Moderation or sobriety is something I pondered for quite some time before putting down the bottle for the last time over a year ago. If you have read this post, you will discover why moderation didn’t work for me but if you are thinking about choosing either moderation or sobriety, then I hope the following post will put some things into perspective for you and help you with your choice.
Choosing moderation or sobriety is a topic we discuss a lot in the Sober Bliss program and it is also a question that gets asked again and again during my Sober Hour sessions. That’s because they are both big issues. One the one hand moderation sounds like a lovely concept, but if you’ve tried it many times and still come round full circle then it is something that probably isn’t working for you.
On the other hand, sobriety or complete abstinence sounds very scary, daunting, impossible even, if you are stuck in a cycle of unhappy drinking that you just can’t seem to get out of – even when you do try to moderate.
What is the right choice – moderation or sobriety?
Let’s look at moderation and as I mentioned earlier it seems like a wonderful concept. The idea of a glass of wine sometimes on a Saturday evening with dinner or one drink to toast in the New Year, or maybe even a beer with Sunday lunch at the pub and that’s it, nothing alcoholic for the next two weeks, three months or year even sounds like a lovely place to be. It is something that I dreamed about, but if you are anything like me, this is never going to happen.
I wasn’t at the other end of this extreme scale either and most of us aren’t. Most of us are in the middle, in what is known as the grey area of drinking where we have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, it makes us unhappy, it makes us feel ill physically and emotionally.
We wish we could moderate but we can’t, yet the thought of never drinking again scares the pants off us – how are we supposed to live life without alcohol?
For me, moderation went something like this: I would try to ‘be good’ during the week and either not have any alcohol at all, or restrict myself to a couple of beers in the evening.
The problem with this was that I always felt like I was depriving myself, I was trying to live by self imposed rules and if anything I was thinking about alcohol much more than I normally would have done.
I was also working my way up to the weekend when I could have a ‘treat’ or reward myself for doing so well during the week. The problem with this is that we begin to associate sobriety with hard work, a struggle, boring and mundane, and we see alcohol just like the weekend, fun, free, a way to let loose and escape and have a treat.
This way of thinking or training our minds means that we are teaching ourselves to put and sobriety in the boring place and drinking in the fun place – even if it makes us unhappy.
Moderation had, for me the opposite effect to what I had expected. Instead of feeling good that I could abstain during the week or only allow myself maybe two glasses of wine over the weekend, I just felt awful about the whole thing, especially if I cracked early or had more than I intended.
I would beat myself up, I would tell myself that I was weak and that I just wouldn’t be able to stop completely. Then there was the fact that I would inevitably go overboard when I did allow myself to drink, so would end up feeling worse than ever.
The main thing I found with moderation was that it was just so exhausting. All the rules, restrictions and thinking about alcohol all the time made it impossible for me to live with, so I didn’t. This all led to me drinking more and feeling increasingly unhappy with the situation. But, I thought the alternative (sobriety) would be such a struggle, I associated it with hard, boring week days and just couldn’t imagine not drinking again.
There I remained for such a long time until I finally made the choice to stop drinking. Now that I am completely alcohol free, I wish I could go back and tell myself that it will all be okay, fantastic even, better than I could have hoped for and nothing like I had imagined or told myself.
If you are in that same place and struggling with the idea of moderation or sobriety, then I would encourage you to give sobriety a whirl and make a proper commitment to discovering just how wonderful your life can be without alcohol in it.
Choosing an alcohol free lifestyle is not easy, especially in this alcohol soaked world of ours where you are seen as weird or even worse, having a problem if you don’t drink. However, choosing sobriety is a hugely courageous thing to do, it requires strength to go against the grain but the benefits far outweigh all the negative ideas we might initially have about sobriety.
Yes, sobriety is a challenge it does require commitment but the more you stick at it, the more you get to experience the good bits, to learn and understand that you can do all the fun things without alcohol and you gain the skills and the strength to cope with the bad moments in life. Life does go on and just because you quit drinking it doesn’t suddenly make everything a walk in the park.
However, what sobriety does do, is it teaches us that there is a better way than just numbing out and for every challenge we overcome, there is an inner strength to be gained.
The beauty of sobriety is that it just keeps on giving and getting better. That’s the problem with moderation. If you only let yourself experience a few days or weeks of sobriety here and there then you never really get to experience the full beauty of it.
The main gift of sobriety is that we get a sense of freedom and liberation. Gone are all the self imposed rules and restrictions, all the negative self talk and inner struggle just disappears, as if by magic. We get to enjoy some head space and begin to work on what’s really going on.
By not giving in to the wine witch, or beer monster in my case, we begin to explore new, healthier ways of coping with life, the good and the bad and build our own set of tools and strategies to help us through.
I also found that, although the cravings did come and the little voice would whisper or sometimes scream in my ear, by not giving in or hitting the f@#k it button, the voice would gradually quiet down, get less until it shut up completely which made the whole business much easier.
Sobriety is a fantastic opportunity to look after ourselves properly. Wine and Netflix really isn’t self care but listening to our bodies, dealing with emotions, taking proper time out or turning to our tools in difficult times, is. Sobriety is a chance to put ourselves first, which as a busy mum is something I never used to do yet it is so important.
Sobriety is a fantastic opportunity to look after ourselves properly
With sobriety comes an inner strength which many of us never knew we had. It’s true that there is lots to deal with in the beginning and there are many firsts to face. But, for every challenge we overcome sober, our self confidence just soars and we feel invincible, like we can do anything and when you’re sober – you can!
To answer the question then, whether to choose moderation or sobriety, I would say of course sobriety, there is no other way! However, don’t think of forever, that is super scary. Instead make the decision that you are not going to drink (no matter what) for a set amount of time.
Choose a time scale that suits you, in the beginning it can be ‘just for today’ but as you get stronger I would encourage you to set a goal of six weeks, two months or 100 days. You have to give yourself time to change and adapt, in yogic technology for example, they say that 40 days is enough time to learn new habits and give yourself the opportunity to change your mindset.
I created the Sober Bliss course to help you through the first two months of your journey with this in mind. You will get my personal help and support everyday with an inspiring lesson to help you through the changes and begin designing your own sobriety. Plus we will connect virtually once a week to check on your progress and set new goals and intentions for the following week. You will get all the help and support you need from me.
Making the commitment to stick with the program, and your decision for this amount of time means that you get all the help and support through the first few weeks which are usually the hardest bits. Choosing moderation however after only a few days or weeks means you never get to appreciate the benefits and you keep putting yourself through the most difficult bits over and over – no wonder sobriety can feel impossible!
After that, it is entirely up to you but carrying on for three months, 100 days or beyond will give you the chance to really experience the beauty of sobriety.
Moderation is like being stuck in a perpetual cycle of rules, inner struggle, constant thoughts of alcohol and unhappy emotions.
Sobriety is freedom, liberation, headspace, clarity, wellness and joy.
What will you choose – moderation or sobriety? Let me know in the comments below.