Abstinence versus Moderation in Drug Addiction and Alcohol Recovery

Abstinence versus Moderation in Drug Addiction and Alcohol Recovery


Every addict and alcoholic struggles with this idea at some point in their drinking career. Is it possible for them to simply cut down, instead of having to quit entirely? Is it possible for the addict to learn moderation?

Believe it or not, there are organizations out there that live by the philosophy of moderation.

If this works for you, then as they say in the Big Book of AA: “Our hats are off to you.” Meaning, that you are a better person than I am because I struggled to control my drinking and drug use for years and years without any success. This was certainly true for me. I tried moderation with my drug use. I failed.

I would even argue that a person’s inability to control their intake is what defines them as an addict. The inability to moderate. To me, that is the definition of addiction.

So if you are hopeful that you can somehow have your cake and eat it to, then I would suggest that you follow the link above and see what you can learn about it. I don’t know of any alcoholics personally who have pulled it off, but I’m sure there are some out there (maybe?).

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Remember that if you do try the controlled drinking route and don’t find much success, there is always the tried and true method that the bulk of the recovering community relies on today: simple abstinence. If you don’t drink you won’t get drunk. Simple and effective.

The idea of moderating our drinking has appeal because social drinking does have some benefits. But I would like to challenge you also to consider the idea that abstinence has many benefits over moderation, even if you could figure out how to successfully drink in moderation with no harmful consequences.

The benefits of complete abstinence

I believe abstinence as a way of life offers some big gains over “controlled drinking.” If you decide on a path of abstinence in recovery from drugs and alcohol, some of the benefits include:

1) Frees up mental energy – because you no longer have fight with yourself internally about when or how much to drink.

2) Health benefit – while there is some health benefit to moderate drinking, more recent evidence points towards greater health if you abstain altogether.

3) Saves money – because you consume nothing!

If you are struggling with the decision to quit drinking or using drugs, I am urging you to look past the “lost benefits” of social using and realize that the freedom you gain when you break out of an addictive cycle more than makes up for those lost benefits.

When I was struggling to quit all I could think about was how miserable I would be without drugs or alcohol, but the truth is that abstaining from all chemicals has afforded me a great freedom. Give moderation a try if you must but remember that there is another way. This “other way” (meaning complete abstinence) might seem harder at first but in reality it is your ticket to freedom.

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