August 26, 2017

To Drink or not To Drink.

Stopping or moderating an addiction like drinking is an ongoing debate in many circles. Whether to quit or to regulate?

I’ve had just about every bad habit there is, and have found different methods work, depending on my needs.

Alcoholics Anonymous states that drinkers are “powerless” over alcohol and need to “turn it over to a higher power,” while Moderation Management offers a place to empower yourself—that is, manage it.

For me, the Moderation Management program is about self-empowerment. It’s not always easy, but it gives people choices—everything from abstinence, to having two drinks a day, or just on weekends—and time to find their own way. Moderation Management people, like A.A. people, have many different reasons for drinking.

Some want the “buzz.” Some are driven by fear of dealing with the daily tasks of life, or need help with social anxiety. Some people wanted to numb old trauma and memory. Reasons to drink range widely and wildly.

In our society we live a fast pace life that can be stressful. So, we turn to habits to deal with our hunger, our loneliness, to deaden sorrow, deal with depression, and to find happiness.

I have found, through the years of struggling with my own addictions with love, cigarettes, compulsive overeating, and drinking, that some approaches have worked for me, and some—not so much.

Right now, in Moderation Management, I am finding that many people are asking this type of question, “Why would I drink too much when it makes me behave stupidly and upsets my digestion?” Increasingly, this program seems to include dialogue about how to change our behaviors, but also explores what the underlying cause of such self-harm might be. Triggers are everywhere—from relationship break-ups to mean bosses. A lot of us long for something to hold on to, to feel filled up, and to lessen our fears. Some need help socializing or having sex.

For many, it can take a long time—in some cases, years—to find a way to moderate drinking. Some are able, after many months, to choose to have a couple of beers at a party, and then not to drink again all month. Others need the advised (but not essential) 30 days off, to see what it is like and to better understand their triggers for drinking in the first place.

There are other ways besides A.A. However, A.A. has changed the world for many. In the end, we all have to find our own way to wellness.

I could not lose weight, or keep it off, with Overeaters Anonymous, but a good psychotherapist helped me to lose 100 pounds. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous helped me to finally stop dating unavailable men. Having been to A.A. meetings, I have chosen the Moderation Method for now, and I am having some great days…and some not so great days.

With the Moderation Method, there is no “absolute rule.” Some people quit drinking without A.A., some replace alcohol with marijuana, some go back to A.A., and many eventually regulate their habits. Some quit during the week or have two drinks maximum on any given day. But, whichever way you choose to go, you are given the tools for change.

I’m the kind of person who has to research everything before I can change. And, as I studied alternatives to A.A. I also found Over the Influence, by Denning, Little, and Glickman. This book states that women can feel especially disempowered by the idea that they cannot manage their own lives, or that they are in denial.

It goes on to state:

“There is surprisingly little actual denial on the part of people who use alcohol and other drugs. Every time a drinker is confronted about her use of alcohol, she feels it. She may be lying, minimizing the problem, ambivalent, hopeful that she can make it better, hopeless about doing anything different, or fearful about losing that warm blanket that alcohol wraps around her each evening, but she’s not in denial. Since we believe that many drug users have already been traumatized and badly shamed, we find the idea of breaking someone’s spirit in this way to be horrifying. Powerlessness is a difficult concept. It is questionable, especially for women who have been in a less than powerful position in society for so long.”

I found that Moderation Management facilitates conversations around the world about people’s struggles and victories with alcohol. These discussions were so hopeful and honest that I was drawn to them.

I kept reading. I found the former columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle, Don Lattin, had written a brilliant book called, Distilled Spirits about his own challenge with drinking, chronicling the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and his final decision to join the program.

He vividly recounts the story of how Bill W. started the 12-Step program, explains the history of A.A., and gives an in-depth insight of how Bill W.’s friendships and radical transformation inspired the program. It was a pioneering and divine intervention that has saved many lives. The 12-Step Program has helped many worldwide, and I was inspired, but not convinced.

I liked much of the reading, including Responsible Drinking by Rotgers, Kern, and Hoeltzel, who discuss moderating alcohol consumption: “I have never sunk back to the drinking levels of those earlier years…I do have a few rules that I can follow that really seem to help. I don’t start drinking past a certain hour…I never drink on any empty stomach. I keep track. Drink water. Listen to your body etc…think substitution, not restriction.”

Because of harm reduction work in therapy, and the Moderation Management program, I drink half of what I used to. Maybe it’s because of the support, or maybe it’s because I don’t beat myself up for it any longer.

For me, addictions have been a life-long struggle, as is often the case. Compulsive eating was one of the most difficult to overcome. I think my eating disorder shifted when I realized in therapy that it was the little child in me eating, not my grown-up self.

Still, I wrestled with myself, and the refrigerator, for years before I stopped stuffing myself compulsively.

But, I think the most agonizing of all was my love and sex addiction. I found Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLA) based on the 12-step model, to be the most helpful program of them all. I believe it was because the deep longing for closeness and attachment that I had, I was able to reveal openly in those rooms—the sharing went deep.

The wound is a worthy opponent.

Whether I struggle with my own workaholic behavior or cell phone mania, or french fries at night, or wine in the wine country—I am glad there are alternative ways to recover from these life-sucking habits.

I’m helped by the people who have regulated their drinking in Moderation Management, but, for me, it’s an ongoing process, and the jury is still out.


Author: Katy Byrne
Image: Maria Morri/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Sara Karpanen

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