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Can an alcoholic learn to drink moderately?

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Initial post: Dec 3, 2011 6:28:04 PM PST
Some say alcoholism is a fatal disease and the only thing to do is abstain completely in order to have a productive, healthy life. Others say will power should be able to provide the control for the alcoholic to drink moderately. What do you think?

Posted on Dec 3, 2011 6:38:16 PM PST
Matt says:
It depends on the person but if someone really has a problem it's probably best to abstain.

Posted on Dec 3, 2011 6:59:55 PM PST
Bulldog says:
I agree with Julian, it depends on the person. Unfortunately a lot of (unmentioned) groups feed the fear into their members that if they so much as smell alcohol they are so weak that they'll go on a bender. I would say if you're quitting it's best to abstain for at least a year and then see how you are able to drink after that. If you fall back into your old habits, you may have to abstain for life.

Posted on Dec 3, 2011 8:45:37 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 4, 2011 7:30:06 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2011 9:52:15 PM PST
Bulldog says:
What's the old joke, it isn't a disease until you can phone your boss and "call in drunk". Well I guess you can at some jobs, but most would have you out on your butt before the phone call is over.

Posted on Dec 3, 2011 11:39:16 PM PST
Selective times, otherwise NO!! you are an Alcoholic...Face up
to it!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2011 12:52:08 PM PST
D. Burke says:
The answer, unfortunately, is NO. Every alcoholic I have known, and I have known several, lost his or her sobriety by trying this experiment. It is also true that alcoholism is a progressive disease--meaning that even if the person remains sober for a lengthy period of time, when they begin again the disease, the out of control hunger for alcohol, has progressed in the background as though there were no intervening period of sobriety.

I have studied alcoholism extensively and have had multiple friends, family members and acquaintances who suffer from it. It is hugely unfair, but it is the way it is.

On the other hand, I have known people who drank to excess for a period of time, usually in their youth, who were not actual alcoholics just "partiers" who were able to tone down their drinking to an infrequent and responsible level when they realized which was the better course.

The difference is usually made evident when the person attempts to tone down their drinking and is unable to. Periods of sobriety between periods of heavy drinking does not mean the person is not an alcoholic, however.

Non alcoholics can have two or three drinks and walk away, alcoholics cannot.

Posted on Dec 4, 2011 12:57:02 PM PST
There is an expression..."If I could drink normally, I would drink everyday"!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2011 2:16:47 PM PST
Thrown-Clear says:
I'm curious which "unmentioned" groups you're referring to. I am an active member in the biggest and most well known "let's-get-you-sober-and-keep-you-sober" groups, and the idea that one needs to stay away from contact with alcohol forever is an idea I've never heard.

It's certainly not a good idea for someone new to sobriety to put temptation in their path, but most people I know don't have a problem with being around alcohol.

Posted on Dec 4, 2011 2:28:10 PM PST
Thrown-Clear says:
I've been sober for years and I can't imagine trying to drink "moderately." The fact is, when I think about drinking, I don't want one drink, I want ten drinks. That's the problem. I went through periods of trying to drink moderately, but when every sip is accompanied by the thought, "this sucks... I want more More MORE!!!" then abstinence begins to make more sense.

As to weather alcoholism is truly a "disease," I don't claim to know. I know that some people are helped, psychologically, by thinking of their problem as a disease. It doesn't really do anything for me, so I don't refer to my alcoholism as a disease. It does kill, though. I've got plenty of dead friends (some of them the smartest, most capable young men you would ever have had the pleasure to have met) that can attest to its real danger.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2011 5:29:38 PM PST
Bulldog says:
I think your response below explains my stand perfectly. You're terrified of alcohol, and if it's the most famous of groups, then yeah, you must stay away from alcohol because if you so much as have one glass of wine with dinner, you will never be able to stop.

Of course I wasn't a "real alcoholic" (or so I've been told) because I was able to stop without their help. I can also enjoy a glass of wine with dinner without downing the entire case. Amazing what you can do when you take responsibility for your own actions rather than say your completely helpless without the group and God.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2011 6:44:05 PM PST
Thrown-Clear says:
Am I "terrified of alcohol"? I don't know. I don't give it much thought anymore. I hang out once or twice a week with a bunch of really cool people (the same kind of people whose company I used to seek out when I was drinking, only now we don't drink) and I don't think much about booze anymore. There was a time when it was all I thought about. I don't have a problem with admitting helplessness. We're all helpless when it comes to a lot of things in life.

As far as taking responsibility for my own life, well... my life was a mess; alcohol was at the center of it, so I found help and quit drinking. I was then able to deal with other problems. So now I'm doing fine with money, and friends, and family, and the only thing that I "can't" (don't, won't) do anymore is drink. So what's the problem? Anybody with any real time in a 12 step program will tell you that "admitting powerlessness" and "turning your life over to a power greater than yourself" is not a cultish revocation of your own personality. They are simply words that help your average ego-centric alcoholic see themselves and their life in a different light. In the end, it's still you, your desires, your flaws, your talents, and your life. You still take responsibility for your own actions.

I'm glad you don't have a drinking problem anymore. I'm glad I don't either. Why do you have a problem with my chosen method of sobriety?

Your post was simply wrong. Organizations that focus on sobriety don't recommend a cloistered lifestyle where you never set foot near alcohol or anybody who may be drinking again. It's another part of "responsibility for your own actions." I don't drink. You can do whatever you want.

Posted on Dec 4, 2011 6:54:22 PM PST
B. JEFFREY says:
I spent years drinking, waking up hungover, forgetting where I left my car, etc.... After trying everything to stop drinking - and I mean EVERYTHING - I finally joined a "program of recovery". Exhausted, I let go and accepted that I could never drink like a normal person again. It's like having a weight lifted off of my sholders! It's not easy, but after seeing my life sober, I can't imagine it any other way. So, in my opinion (based on years of research), no, you cannot drink like a normal person. Living sober is such a great way to live and you'll find your life isn't lacking anything by eleminating alcohol.

Posted on Dec 4, 2011 10:22:37 PM PST
I stopped drinking in May of 1998 (with inpatient help). Twice since then I have been served a drink with alcohol in it which I drank most of before I realized it had alcohol (very thirsty both times). Did I turn into a raving drunk - no - but I choose to continue to not drink. I like myself sober better and so do my family and friends!

Posted on Dec 4, 2011 10:27:17 PM PST
M. prewitt says:
Depends how strong your will is. I was at one time what most people would consider an alcoholic. Now I drink a few beers once a month or so. I decided to stop drinking so much so I did. No big deal.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2011 4:07:25 AM PST
DGMays says:
No mincing words here: NO. Don't even begin asking such a question; it screams "I'm preparing for that next drink." After the incredible effort you put in to break this most vicious cycle, and take control of your life again, is it worth the risk? Did you not lose enough getting to this point? Why would anyone risk setting themselves up for a "well-intentioned" failure???

Speaking as a Therapist, I've held hands with several clients at AA meetings. I witnessed first-hand the painfully difficult task of breaking free from this addictive libation. My own brother, himself a Recovering Alcoholic, sabotaged several periods of sobriety. He paid dearly with three divorces tied directly to his drinking.

A very close friend, with whom I also held hands & pledged my support to, took up social drinking after six years of sobriety. He nearly paid the ultimate price for sliding back into old, destructive habits. He thought things were going well, and that he had come to terms with the bottle, and could (responsibly) enjoy a couple of cold-ones now & again. The next thing I learned about how his new goals were going was at an Emergency Room.

This umpteenth DUI he earned cost him his career and second wife. Unfortunately, it also cost the young man he crashed into half of his left leg, one eye, and the companionship of his beloved Golden Retriever, "Mason."

I beg of you, please do not ask this potentially dangerous question about re-drinking. Go to the gym, ride your bike, take in some movies, dine with friends. Anything but re-embracing that damn monkey you worked so hard to get off your back.

Thank you for allowing me to write this & taking the time to read & consider what's been said.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2011 5:49:39 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 4, 2012 12:34:04 PM PST]

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 6:51:19 AM PST
An alcoholic is a person who drinks excessively - how can he/she then drink moderately? Then he/she won't be an ALCOHOLIC!!

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 8:13:28 AM PST
E. McDougall says:
If you have been a real addict you might not ask this question. Or, if you ARE an addict in remission, you're most likely asking this question because you still want to drink. Don't do it.

Not alcohol but tobacco; it took a lot of tries and a lot of frustration to get rid of it. Many, many years after my last puff I still have such vivid dreams - driving to the store, buying a pack, and smoking a cigarette - when I wake up I have to smell my hands and clothes to convince myself it wasn't real. When life gets rough, as it occasionally will, there's always a little voice in the back of my head - "A cigarette will calm you down....". I hate to think what might have happened if it had been something more immediately destructive like alcohol or crack; it gives me a lot of sympathy for those who are in the process of trying to fight their addiction. Just as an aside, I can't think of anything that was more un-helpful, when I was trying to kick the habit, than the classic "Well, why don't you just QUIT, then?" that I'd hear from clueless sods who'd never been there themselves....

There's no such thing as an ex-addict - only addicts in remission.

"Persistent risk and/or recurrence of relapse, after periods of abstinence, is another fundamental feature of addiction. " See for the official definition of addiction.

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 8:17:45 AM PST
I say No. Through my research for the book Drugs Make You Un-Smarter and my experience living with an alcoholic, I found that even one drink will start the whole cycle all over again.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2011 12:43:40 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 5, 2011 12:44:18 PM PST
Bulldog says:
I fully agree with you, however the AA crowd will not. And they're the "experts" after all.

I even saw the "if you could quit on your own you weren't really addicted" comment. Face it, it's a cult.

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 1:30:09 PM PST
S says:
There are those who occasionally over do it or give in to peer pressure and those who truly are alcoholics. For those who truly are alcoholics, the answer is no. Not only is the answer no, but they are usually prone to other addictions as well. Notice at most AA meetings people are drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Addiction is addiction and total avoidance is the only answer.

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 1:49:43 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 5, 2011 1:54:07 PM PST
Peyton says:
Why does an alcoholic have a drink? Because they want one.
Why does a non-alcoholic have a drink? Because they want one.

People drink to all different levels of excess/moderation because they want that which comes from the consumption of alcohol beit in large or small quantities. Generally people don't appreciate the addictive properties of alcohol, especially the 'moderate' drinkers because they don't feel there's any need to stop drinking.

Give the moderate drinker the challenge of not drinking for 2 years. They won't want to because "they don't need to", "alcohol isn't a problem". That internal justification as to why its okay to drink affects moderate and heavy drinkers alike. Only the heavy drinkers are compelled to quit. The moderate ones live with their addiction and pass judgement on the rest.

Before any 'responsible' or 'moderate' drinker passes judgement on an 'alcoholic', they should try stopping their own habit for 2 years and see just how addicted they are too. Their addiction just has them more fooled. The proof is in their own conviction that they don't have a problem.

Even moderate and light drinkers stop drinking (for 2 years or more) and pretty consistently they are happy with the impact that choice made on their life. After you settle into a lifestyle without alcohol it's hard to understand why people do it at all - other than because of addiction of course.

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 1:57:12 PM PST
Personally having been an alcoholic for many years, I believe that there is no moderation for any addicted substance. When I used to try before I quit altogether, that greed would come back. "Oh, what's one more," "I know I drank yesterday, but what's the big deal if I drink again today?" then eventually, every morning it became "today will be the day I quit," again. For me, quitting wasn't enough, I needed a lifestyle change to confront and face the things in my life that brought me down. I had to start at ground zero again, but I am grateful for it every day--I'm no longer a slave to the bottle. So I'm not sure if it is you, or someone you know who is suffering with alcoholism, but I want you to know that there is hope and recovery is very possible. I am seven months sober this month.

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 3:56:56 PM PST
jpl says:
Can an alcoholic learn to drink moderately?

jpl -- Speaking only for myself, no.
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Initial post:  Dec 3, 2011
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