Sobriety versus Moderation: Is it worth it to try to drink in moderation?

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This question has been weighing heavily on my mind lately. My husband and I are both currently living alcohol-free, but we have very different goals in that regard. I do not want to return to drinking alcohol, but he does, eventually.  I stopped drinking mainly because I was tired of feeling crappy, never having any energy, and dealing with post drinking mood swings. I noticed that I was becoming increasingly reliant on alcohol to deal with boredom, stress, anger, and anxiety, and I didn’t like that. I reached a point where drinking was causing me more pain than pleasure, and knew I needed to stop entirely. Since I have quit drinking, I’ve noticed so many improvements. I now have the energy, focus, and drive to accomplish my goals. Life is more enjoyable overall. It’s a steady pleasure, rather than the peaks and valleys that characterized my life when I was drinking.

My husband has had a very different journey, though. He was a daily drinker and he started to experience health problems about 4 months ago, so he stopped drinking as a temporary measure to get his health back on track. However, the other day he started discussing the idea of moderation with me. I’ve been researching it ever since to try and figure out how that works and to help him make a plan. I’m still unsure abut it, but that is what he wants to do.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve struggled with this thought a few times myself. I’ll stop drinking for a few months or even years (just under 3 years was my longest streak) and then I start to miss it. I’ll romanticize things like drinking a glass of wine in a nice restaurant with my husband, or having a beer on the patio in the summertime. But it seems like there is a pattern to my attitude towards alcohol that always returns to the same place. The thought process goes something like this:

I like drinking! Woohoo! Everything is more fun when I drink!

Wait, I feel bad after I drink. Is it worth it? 

Feeling bad is part of drinking. Everyone else deals with it. It’s fine. 

But wait, why is it normal to drink poison for a temporary high and then have to deal with the after effects the whole next day?

I am drinking too much and that makes me feel bad. I have to stop drinking. 

Wow, I love not drinking! I feel so much happier and healthier! Why didn’t I do this sooner?!

But wait, everyone else is still drinking…am I missing out on something? 

I haven’t had a drink in a long time. I can have 1 or 2 now and then…

I have repeated this cycle way too many times in my life already. I hate how much energy and time I have already wasted on drinking alcohol, but somehow it has pulled me back in again multiple times. This is the time that I want to break the cycle for good. I know that I am not really missing out on anything that life has to offer by not drinking. I still get to do everything that everyone else gets to do, just in my right mind and without hangovers. I can and I have laughed, danced, dined, and celebrated special occasions without alcohol.

But my husband is determined to drink again. It’s his choice. I can’t make him stay sober forever. Thankfully though, he has agreed to some terms, which include no alcohol inside the house, no exceeding 4 drinks on any one occasion, and never coming home drunk. Still I have a lot of concerns about him going back to drinking. 

We looked at the Moderation Management program’s website together for a while yesterday to find out what that entails. He took the alcohol dependence questionnaire and scored a 16, which seems to indicate that moderation may be possible for him. The program sets upper limits for daily and weekly drinking, which are no more than 14 drinks per week for men (9 for women) and no more than 4 drinks in one day (3 for women). One drink is defined as 12 ounces of 5% beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits. Considering my husband used to drink at least 4 strong (8-10% ABV) craft beers when we went out, and drank bourbon by the glass (no measuring), I am skeptical that this could be doable for him and it’s not because I don’t believe in his strength or willpower. I just think that alcohol addiction is a lot more insidious than he realizes…than most people realize.

The slow climb is what always got me when I would return to drinking after a period of sobriety. I would start off okay, a beer here, a couple of glasses of wine there, and then I’d drink a little more the next time, and a little more the next time, and so on. Alcohol tolerance builds quickly. I never set out after a period of abstinence from alcohol to build up to drinking 5-6 glasses of wine a night. The thought of that sickens me, but it happened….every time I circled back around to those thoughts, “But wait, everyone else is still drinking. Am I missing out on something?” and “I haven’t had a drink in a long time. I can have 1 or 2 now and then…”

That’s why I am so worried about my husband right now. I’m extremely lucky in that I never developed health problems, got a DUI, or had any other serious problems because of alcohol. But like everyone else, I am not immune to that. Alcohol is an addictive substance that robbed me of my energy, joy, and time, which is why I don’t want to drink again.

I’m grateful that my husband has stayed sober as long as he has, almost 4 months now, and I did know this was coming. He made it clear when he stopped drinking that as long as his health improved, he wanted to drink again at some point. It is crazy when I think about it like that, though. It’s like a smoker who has gone into remission from lung cancer saying, “I think I want to try smoking in moderation now!” Everyone would tell that person, “That’s a terrible idea!” But people don’t see alcohol in quite the same way. 

I am going to keep researching the moderation option for my husband, but I know that for me this will never be a good option. It’s an easy choice to stay sober when I consider what alcohol takes versus what I gain from an alcohol-free lifestyle. Here’s a simple exercise that I like to do as a reminder of why I don’t drink alcohol anymore. 

What does alcohol take from you? Alcohol takes a toll on my…energy, joy, sleep, serenity, focus, motivation, relationships, finances, spirituality, and physical health.

What does not drinking allow you to do? By not drinking, I get to…sleep deeply, wake up feeling rested and refreshed, feel calm and happy, have meaningful conversations with friends and family, have the energy to play with my son, have the focus to read, write, and study, and fully engage in my daily spiritual practice. 

When I lay it out like this, it quiets the doubt and makes it so much easier for me to say, hell yeah, life is better this way! I would not give up any of these benefits for the momentary pleasure of a drink. I have steady happiness now instead of peaks and valleys, and I am grateful for that.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Sobriety versus Moderation: Is it worth it to try to drink in moderation?

  1. My small advice is to let him research moderation for him and for you to focus on embracing your own sobriety. What he does should be his decision. This is a very slippery slope. My ex and I were both sober, but we managed all of that very differently.
    Did you know the moderation management founder eventually killed someone drunk driving?
    That is where moderation takes people. It is a sad and scary reality.

    I don’t think moderation is worth it. Plus, I never wanted one drink…I wanted all the drinks. I knew it was eventually going to catch up to me, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that is so sad! I didn’t know that, but I just looked it up and read a bit about her. Yes, I feel that moderation is a slippery slope, too. I’ve always fared better just abstaining completely. Thanks for the perspective! 😁♥️

      Like

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