Moderation. You should do everything in moderation. Even moderation. But, what exactly is moderation? It’s a term that means to have self restraint, discipline, or control. If you feel the need to moderate a behavior, then you must feel that it is excessive or out of control. Moderation can work in some situations. There are a lot of factors that play into someone being able to moderate their behavior. Sometimes it comes down to knowing when moderation is working, and when it’s not.
Moderate drinking sounded good
I wanted to moderate my drinking. Being able to have one or two drinks sounded moderate, compared to the 6-12 I was usually having. I felt that was an obtainable goal to set in my quest to moderate my drinking. I knew people who could do it, so it could be done. My plan was simple. The execution on the other hand, not as much.
My plan for becoming a moderate drinker looked like this
It started with dry January. A month of zero alcohol. A reset from all the binging I had done. Especially after the holiday season. I knew this would lower my tolerance to alcohol. Which meant, when I went back to drinking I would only need a few to feel a good buzz. Not only that, but being able to quit drinking for 30 days proved I didn’t have a drinking problem. Insert pat on the back.
When dry January was over and I stepped out of my hibernation I felt amazing. My mind was clear, my body felt rested. I was ready to be a moderate drinker. The first day back, I noticed I was right about my tolerance. I felt the light headed effects before the first drink was even finished. Yay, me! This might work. I have my two drinks and feel proud of the moderation I achieved. But it doesn’t last. It only takes a few more moderate drinking sessions for my tolerance to go back up.
I found myself chasing the buzz again
Moderation doesn’t work for those of us who are using alcohol to numb the pain. I didn’t stop drinking until all my worries were gone. I didn’t care how many that took. And because I drank frequently my tolerance kept rising and soon I was right back to binge drinking.
My inhibitions were out the window
Even though my intentions were to only drink a couple before I took my first sip. By the time I got to the bottom of my second drink, my brain had already switched off the function that helps me stay rational. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions. The article How Alcohol Lowers Inhibitions from Red Rock Recovery goes into more detail. Essentially, the amount of dopamine produced while consuming alcohol fogs the brain to where we no longer know how to make the distinction between a good and bad decision. I was fighting an uphill battle. Which really took me out of the present moment. Instead of enjoying the two drinks, I was hyper focused on the internal conflict going on inside my head.
The Inner turmoil wasn’t worth it
I realized that the energy it took for me to be a moderate drinker wasn’t worth it. Drinking was supposed to be fun and take away my worries, but it was doing the opposite. It was a lot of work. Worrying about how much I was drinking was not a good time.
Moderate drinking wasn’t going to work for me
I tried to be a moderate drinker more times than I can count. After all attempts lead back to binge drinking I realized that not drinking at all would be the better choice. I knew moderate drinking was for those who had a healthy relationship with alcohol. Mine was codependent and abusive. I knew if the thought of never drinking again scared me, then I probably should never drink again. Fear is usually a sign that we need to investigate and lean into why it’s there. For me, it proved that I was using alcohol for all the wrong reasons. Alcohol is a drug, as I wrote about in my blog Is Alcohol a Drug? And I was using it as such. You can’t moderate a substance and abuse it at the same time. This is when I feel moderation isn’t the solution.
The month of December 2021 I knew was the last month I was going to ever drink again. As I write about in My Last Hangover, my dad had given me a wine advent calendar. I didn’t want to waste a good gift. I was a bit of a people pleaser back in my drinking days. So, I drank one tiny bottle of wine everyday in December. I noticed that the buzz I got only lasted about 20 minute. After that, because I didn’t indulge in another glass, irritation set it. The irritability would come on for no reason. I realized that the hangovers, anxiety, and weight gain all weren’t worth a 20 minute buzz with a side of irritation. I had my last glass of irritating wine on December 25th. Said goodbye to the thought of moderation. And began my third dry January knowing it was going to stick this time.
Yours Truly Sober,