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Alcohol Moderation

Moderation in all things is ancient wisdom. It is mentioned as a virtue in nearly all ancient philosophies. But it seems to be ignored by the purveyors of most contemporary addiction treatments. Despite what you may have read or heard, moderation may be the most effective way to manage alcohol abuse.

If excessive drinking has become a problem in your life, it is important for you to know that there are many different tools and techniques that can help you learn to drink less and enjoy life more.

The large majority of people that have abused alcohol or become dependent on it get better on their own. Most of the people I have personally worked with have found alcohol moderation to be an opportunity to obtain a greater level of self-understanding, self-control, and an effective method for improving the overall quality of their lives.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, complete abstinence is not the only solution to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or dependence. In fact, for most repetitive behaviors, the goal is to reduce the frequency and severity of the behavior. Never do we anticipate 100% discontinuance. For example, can you imagine someone who suffers from depression to never get depressed again?

Life is rarely an either/or proposition. In my view, dependence upon substances is the result of a series of (though short term) emotionally based cost/benefit decisions. All choices and behaviors can be modified and rarely do we count on 100% change to acknowledge the benefits from modification which often result in dramatic lifestyle improvement.

Is Drinking Alcohol In Moderation Possible?

Co-authored by Marc F. Kern Ph.D.

Co-authored by Marc F. Kern Ph.D.

In my 30 plus years of experience in the field, I have assisted countless people to better manage their lives and return to healthier behavior. I know from personal and professional experiences that alcohol moderation is possible for some drinkers, despite what most “experts” say. It is not always necessary for you to turn your life upside down with lifelong abstinence.

My experience in working with “problem drinkers” proves beyond a reasonable doubt that alcohol moderation is a viable option for some people. A growing body of research supports what I have learned in my practice.

I also know this from personal experience. I’ve been there myself. I understand why being able to drink can be important. Whatever the reason, you should never need to feel ashamed or embarrassed for getting the type of help you want. You have a barber that cuts your hair or an accountant to help with taxes don’t you?

Why do I offer alcohol moderation?

There are few topics that are more controversial. As a professional I would never want to do anything that harms anyone or be unethical. But I also recognize a number of issues that the abstinence-only professionals seem to deny.

No heavy drinker I have worked with has ever decided to abstain until they are convinced that moderation is not possible for them. In fact, I believe that everyone in AA has tried moderating their drinking before joining. And they didn’t decide to abstain because someone told them that moderate drinking would not work for them. Rather, each individual had to prove it to themselves.

There are perhaps millions of people who will never address their drinking problems because they believe that the only option available to them is total, lifelong abstinence. And they are too frightened to even open the door to treatment if they think this is what they are going to be told. So rather than abandoning these people and allowing alcohol to take a greater and greater toll on their lives, I offer alcohol moderation coaching as a stepping stone. Even people with serious alcohol problems can, with the hope of learning to drink in moderation, begin thinking about the way they use alcohol.

For some, this “stepping stone” exploration of their relationship with alcohol will lead eventually to choosing abstinence — and it will be much more likely to succeed . There is no one more likely to fail than the dry alcoholic who doesn’t really believe in the need to be abstinent. For others, moderation will work, as recent research has documented.

I never prescribe moderation as such (especially if someone is successfully abstaining). I take my lead from the individual who is on the fence about alcohol use. On the other end of the spectrum, I often recommend, based on their history and my analysis, that abstinence is best for them. I help them to understand where they are on a spectrum of severity and the probability of success for long-term stable moderation. I help them understand how hard moderate drinking will be to maintain. But bottom line, I understand that whether or not abstinence or moderation is their long term goal they need to convince themselves and get behind whatever course of action they choose.

My position is that if someone wants to learn to drink more moderately this is always a positive step. The person either learns to drink moderately or they learn that moderation is not right for them and that abstinence should be their focus. Once they are committed to the goal of abstinence, I can help them find the right method(s) to follow and coach them over time to attain and sustain an alcohol-free life. In methods of abstinence, science continually points to the idea that there are many roads and no one method has proved superior to others or works for everyone.

Acquiring Assistance for Alcohol Moderation

The ability to ask for assistance when you need it is a very strong character asset. However, there is a difference between acquiring assistance and replacing one dependency with another. In my view, obtaining the aid you need to begin a new way of life is essential while being very careful to not become dependent upon the person or thing that gives you the jump-start. Any effective addiction treatment specialist will provide a set of training wheels until you learn how to ride without them.

There is no “silver bullet” that will change your life. Only you can do that and I’m here to help you figure out how. Your ultimate goal is better behavior management. Your path is unique, but you can learn ways to quickly, effectively, and enthusiastically begin to better manage your drinking and enjoy life more. If you can learn the mechanics of your choices and behaviors, then failure is much less likely.

If you are interested in the prospect of changing your drinking habits, contact me. I employ a science-based system for alcohol use modification.