Moderation vs. Abstinence-Based Recovery

Abstinence-based recovery

Moderation vs. Abstinence-Based Recovery

It is a good idea to research all options for recovery before you make a treatment decision based on your beliefs, lifestyle, and needs. It is scary to walk into the unknown, and preparation for what you are getting into makes rehabilitation a bit easier. If you have recognized addiction as a problem in your life, you may be wondering if it is possible to stop addiction without having to stop using or drinking. The topic of moderation in comparison to abstinence-based recovery provokes questions for addicts seeking recovery frequently.

What is Moderation Based Recovery?

Moderating is the idea that one can control their addiction. This means that they do not have to completely remove their drug of choice from their lifestyle. Those that live under a moderation based recovery plan for alcoholism might have one drink a month, for example. This idea started in 1994 as opposition to Alcohol Anonymous’ proclamation that addiction is a disease. The founder of Moderation Management, Audrey Kishline, recognized alcohol as a problem in her life but also thought that she could control it. This proved to be disastrous; she admitted years later that her methods did not result in her successful recovery. Still, there are many casual drinkers and drug users that put Kishline’s theories into practice today.

What is Abstinence-Based Recovery?

Abstinence is the idea of completely refraining from your drug of choice during recovery. Most treatment centers and 12 step programs have adopted this method. Abstinence is the obvious harder route to follow, allowing for no exceptions with substance use.

Moderation: The Cunning Deceiver

To an alcoholic or drug addict, moderation seems like the ultimate goal in recovery. The idea is to be able to enjoy drugs or alcohol without the harmful impacts they have on relationships, career goals, and life in general. The harsh reality is unrealistic, if not utterly impossible. Problems with moderation include:

  •      Little Support: Many groups that support moderation based recovery are found online or are extremely short lived. It is difficult to find steady support from others going through the same moderation recovery. Without group support, moderation recovery involves an individual cutting back on his or her substance usage. We all know how effective that is.
  •      It’s Difficult: Exercising moderation can prove difficult when you do not know how much of your substance is too much, or even too little. Guidelines and boundaries are challenging to set with built-in flexibility. On the other hand, abstinence-based recovery is a sure win because there is no gray area. It is easier to say, “no” than it is to say, “how much?”
  •      It’s Dangerous: Both drug and alcohol use can cause death in a single use. This is still possible for people practicing the moderation method of recovery. With abstinence-based recovery, there is no fear of overdose or alcohol poisoning because one refrains from using.

Exceptions to the Rule with Moderation Based Recovery

Of course, there are always exceptions to every theory. After all, they are only theories. There is no one road to recovery. Addiction recovery is different for each individual since every person has his or her own set of needs. Abstinence may not be the best option for some people that aren’t dependent on a drug. If this is the case for you, observe deeply if alcohol or drugs affect other areas of your life negatively. A new outlook on recovery is best if moderation has proven unsuccessful. Abstinence is also not ideal for those dealing with eating or sex addictions; doctors treat these additions through moderation-based recovery.

Deciding that Abstinence-Based Recovery is Best for You

Addiction treatment programs will give you the tools that you need to start on a life of sobriety. For those that choose abstinence, an abundant amount of support is provided through group therapy, cognitive fitness therapy, sober skills education, and aftercare living options offered through rehabilitation programs. Choosing abstinence means that you will no longer have to wonder if you are going to drink or use each day. You will be able to wake up and say, “I will not use today”, and mean it. Living with the distance between you and your drug of choice will make your battle with addiction easier, and will ensure the temptations aren’t constantly in front of you.

Help is available immediately if you decide to pursue abstinence-based recovery. Whether it is food, drugs, or alcohol addiction that you deal with, treatment is available. A life of sobriety is possible for anyone; all it takes is your decision. 

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