Moderation Mirage?

I read that on Sober Mommy’s blog and it made me think.

I see many blogger out there who are nearing the 100 day mark and are contemplating moderation, or, perhaps, a few drinks on vacation and then back to sobriety.

I have no sage advice. I have not tried moderation or vacation drinking after a stretch of sobriety. I thought about it, probably at the same 3-4 months. 

I wondered at that time if now that I had dealt with my underlying depression, and had become mindful and clearer, and was living purposefully, if I could drink “safely”.

I looked for bloggers with similar stories who shared their experiences, hoping to learn form them. Yet there were none. No bloggers who had found life in sobriety found freedom in moderate drinking. They either returned to the old, complicated, obsessive drinking, or they disappeared…which I assume means the same thing.

So…I weighed my options, which I did back then and continue to do on a regular basis. After all, if 100 days cures alcohol addiction, shouldn’t almost 1000?


I can remain sober, free, happy, still dealing with mental health issues, etc, but feeling like I am living a life of purpose and reason. A life that has allowed me to teach yoga and write a book. A life full of ups and downs, traumatic experiences and unexpected events, but that I try to roll with from my solid, sober centre.  A life where I forgo alcohol, never knowing if that is ABSOLUTELY necessary…

Or. I can try drinking. I can have some wine. I can try the new tequila. Maybe it would be ok. Maybe I would be the exception to the rule. But maybe I won’t be, and with this choice I may offer up my happiness, my mental stability, my self worth, my ability to handle change and my stillness and peace. All  for a few hours of uninhibited numbness.

When I weigh the options it is pretty clear which wins. The bookstores are full of books on how to find happiness. I have happiness. I’m not willing to risk it for some rotten grapes.

Choose. But choose wisely. Life is too short to spend it sitting on the couch with a glass in my hand, wondering where I went wrong. I tried that already. It sucked.

Stillness and peace


70 thoughts on “Moderation Mirage?

  1. YES. A million times over.
    Having been there- after nearly 11 months sober I tried drinking again. And it went ok for a little while. But soon the slippery slope brought me right back to where I was. Addicted. Miserable. Stuck.
    No, thank you.
    Today I have 96 consecutive sober days today and I feel free. My life might be falling apart in other ways (I’ll write a blog post about this soon) but my sobriety is the thing I am the happiest and clearest about right now.
    It is the best thing I have ever done.
    lots of love to you Anne.

    1. I’m so glad you are back. Sobriety is a cornerstone to build on.
      It provides self worth, trust and love.
      From there, we can do hard things.
      Big hug.

    2. Thank you for sharing your experience with this. I’m only on day 3 right now. But I have been on nearly a full two months and then went on vacation only to ruin it and be right back where I was — drinking daily– unable to control it. It’s hard to hear that we can’t safely have one or just on vacation. But it’s the truth isn’t it? That we either need to be happy and healthy or not? I pick happy and healthy any day.

      1. Sometimes I try to think of alcohol as the drug it is.
        I wouldn’t tell a heroin user to just have a bit on vacation and then go back to not using. But it actually is very similar.

        We have been brainwashed to think alcohol is not only harmless, but that it’s helpful. That is scary.

  2. YES!
    I have that thought…who doesn’t? Maybe my drinking was “situational”, maybe now I’ve had a break it won’t be so bad.

    I have a good example in my life…sugar.
    I have completely given up sweets several times in sobriety. And it’s nice, I feel great and it lasts for a while. And then I eat a few squares of chocolate one night. ad then, a week or so later…well, hell yes! ice cream sounds good. And I moderate for a while, I do.
    And then I don’t. It’s every day…even if just a tiny bit, its every day.
    And guess what? I’m ok with that…it gets out of control and I stop again and repeat the cycle. But i don’t worry about how i behave on a couple chocolate squares. Or if driving after ice cream might cause a serious accident, or if my friends and loved ones will all disappear because I had that brownie….

    I KNOW that I cannot moderate alcohol. I haven’t tried…I just know. And that’s enough for me.

    Greta post Anne!

  3. I love this! The other thing for me is that I do not want to repeat the whole detox process. I read someone’s post the other day how they had relapsed after 5 years sober. They stopped after a week or so but said the detox was the same as 20 years of hard drinking.

  4. This is a great post and just what I needed to read today. I especially agree with this: “Life is too short to spend it sitting on the couch with a glass in my hand, wondering where I went wrong. I tried that already. It sucked.” — Been there, done that — way too many times and too often.

  5. is a great site and group (on Facebook) that shows people who seem to be successful in achieving the goal I am aiming for – not 100% sober – but harm reduction and a better quality of life. I’m pleased with where I am today – and my relationship with alcohol is not what it was, nor will it ever be. I know this – I will not ever have a year of less days of ‘not drinking’ than those drinking days. Better is better!

    1. Harm reduction or moderation is something everyone considers. I know my last years of drinking included many moderation attempts.

      Self experimentation is a valuable tool.
      Good luck!


      1. Thank you Anne. I am signed up to follow your blogs too because I love seeing all sides of this issue – I soak it in and lead another team on another site which has taught me a lot on the subject!

      2. That’s awesome.
        I chat on a moderation management chat occasionally. I think all experiences have merit. We are all different!

  6. I’m with you Anne. Can’t ever risk another day one. Much happier with my life now, never going back. I truly believe there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to alcohol.

  7. Seriously, who wants to go through the Day 1 again because moderation didn’t work? At least, it surely didn’t work for me!

  8. Yes, when you put it like that it seems so clear. Why would you risk your happiness for alcohol. I really needed to read this, and the comments. I have searched and searched online for ‘moderation blogs’ I can’t find anything.

    Thanks for letting me know about the first step in AA surrender. This is what I need to do. Give up thinking about drinking, surrender and accept that it can’t happen at this point in my life.

    Thank you Anne, without people like you here, I have no doubt I would be back drinking already, instead of on day 72.

    PDTG x

  9. Great post Anne. I completely agree with what you have written. After I decided I could moderate in June 2014 it took me almost 2 years to get sober again … I won’t, can’t risk that again. Lily 🌷xx

  10. Great post Anne!

    I’ve come to realise that I am an all or nothing person about everything. Moderation just doesn’t work for me. The constant denial makes me miserable. And I never enjoyed ‘just one drink’ anyhow!

    Hugs xxx

  11. Incredible post.
    I was talking to people last week how not that I wanted people to relapse but those this did helped keep me sober – none just popped back in to say ‘oh it was great! See you later sober losers.’ Some moderated for a while, some crashed straight away but all – said it wasn’t worth it, and here they are again.

  12. Great post Anne. I read it, I nod my head, I understand it but despite having gone back to drinking once and feeling so much better this time I know that wicked voice will be at me again in a few days, weeks or months. I know moderation is sheer fantasy for me I have no illusions about that but the almost irresistible urge to throw it all away for a glass of rotten grapes is bewildering. I feel like I am waging a war in my head and I really want to win and so far I have won but it is that fear that one day when the resolve is at its lowest and the voice is at its strongest the lure is just too much. I think we are all writing about it out of fear. Your post really helps but the fear remains.

    1. The voice comes back to me. In fact, it becomes much more rational now, which is very sneaky.
      Every morning I wake up and say thank you 5 time. I got it from Wayne dyer. Somehow that morning thankfulness…for life, for family, for no hangover, for being a me I like….whatever it is, it helps me at these times.
      I don’t want to go back to being a me I hated and couldn’t trust.

      I don’t feel any loss from that. I feel a celebration of life. If that makes any sense….

      1. This makes so much sense to me. My sobriety is a beautiful gift I gave myself and my family. I am incredibly thankful for it and won’t risk trading it for a glass of anything.

  13. “I tried that already.” Yep. It is beyond me why my body-mind would react any differently (less damagingly) to alcohol after abstaining for four months, a year, four years, whatever. It’s the same body-mind (that it had evolved into with the drinking). Plus, there is no benefit whatsoever to reintroducing alcohol. Not one. We can raise a glass containing something safe. The moderation question, I assert, always comes from the addict’s mind. The argument that “oh, you’re so black and white, all or nothing” is a sly one because that sort of thinking is indeed good to loosen. Just not in the realm of ingesting known addictive toxins.

  14. Hi, Anne! I did the same thing you did the first few months– scoured the blogs for someone who figured out how to moderate to see if it was even possible. All I ever found were bloggers who said, “I’m going to moderate!” and then they disappeared came back 6 months later, saying “I can’t moderate!”. Also, I have read the blogs of moderators detailing the complicated system they must use in order to not get wasted. It’s definitely better than being chronically wasted, I’ll give them that. But- when alcohol is on the table, it’s ON THE TABLE and all it takes is one serious trauma, drama, tragedy or stressful situation and you’re right back where you started.
    Anyoo– way easier just to say no, all the time, every day, all day:)

  15. Great post Anne. As you know, I tried moderation after my first 100 days and it didn’t end well. This time around I committed to 180 days then 1 year. I don’t ever want to go back to who I was before. But I know I am always only a drink away from that so I have to be vigilant. Sober is so much better. A x

  16. Wonderful post. I am nearing the 6 month mark, and am hearing those moderation voices whispering in my ear. But I’m not listening. I tried moderation last year, after almost 6 months sober. It didn’t work then, and I’m sure it won’t work now. And like you, I’m not interested in finding out!

  17. This is so helpful to read in these still early days. The urge to moderate comes calling often for me.

    1. Yes, of course it does. Because it’s familiar.
      Change is scary! But it’s so worth it!
      Tell that voice you hear it, but it’s wrong. Life is much better sober. You are missing out on nothing!

  18. Amen Anne! And from the number of comments I’m guessing you expressed something many wonder including me. Never revisit your decision was something I heard not too long ago and it feels right to me 🙂 xx

  19. I reached 120 days and chose ‘moderate drinking’ over sobriety. It lasted a week before I was back to chronic alcoholism…..sigh. No moderation for me.

  20. Ah everyone’s story is so familiar. We try sobriety, think we are ‘fixed’ and go back to drinking, only to drag ourselves back to sobriety again when it doesnt work out. At least I’ve tried and failed at moderation so many times that i firmly know that sobriety is my only furture. x

  21. I could not agree with you more! I’ve often thought being willing to take the risk of losing all of the gains of sobriety was a sign that you probably shouldn’t:)

    1. EXACTLY. At one point my husband and I considered quitting our excellent jobs and moving to another city to continue drinking.

      Just writing that shows how insane that was.

  22. I will echo the others and say this is a fantastic post, a must-read for almost any part of the sobriety journey. I would add one more component that is critical to the decision I make when I choose sobriety over “the experiment.” Is it worth giving up my time? Because there are times when I (we) will feel 150% confident that I (we) can have that one drink, that one vacation, that one trial, and get back on the horse. But the one thing that even 150% confidence cannot argue is that you give up your CONSECUTIVE sober time. Yes, those days/weeks/months are still yours, but if you drink today, tomorrow is Day One of consecutive days.

    Any tool that works!

    1. Very true. I know not everyone counts consecutive time, but I do collect my chips and I would never be able to live with myself if I didn’t reset my time.
      Rigorous honesty is vital to my personal mental health. It’s gives me freedom. My conscience is clear.

      Thank you for adding that!

  23. Anne..thank you for articulating this…wow, what a poignant post! I don’t want to risk going back to the sad, small hellish world of being addicted. I just love reading posts like this, and all of the comments too…it gives me a sense of shared vulnerability that we’ve all thought like this at times…and reading this gives me a strong sense of connectedness and solidarity against even the idea of trying “just one”. I think it’s so easy to get mished up in our own minds as formerly addicted people…and those like you who have clear insights and the gift to write about them so clearly….it’s just so powerful and empowering.

    1. For me, voicing my scary thoughts makes a huge difference. I know if I am afraid to mention something that I am probably creating a bigger problem inside my head. My thinking can become very dramatic. It never helps me.

      I walked by a liquor store I went to a few times here in Calgary. It’s in a seedy area, with bars on the windows. My skin crawled just looking at it, and i a powerful pull towards it. I don’t feel any urge to drink, yet still it was there.

      The mind is a funny thing. I think these triggering memories will always be there. But when I acknowledge them as normal, they become less powerful.

  24. Very wise words. At just over six months I have thoughts of moderation. I never drank in moderation in ow life so not prepared to risk it.

  25. Love this post and the comments! I fell into this trap almost a year ago after six months of easy, happy sobriety (on vacation, even though I had definitely planned not to – the end of vacation when I’m exhausted and don’t have my familiar healthy coping mechanisms is always a vulnerable time for me. Sometimes even just at the airport on the way home after being sober the whole time! gahhh) and have been struggling to get back on track ever since. It has been a slow, gradual decline where my tracker shows weekends lost to drink more and more frequently. (at least I’ve continued to be honest with myself, I pay myself on the back). It’s frustrating because I don’t even WANT moderation – haven’t since I got sober. The freedom of taking the choice off the table is so much easier. But I keep thinking I can have this great life I’ve created and still drink just this one night. But one night turns into two or three or whatever. Then I recommit to sobriety, only to have the cravings pop up after awhile and since the choice is there again, I take it. Back in the cycle.

    I love the way you think through this concept and totally agree with you. Thank you for sharing your journey with us and congratulations on being true to your solid, sober centre. You are an inspiration.

    – 4 days sober and ready to face the hard moments ahead.

    1. Hug
      The hard moments seem insurmountable, but you only need to get through them once. After that things slowly become easier and more familiar.
      Welcome back!

  26. Hello Anne
    what an awesome Post. i could not agree with your words more. i am nearing the 2 year mark, and i would not give it up for a few rotten grapes either!!
    love from Lisa

  27. Anne, so agree with you. I don’t think I could ever moderate. I haven’t even really tried because I know that I can’t, it wouldn’t work for me and doesn’t work for me. I’m not sure if you’ll read this, but I listened to your Bubble Hour podcast today and it was so inspiring to hear your voice and know that you are really out there! That sounds crazy but sometimes you wonder where and who these bloggers are. I didn’t know you wrote a book and will have to look that up. Well done, you are an inspiration and wishing you the best on your return to your home and the transition back to whatever “normal” life might be!!!! Hugs xxx

  28. great post and comments, Anne, thank you all. so valuable to see that many of us hear the same arguments in our head which for me makes it more possible for me to recognise that it is probably the addictive voice and can thus be disregarded. I also listened to your podcast recently and really enjoyed hearing you speak, so thanks for that, too!

    on the moderation debate, I have found something that Mrs D once said very helpful – she said that when we stop drinking, we have to find other tools to do the job that alcohol used to do for us, whether that is relaxation, escape, reward or social lubrication. and the Big Secret is that those other tools WORK BETTER.

    and so the longer I continue not to drink, the better I get at using those other tools (running, meditation, practicing gratitude, having better boundaries, being open and honest with myself and others, just to start with.)

    if I started drinking again, even in moderation, the less reliance I would place on those other, entirely beneficial tools which are currently showing such valuable and cumulative results in my own life, and the lives of many others such as yourself who are navigating the worst moments in life with grace and courage.

    so when the idea of moderation crops up, I choose what I believe to be the better path – and keep choosing it.

    thank you for your calm and generous presence here! lots of love, Prim xx

  29. This is a great post… I’m trapped in the moderation thing which turns to crap! I’ve done a few 100 day challenges and just recently a dry June. Why I let the voice in my head get to me is so annoying…. I cave! I read so many posts by people with much longer sobriety and everyone sounds so positive… yet in my days trying to be sober I still felt/feel like it was soooo hard, so not enjoyable to be sober, that sticking with it to reach that peaceful, love yourself feeling seems impossible. I often wonder if any of you deal with trying to be sober yet married to an alcoholic… and if so HOW DO YOU DO IT??

    1. People do, but I think it is very hard.
      Have you considered al anon? They can help you understand how to put your own needs first.
      Would your husband consider sobriety?


  30. Hi Anne, I just want to echo the fantastic feedback for your post. I hear the peace that exists in your heart through your words and I appreciate you sharing your experience and thoughts. ❤

  31. Moderation isn’t for everyone but is often a good first step for people unwilling to abstain entirely. I think moderation is more likely to be possible for people who haven’t crossed over into addicted drinking but have some problems drinking behaviours that they want to change. I’ve figured out how to drink moderately but I realize it isn’t for everyone. And I empathize with the sentiment here as it is exactly how I feel about smoking/nicotine. There is no way I could ever smoke moderately. One usually leads to more, not necessarily right away but it creeps up slowly and suddenly I’m smoking way more than I ever wanted to or planned to.

    1. Yes.
      I think by the time a person is reading and writing sober blogs it’s often past the point of moderation.
      I know I tried all the drinking rules, limits, etc for years. I didn’t realize I was trying moderation…because at the time I never considered I needed to get sober!

      And perhaps some will find moderation works. It’s worth considering all the angles. After 2 1/2 years I just keep finding the ease and freedoms of sobriety far outweigh the potential problems that I used to have when drinking.

      It’s rare to find a blogger willing to share a story of positive moderation.

      Thank you for commenting!

  32. Wow! I haven’t read a thought on Sobriety that cuts to the heart of the matter so precisely and brilliantly as your words do. When my muddled monkey brain turns to mush and I think moderation is the answer I’ll hold this post close. Thank you x

  33. Ann have you been reading my mind? I hear that little witch on my shoulder “oh just a couple glasses when you are with your sisters. You have done so well. You don’t get to see them very often so little wine will be fine”. I am leaving for vacation this week and during my vacation I hit 100 days. I told my husband I was doing the 100 day challenge when I started out. He told me the other night I have done so well he wouldn’t blame me at all if I have a few drinks. He is a normal drinker so he can’t understand my internal battle. But I know it is just not possible and plan to do 6 months now that I have reached my goal, then I want to go for a year. I still hate forever but for today, tomorrow and the next 100 days I am not going to worry about it. Thanks for the reminder because I know you are right! My life is so much better than 100 days ago.

      1. So true. In past years when I leave I only remember some of the conversations. I feel like I have failed to connect and I spent all my time waiting until I could have wine again. So very sad. I am interested to see how different it is!

  34. Oh we were on the same wave length! 🙂 This is exactly how I feel Anne. I haven’t found the thought of drinking again appealing at all.

  35. There is no freedom in moderation. Just a slow decent into the drinking abyss. Sometimes it is a slow process. Sometimes it happens much faster. No matter what, I always end up where I started. I admire those who truly can moderate. But I always wonder how much work goes into moderation. It is really really hard for me. It cannot be too easy for others, can it?

    1. No. It can’t.
      I’m biased. I admire those who have left alcohol behind and embraced life as it is. Because I know just how scary it is to let go of the security of alcohol in a society that pushed it at us for every problem and celebration.

      My heart aches for anyone moderating in an obsessive, stressful, and guilt ridden way. That was my experience. I felt like I failed myself over and over and over again. It was just too much….


  36. I fooled myself into thinking I could drink like a ‘normal’ person after 33 days of no drinking. I thought I could just have a couple drinks on weekends… so not true. ugh…. I have to accept the fact that moderation does not exist for me It truly is a mirage. I will always struggle to control alcohol…it controls me as soon as I take the first sip. I must remember this.

    I pray today is my final Day One…

    1. The awesome thing is after a while the idea of controlling alcohol goes away and the relief and freedom of life without it become very real.
      Hug. Day one is a great place to be today.

  37. Great perspective, and so much wisdom and insight here. It’s the kind of wisdom and insight that comes the tough way, through experience. I love this line, “The bookstores are full of books on how to find happiness. I have happiness. I’m not willing to risk it for some rotten grapes.” You are so resolute and assured! It’s refreshing.

    Sometimes, I think that I don’t *really* have an eating disorder, and it was just an exaggeration or a mistake. It doesn’t help that some members of my immediate family deny the problem. But, in moments like this one, I can remind myself, “No. This thing is real. The disease is real, and so is recovery.” I need to stick with what’s working and remember that what is ok for people without an ED is not necessarily ok for me. Thanks for that reminder.

    1. It’s interesting how easily we can undermine ourselves.
      To believe that we were just exaggerating things, or being dramatic.
      The truth is, recovery makes us stronger, more confident people. But it doesn’t mean we weren’t suffering. Or that we couldn’t again.

      It’s best to smile and nod and completely ignore some peoples well meant, but advice that isn’t for us.

      I am resolute. I feel I need to be to avoid reconsidering my decisions. Not that I’m not open minded, I try to be, but not when it comes to drinking or dieting.

  38. After a few months of sobriety that little harmless thought always enters my brain. What if I can have one glass of wine and return to moderate drinking? I’ve tried many times and it always goes back to the same slippery slope. Yes I can have one drink. And yes that can be it. But it always wakes up the obsessive demon in me. I find myself bargaining and always looking for the next time or excuse I’ll have to drink again, and there it goes! Right back to square one every time. I’ve learned I’m much better off just not.

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