I Tried Moderate Drinking. Here’s What I Learned.
Yesterday marked my one-year anniversary of being alcohol-free. I feel really happy and proud to say that. After drinking nearly every day for most of the last 16 years, it’s a big deal for me.
Before I decided that being alcohol-free was the right choice for me, I tried moderate drinking. But what is moderate drinking?
Moderate Drinking Defined
Moderate drinking means reducing alcohol consumption to no more than 3 to 4 drinks in a sitting and no more than 14 drinks per week for men and 7 per week for women.
Sometimes people pursue moderate drinking on their own, like I did. Others seek out resources such as workbooks, groups, books, online groups or social media support, a therapist or a coach, and the like.
A few years ago, around the time when my son was born, I decided I needed to change my drinking. But, like so many who struggle with alcohol abuse but aren’t addicts, I was terrified of going to a 12-step meeting and being labeled an alcoholic. I was already so deeply ashamed, and I didn’t want to go somewhere that I knew I’d feel judged.
I was terrified of going to a 12-step meeting and being labeled an alcoholic. I was already so deeply ashamed, and I didn’t want to go somewhere that I knew I’d feel judged.
So, with the support of a therapist, I gave moderation management a try. Here’s what I learned.
Moderate Drinking Taught Me to Be Honest
For me, the first step was getting real about how much I was drinking. When I was honest with myself, the gin and tonics I’d have during the summer and the scotch or bourbon I’d have during the winter had closer to 3 oz of liquor per drink, which is twice the size of a standard 1.5 fl oz drink.
So, I was actually drinking 6 to 7 drinks per day instead of the three or so that I told myself I was having. It worked to help me feel less shame about my alcohol use, but I was fooling myself about my problem. When we’re not honest with ourselves, it usually means we’re not ready to make a change yet. And that’s okay.
Moderate Drinking Requires a Plan
When I started to attempt to moderate my drinking, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t decide on limits or parameters for my drinking. I had no idea when I would actually drink and how much I would drink when I did. I just knew I wanted to reduce my drinking.
The result wasn’t very pretty. At least in the beginning. My “moderate” drinking at the start really wasn’t so moderate. Nothing changed except for how much shame I felt for drinking too much. Again.
I realized I needed to have solid boundaries that I felt good about and stick to them. Even then, much of the time I failed to do so. There were times when I had no problem at all controlling my drinking. Other times, not so much. Which brings me to my next point.
Moderate Drinking Takes Effort
I want to be really clear on this: Moderate drinking is completely possible. However, as I learned, it requires you to be constantly making decisions.
When drinking was a possibility, I was constantly reflecting on a number of variables to help me decide on my drinking, for instance:
- Is the situation I’m going into low, moderate, or high risk for me? How do I figure that out?
- I want to drink, but is it the best thing for me right now?
- Why do I want a drink?
- Why do I want that second drink? Is that drink going to be helpful for me?
- Is my drinking within my boundaries?
- Uh oh, I’m being offered a drink but I don’t want one. What do I do?
All of these questions and more are essential to ask while drinking moderately. After all, moderate drinking is really drinking more mindfully instead of drinking as I used to, that is, without thinking about it.
Ultimately, I tried moderation to be free of alcohol, to not have alcohol be a big deal in my life. But I realized that for me I didn’t feel free while drinking moderately.
Reflecting on all of these questions took a lot out of me; it was taxing to do it for me and wore me out sometimes. It was one of the reasons that I decided to be alcohol-free. Ultimately, I tried moderation to be free of alcohol, to not have alcohol be a big deal in my life. But I realized that for me I didn’t feel free while drinking moderately.
Moderate Drinking: Deciding What’s Right For You
There’s more I could say here about why being alcohol free is right for me, but each of us have our own stories. How do you decide what’s right for you?
This isn’t an easy question to answer and I’d encourage you to connect with someone you trust as you think through your options.
For me, trying moderate drinking made me realize that having alcohol in my life, even moderately, wasn’t giving me what I really wanted: To have real freedom from the problems and shame that alcohol created for me.
If you’re in the southern California area and want to connect about your relationship with alcohol, I’d love to hear from you.
Live near Ventura, Camarillo, or Oxnard, CA?
I’d love to connect.
Contact me today to get started.