option, then it is not an option. The best approach is always choosing abstinence to avoid slipping back into dependency or developing dependency.
Programs such as SMART recovery promote abstinence, and it also incorporates a progressive and scientific approach that views relapse or “slip-ups” differently than the more traditional AA or 12-step programs. Like steps of change, SMART also recognizes that you are not “powerless” but instead empowered to overcome your drinking. Such therapies coupled with attending AA or 12-step meetings create the foundations for a lasting and abstinent recovery. Also, understand that drinking is not an option if you have already been diagnosed with an AUD.
While Choice House supports abstinence, we also support individuals with a drinking problem becoming motivated in any way they can to get help and manage their alcohol use. If you are currently struggling to overcome your alcohol use and are wondering where to go from here, then it is time to seek help. Choice House, located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, offers a remarkable space for men to come and reconnect with themselves and their surroundings to understand their alcohol use better. We know the difficulty of overcoming substance use. Therefore, we offer conventional and alternative approaches that help you overcome dependency and show you that there is more to life than the substance. If you want to learn how to be free of your substance use and refill your life with meaningful outlets that sustain lasting recovery, then Choice House is the place for you. Find out more, call us today at (720) 577-4422.