I Don’t Want to Quit Drinking: Could Moderation Be for Me?

Two half-filled glasses of red wine on picnic table with bread and cheese in the afternoonDo any of these statements sound like you?

  • I find I am drinking more often
  • Friends and family are starting to express their concerns about how much I drink
  • More and more of the things I do involve alcohol
  • Sometimes I drink more than I planned
  • Getting a buzz is how I deal with stress, end the day, or have fun

If you identified with more of these statements than you would like to admit, it’s time to change your relationship with alcohol. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends up to four alcoholic drinks for men and three for women in any single day, with a maximum of 14 drinks for men and seven for women per week.

I recommend the Dietary Guidelines’ amounts over NIAAA’s. Many people start to feel an effect after two or three drinks. Then they have a harder time sticking to their limits because their decision-making is getting altered. I also recommend against drinking every day. It can become a habit and the way you deal with difficult emotions.

Most of the people I see in my work have experienced consequences from their drinking but are not physically dependent on it. They have tried those meetings for people who want to quit, but they don’t quite fit in. They know they need to change their relationship with alcohol, but they do not want to totally give it up.

So I did the research. Then I designed the “How Do I Know If I Can Keep Drinking Quiz” to help figure out if moderation is an option.

Answer yes or no to the following:

  1. Do I have any mental health, medical, or legal concerns?
  2. Can I pick someone who will support my moderation plan?
  3. Have I had more than one blackout?
  4. Am I willing to monitor how many drinks I have?
  5. Have I had withdrawals from drinking?
  6. Am I free of illicit drugs?
  7. Am I drinking to change how I feel?
  8. Will my loved ones support moderation?
  9. Do the consequences of drinking outweigh the benefits of abstinence?

Trying to change your drinking can be challenging to do on your own. If you are wondering if you have a problem with alcohol, find a licensed therapist who is trained in both mental health and substance use.

In my experience, answering yes to the even-numbered questions increases the chances of successful moderation. If you answered yes to any of the odd questions, you may not be a candidate for moderate drinking.

Below are some tips on how to try moderation:

  • Identify someone who knows what your plan is and be accountable to that person.
  • Plan an activity where alcohol is not involved. You may wake up feeling better the next morning.
  • Have a response prepared for when people ask why you are changing your drinking patterns.
  • Plan ahead what and how many you will have.
  • Chose a non-alcoholic drink you enjoy and alternate it with the alcoholic one.
  • Try a “mocktail”—a drink without alcohol. You may even save some calories!
  • Order a tonic and lime. No one will know if there is any gin or vodka in your beverage.

Trying to change your drinking can be challenging to do on your own. If you are wondering if you have a problem with alcohol, find a licensed therapist who is trained in both mental health and substance use. Make sure the person you choose to work with is familiar with the concept of moderate drinking.

Together with your chosen professional, you can decide what a healthy relationship with alcohol looks like for you. It may mean quitting. But it also may be changing the amount and frequency of your drinking.

References:

  1. Hester, R. K., Delaney, H. D., & Campbell, W. (2011). ModerateDrinking.com and Moderation Management: Outcomes of a Randomized Clinical Trial with Non-Dependent Problem Drinkers. Journal of Counseling and Psychology, 4, 215-224.
  2. Logan, D. E., & Marlatt, G. A. (2010). Harm reduction therapy: a practice-friendly review of research. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66, 201–214.
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (1992, April). Alcohol Alert: Moderate Drinking. Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa16.htm
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015, December). 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th Ed. Retrieved from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Cynthia Turner, LCSW, LSATP, MAC, therapist in Ashburn, Virginia

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 6 comments
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  • Carly

    Carly

    February 6th, 2017 at 11:04 AM

    There are some people who do absolutely fine with moderate drinking and then there are others for whom they really struggle with the term what is moderation. They don’t know how to stop themselves even once they have passed that point that they probably should have. I think that you have to take a close look at yourself and your tendencies, along with a family history to know if this is going to be the right thing for you. I don’t think that there will ever be a clear yes or no answer unless you are an alcoholic and then I think that the answer has to be no.

  • Hollis

    Hollis

    February 7th, 2017 at 4:48 PM

    At one time I thought that I couldn’t live, really live, without having a drink or most of the time more every day. I didn’t understand that this wasn’t a way for me to have fun but rather I was using alcohol as a crutch to forget about the bad things that were going on and that I didn’t really like to think about.
    It was a way to help me avoid my problems until they came barreling out at me all over again and then I would have to drink more to forget about that. Ultimately I had to figure out that I was way too dependent on having a drink every day and I started to dislike how I felt like I was in a blur all of the time. I just had to resolve to stop.

  • Cyndi Turner

    Cyndi Turner

    February 20th, 2017 at 5:50 PM

    Thank you to everyone who responded. As you can see, each person has to come to a very personal decision where there is so much at stake. I hope each of you is finding a path in recovery that works for you.

  • lisette

    lisette

    February 8th, 2017 at 11:34 AM

    My boyfriend has given me til the end of the month to decide what I like more, him or wine. I’m still not too sure what decision I’m going to make.

  • Benny T

    Benny T

    June 23rd, 2018 at 11:24 AM

    Wine. Life is too short unless your out of control. Be happy. He will be that way about everything if you let him. Get Down Momnma!

  • Wayne T

    Wayne T

    February 10th, 2017 at 10:42 AM

    Goodness, I guess if you are having to ask if this is something that you should look into then this might mean that you already know that you have a problem with drinking.

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