What is recovery from addiction: Can I drink in moderation

The first thing that comes into an addict’s mind when they think recovery is normally how to be in total sobriety for life aka never having another drink for as long as they live!

When my brother decided to go to rehab after more than 25 years of abusing alcohol and drugs, the first question my sister asked was whether this was going to be forever. It was not easy to fathom total abstinence recovery for him.

As much as the question is in the addict’s mind, its sure is in our minds too. It’s a legitimate question as it implies disbelief that its possible as it demands a sudden change and demands commitment for life to never drink again.

Alternative to abstinence in addiction.

From my lay mind, I think this has a big contribution to the high relapse rates and rehab treatment failure after 5 years. (The statics show that less than a quarter of those who seek treatment in a rehab will relapse after 5 years).

In all this cases, abstinence might not work for everyone one and there should be alternatives for each person to chose from.

The main routes for recovery includes: Abstinence, Moderation and SMART and many other alternative options coming up.

Total abstinence recovery for addiction

Abstaining is the most traditional treatment method used for drug and alcohol abuse. This method calls for total avoidance of substance use and abuse. When abstinence is achieved, its very effective in ending addiction but attaining abstinence has been a challenge making it a life long battle full of relapses.

The statistics are not very encouraging in the long term and this obviously scares many people from seeking treatment in the first place, partly for fear of failure and also waste of money.

The individual need to assess if total avoidance of the substance is the right choice and if using the substance is possible or it will lead to a relapse to addiction.

Most people think that the only way to reach the ability to stay away from the substance is only achievable through professional treatment. This may not be the case. There are many ways that you can use at the privacy of your home that can help you achieve this.

Moderation Management

The Moderation Management is much newer than the abstinence model. It started in 1994. This of course was received with some resistant as in itself is controversial. However, most people who still wanted to still engage in taking their substances without abusing them embraced the model and some were successful in turning around their lives.

When the program started in 1994, only 25% of the addiction counselors supported it. In 2012, 50% of the counselors supports the option.

The Program subtly requires and encourages the users to pay attention to their abuse patterns. When the use and why. The answers to these questions exposes the underlying issues that need to fixed and also areas that lacks coping skills that need to be developed.

Like the traditional method, accountability is critical for success. This is achievable with on line interactions that works like the self-help meetings like the AA and calendars or in person where the user reports use incidents keeping them on track with the substance of use and holds them responsible for it. The program offers flexibility and accessibility when needed at any time.

Find out more on the not so known model here.

Other addiction treatment options

SMARTwhich stands for self management training is based on four key points

  • Motivation: Creating and sustaining motivation
  • Triggers control: Managing urges to use
  • Self control: Controlling emotions, actions and thoughts
  • Full life: Living a well-rounded life

There are more alternatives both online and in person alternatives for support in reducing or stopping alcohol intake.

What is success in recovery from addiction

Alcoholics can learn to drink in moderation. This is based on the stages of addiction, whether they are dependent on alcohol or just routine drinkers. There are alternatives and different routes to recovery from addiction for a healthy life.

There is split on whether recovery from addiction is total abstinence or drinking in moderation. For some people, an attempt for moderation is probably a less drastic step towards recovery.

The success of course depends on the right diagnoses where in some cases total abstinence is required.

If you have any question or comment, please leave it below.

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  1. Dear Zikora,

    Thanks a lot for the informative and helpful post.

    Being a member of the youth group, many youngsters approach me seeking help for their alcohol addiction. Often they say they want to quit but they can’t. Some of them are drinking 4 to 5 times a day, some of their parents came to me and cried. Even in the church many women come up with the prayer request “My Husband needs to quit Alcohol, he is not going to any work”. This alcohol addiction ruining many families,it really hurts.

    I got some helpful insights from your post. As you mentioned for some Abstaining might work and for some Moderation Management might work it depends.

    I do have come across few people who came out of their alcohol addiction. Some by quitting immediately and some by doing Moderation Management. Whenever I meet them and provide some advice they will say, “From tomorrow I am going to quit drinking Alcohol” but many are saying the same for nearly 10+ years.

    Its all about their determination and how serious they are in getting rid of that addiction. If they think they can, they can and if they think they can’t, they can’t.

    Much Success!


    • Thank you Paul for the insight. it’s always painful to see youth in addiction as their brain is still developing and this definitely affect the parents and family too. with the experience i had with my brother as a teen user, sometimes when someone is in the addiction mode, the loved ones will need all the help and education they need to help them as they are already impaired to make a meaningful decision. The addiction coach system is a good place to start for any parent that need help in talking to their kids in addiction,

  2. Hello, I really appreciate your time and effort on writing about the topic of alcohol addiction and drinking in moderation.

    The way you laid it out is perfect. Total abstinence or quitting cold turkey sounds good in theory but rarely works, people will fail more often than not and I have experienced failure myself doing this. I think it works much better if we wean ourselves off drinking by doing it in moderation, this goes for any kind of addiction such as food addiction, gambling, etc.

    I can definitely see how addressing the underlying issue is another important aspect of overcoming this addiction. Thanks for the article. 

  3. Oh my goodness where do I start? Maybe this should be another niche of mine, because I have a lot to say. Well I’ll just try to say a little. My husband was an alcoholic, he drank the whole time I knew him, and so did I but, he just steadily got worse and worse. Gradually becoming a full fledged raging alcoholic. I lived years of him waking up at 8am and making a drink, and drinking all day till he passed out. And start again the next day! My trying to get him to stop didn’t help.

    I thought about going to alanon, leaving him, etc. I bitched, I begged, pleaded, complained, cried, trying to get him to go to A.A. None of it worked! But sometimes something would happen and he would just quit on his own, just cold turkey for a month or two. He would say that he agreed with me and he felt that it was the only way he could quit. But then he would start up again. But gradually, and it would slowly get back to full on all day again. I hated this, and I had no idea how to fix it. 

    Unfornately he was killed in a car accident last year, they said he had no alcohol in his bloodstream! But no one knows what happened because he was alone, and he ran into the back of a semi trailer. The driver was stopped at a light and noticed the car behind him was not stopping… I don’t know what he was doing. I talked to him two hours before this happened, and he seemed perfectly fine and sober…I don’t know how to end this and where I’m going with it. I guess I’m still grieving. I just think that even in moderation for an alcoholic it’s not good, because I think they’ll just gradually get worse and worse again like my husband did several times.

    • Hi Buffy, that you for sharing your experience, I hope this will inform someone in the same shoes as you. Painful as it is our experiences are in most cases best information for someone dealing with the same issue.

  4. This is the first time I come up the moderation management, when it comes alcohol abuse.

    I’m pretty sure, that each alcohol abuse case is individual, as I saw some in my life, and they were so much different every time. There should be different help system, but.until today, I knew only one way of treating alcoholism- abstinence.

    Considering the scale of alcoholism in the world, it is obvious, that abstinence works not for everybody. I do not think, that moderation management is one size fits all alternative also. I think, that moderation management may work for many people, who are not ready to quit totally, and abuse alcohol for decades because of that. This method also can be effective for people in early stages of alcoholism.

    We live in the 21st century, and I am happy to see, that not only technology evolves, but psychology also. We live in more complexed, yet more interesting world than a century ago, and we have more than one out of two options to choose now.

  5. Hi Zikora! recovering from addiction is a very tough one. I find the total abstinence to be quite hard i mean very hard, may be the moderation. I think it is more realistic and over time can lead to a healthy total abstinence.

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