Is Moderation an Option in Sobriety?

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When it comes to drug and alcohol treatment, for the last 50 years, abstinence has been the only solution. Both drug and alcohol addiction treatment and the 12 step meetings say that no drug use is accepted in recovery, regardless of what it is and why you’re taking it.

People go as far as refusing medications for dental procedures and stopping addictive medications that have been prescribed by their doctors to adhere to these principles and to remain in good standing with their recovery community.

Total Abstinence Is Hard to Do

While total abstinence is always the goal of drug and alcohol treatment programs, for many individuals, it’s a lofty goal, and one that seems totally out of reach. Many of these people will try to slow down or moderate their use, but this is a fine line and one that many tend to tip over quickly.

After all, if an addict were able to moderate his or her drug use, they wouldn’t be an addict. If they could use their drug of choice and it not make their life unmanageable, then for many, the drug use wouldn’t be an issue.

That’s why total abstinence remains the goal for most treatment options in the US, and in the AA and NA communities.

Moderation Management Is a Thing

But a new movement is arising in part of the addiction treatment world. Moderation management has everything traditional drug and alcohol treatment has—guidelines, meetings, a book, and support—but without the black and white thinking about use that so many people don’t like.

But that doesn’t mean that moderation management is for everyone. Designed for problem drinkers, not necessarily alcoholics, moderation management helps those that foresee drinking becoming a problem and teaches them how to do it in moderation.

It is not designed for the skid-row alcoholic, but for the men and women who need to learn responsible habits when it comes to their drinking.

Should It Be Encouraged?

Just because a person drinks too much does not necessarily mean that he or she is addicted to alcohol, needs full-blown inpatient treatment, or that abstinence is the only option. While these are what is encouraged, especially if drugs or alcohol has made your life unmanageable, but what about when alcohol is just starting to interfere?

Moderation management can be a solution for those who don’t want full-blown abstinence or who want to avoid the stigma of being an alcoholic and abstaining for the rest of their lives. While this is definitely a harm reduction approach, it does still have its benefits.

Moderation management has a much lower cost than inpatient treatment, is longer lasting, and teaches self moderation skills anybody can benefit from learning.

And it can—and does—improve people’s lives. Many people have never learned how to moderate themselves and this system teaches them how. It explains both the consequences and warning signs to heavy drinking and demonstrates to people that they can have a few social drinks with friends without having to drink a 12 pack or stumble home drunk. It also means people are more likely to get the help they need and stick with it.

But, again, it’s not for anyone. For those with an alcohol or drug addiction that has disrupted their lives, ruined relationships, and cost them too much, moderation is not a viable option. Only abstinence can bring these people the recovery they need.