Moderation – the drinker’s Holy Grail?

There was a great post and discussion over at Belle’s blog recently about moderation.  This has, once again, been swirling around in my mind for consideration and it must be because I’m coming up to 9 months and any major milestone seems to stir up ‘drinking again’ questions.  What is it about moderation that feels like my siren song?  I laid in bed this morning thinking about it and trying to unpick what is going on.

See this is the thing.  For me it is the idea of having a drink that I miss.  In the same way that I used to miss the idea of having a cigarette and what that meant to me – a pause as Prim put it recently.  Drinking was a pause on life, checking out of responsibilities,  “ME time”.  The thing I learnt from giving up smoking though, from the numerous quit attempts, was that if I caved in and smoked it tasted disgusting and I immediately wished I hadn’t.  So I carry this thought forward to drinking.

And not only that but to moderate that would mean staying within the UK govt recommended guidelines of 14 units a week, so 3 units a day with a few days off a week.  The idea sounds great but I’m not being truthful with myself.  3 units would be 1 large glass of wine.  In my old drinking life this was me just limbering up, the prelude, an appetiser, foreplay – call it what you will.  So to have to stop at that point would feel disappointing, a let down, frustrating, like I’d missed out somehow.  I’d only whetted my appetite not satiated the desire.  And this is how it would always be.  If I can’t drink within the normal limits and be happy with that then I have a problem.

Justanewme nailed it in the comments on Belle’s blog post when they said ‘Not drinking gets easier –”moderation” can only get harder’.  That’s it in a nutshell and I need to get it tattooed somewhere! 😉

How bout you?  What keeps you wondering about moderating?

98 days to go

PS Sorry talk of the Holy Grail and I come over all Monty Python!


21 thoughts on “Moderation – the drinker’s Holy Grail?

  1. great clip! do you know, don’t think I’ve ever seen the whole film? must add to Amazon wishlist…

    moderation. ugh. racking my brains here. think the thing that keeps me wondering about moderating is sober milestones. which is madness when you come to think about it. maybe it is the payback for the incentive that milestones are? but yes thinking back my biggest thoughts about moderation were just after big soberversaries.

    maybe those thoughts keep drifting in on the tide. like flotsam and jetsam on a beach. plastic bottles. bits of rope. old condoms 😉 and maybe soberversaries give us the heads up it is time to clear them away. to leave clean fresh sand. to write our new story.

    because you know all that stuff about moderation. you’ve heard Belle saying that of all her 1000 odd members (YAY!!!!!!) she knows of one who is happily moderating. ONE. and that as sure as hell would not be me. or, by extension, you. and you know that.

    9 months nearly there. whoop whoop!

    1. Morning Prim. Grew up with Monty Python and yes it would make a perfect sober treat! 😉 Happily moderating – feels like an oxymoron to me and that tells me everything I need to know. Discussion in CBT yesterday about progress and said then and there ‘why risk moderating again when you have come so far without?’. Seems a huge game of Russian Roulette with (almost) 9 months behind me xx

  2. I do think about it periodically, but the sad truth is that even when I was moderating, I very rarely managed to limbo under that 14 units a week line. My mindset is such that if I was drinking and had to keep it under 14 per week, I would probably save it all up and drink it in one night. Which is not exactly the point. I’m sighing as I type this… I’ve just read FFF’s “five month” post and am realising that yes, I really am one of those people who just shouldn’t drink. But it is easier this way. Better. And nicer. Much much nicer. Am off to my in-laws today for a fathers’ day BBQ, and am looking forward to it, no wine required 🙂 xx

    1. Me to MTM. 14 units felt like such hard work didn’t it? You just think ‘why bother?’ and either crash into a binge – like you say, or give up the fight and surrender as it is so much easier, better and nicer. Enjoy your father’s day BBQ ‘no wine required’ 😉 xx PS Don’t you feel proud when you write that? I do 🙂

  3. I tried moderation on and off for about four years before I finally drew a line in the sand and said NO MORE! They were, quite honestly, the worst, the most frustrating, the least enjoyable years of my life. I never moderated. Ever. I binged or I didn’t drink at all. I think I can actually remember one occasion that I drank one glass of wine in a night and I think I might have had the rest of the bottle and more the next night … crazy!

    But, as weird as it sounds I am kind of glad for those years. I can still summon up the regret, the guilt, the frustration and sense of utter failure I felt within myself at my repeated attempts to drink ‘normally’. I stopped drinking nearly eight months ago and it was with the mindset that this is for good. Every other time I was quitting to satisfy the weird idea that if I could abstain for a month or a week or two weeks then I must be ok. I wasn’t ok. So I kind of see those failures as a confirmation of one indisputable truth – I can. not. drink. ever. Never, ever again. Never.

    I am aware that this can change with a moments notice, that my resolve probably will be tested, that the rose tinted glasses of time might alter what it was really like. I have kept journals of this time which still sink a weight deep in my chest when I re read them and then there are these amazing sober blogs, just like yours and Belles and Amy and Mrs D’s and FFF. You guys all write about the tough stuff, about cravings and shame and frustration and sometimes about relapse. When I read them I realise that a drink, a stupid little glass of alcohol may just ruin my whole life. I will never enjoy it again because I know I have a problem, I can’t unknow that. So I would be drinking with a fuck it attitude. I think it would take a lot to get me to that stage. I have already been through a few incredibly stressful situations and when the auto response of a glass of wine popped into my mind I slammed it down thinking that won’t solve anything. The last time I was super stressed I started craving a cup of earl grey tea, lol – seriously stressful situation and for the first time I immediately envisioned myself sitting on my couch smelling the bergamot aroma, lol. Times have changed indeed!

    My only advice is to just keep going and maybe let your mind know that this is forever, not a year or five or ten. Forever.

    And keep blogging, you’re fabulous!


    1. Kirst Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂 Firstly congrats on your almost 8 months without booze!! Secondly you are so right about moderating and the ability of it to give us clarity on what needs to be done. Knowing and doing are two very different things though aren’t they and like you if I drank now it would be with a very different mindset and I worry about the day that ever happens. I love that early grey tea does for you now what wine used to! Thirdly thank you so much for your kind words. I’m not very good at *really hearing* compliments and so I went for a run and allowed it to sink in. Why is it that criticism pierces us like a poison dart but supportive words are like water off a ducks back sometimes? Forever – I really struggle with this still but I know that you are right Lou xx

  4. Odd to read your blog and see my screen name LOL. I can talk a good talk–but boy is it still tempting sometimes. It does really get easier though–coming up on a year sober in less than a week (woot-woot) and I lie to myself about the possibilities of moderating much less often now.

    1. Hi justanewme Didn’t mean to scare you there and thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂 Less than one week til a year – what a fantastic achievement! I hope that the idea drifts away for me too xx

  5. “Moderation” is a dirty word for me now. I’m certain that thinking about, and trying, moderation led to my relapse 3 months ago. Even if I were able to have only one drink in one evening, it would only make me salivate for more the next day. Moderation isn’t an option for me now. Congrats on 9 months–woot woot! 🙂

    1. Hi lori k It should be a dirty word shouldn’t it? One drink is just the slippery slope for many of us. I turn the idea over in my head but I hope that is all it remains – an idle thought. Thanks 🙂

  6. Great post and lots of good comments! I had to totally remove the idea of moderation from my mind, too. I feel so tired of alcohol being such a big thing in my life….I want to do everything I can to embrace life without it and move on. It sometimes sucks, but it is so much better than before. So I keep moving forward! But sometimes it is two steps forward one step back in our thoughts and feelings, isn’t it? xo

    1. Always seems to get everyone talking doesn’t it? Like you two steps forward in action and then one step back in thinking! Gotta get over the idea haven’t I? xx

  7. 14 units a weeks? Oh Lordy. According to the Google, I was probably drinking 30-40 units a day, let alone a week. So never mind that nonsense. As for moderation…it’ just ain’t ever gonna happen with this cat. I lost that privilege a long time ago. My mind and body don’t work that way, and never will again. in the party of life, I have used up all my drink tickets. So moderation isn’t even a thought, in all honesty. Even when the occasional “just one, yes?” thought pops up, I pop it away. Bye bye. Never. Ever. Again….can I drink. Unless I had a death sentence. Dramatic, I know, but that’s the reality.

    If one can moderate, then yippee…congrats. People like me have tried it and failed miserably. Or can do it for a short period of time before the Beast really tears into us and we’re off to the races.

    Thank you for this 🙂

    1. Hey Paul. I know it seems paltry to us drinkers doesn’t it? Love the expression ‘used up all my drink tickets’ – such a great way of putting it 🙂 I think you are also right in describing it as a Beast that if let out of it’s cage it tears into us. Thank you xx

  8. I tried ‘moderating’ for about eight months. When I say ‘moderating’, I meant not drinking from Monday to Thursday, then Friday to Sunday drinking about three to four times my recommended units in a weekend drink fest, really letting myself go for it, as I had been ‘good’ all week! The weekends were non existant, and the weeks were spent recovering, being bored and miserable, mostly, as I was just living for that Friday night…No, it didn’t work for me, and like justanewme said, it only gets harder.

    1. Hi ATS I moderated for 5 years – every trick in the book. And here I am almost 9 months free of the damn stuff and thinking about it again. Nuts? I just talked myself out of the idea and all your comments certainly helped seal it as a BAD idea! 😉 xx

  9. I’m reading this on a computer which means I can comment! Hurrah!

    Moderation FASCINATES me. It fascinates me because it’s something I was capable of for a very long time and then one day, I wasn’t any more. At university I’d pop to the bar for a pint, and go back to my essay. Or drink a few vodka and cokes and then stop when I got the buzz.

    I love Belle’s idea of ‘drinking research’- that period we go through when, let’s be honest, we don’t want to stop and are in the grips of denial. I found some of my emails to Belle from last year when I was trying to convince myself starting again was ok, moderating was ok, and the truth is , I just became incapable of doing it.

    The two nights I’ve relapsed they’ve been so spectacularly drunken it’s like I’m making up for lost time. If moderation was once an option, it certainly isn’t now.

    Great post x

    1. Hey FFF It fascinates me too! And if only we knew when we crossed that invisible line from can do this to can’t do it anymore huh? Thanks hon xx

  10. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. I remember the times that I drank much more reasonably, one or two drinks and not every night. Then it just kept getting progressively more, then earlier in the day, then I spent so much of my time planning and plotting my drinking, seeing each full bottle as the evenings challenge to finish.
    Not to say I don’t wish I could drink. The Six Year Hangover had a great line, “if I wasn’t an alcoholic I would drink all the time…” And I would if I could.
    I know that to have one drink I would have to open a whole bottle, and that would be it. Swirling down that drain again.
    Moderation is a wonderful idea, but not a reality, at least not for me.

    1. Hey soberlearning. We forget that don’t we? We don’t see the small steps down the disease pathway and I’m with you and the 6 year hangover too – I would if I could too. Such a good way of looking at it – to have one drink you have to open one bottle, thank you! 🙂

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