Can I Drink In Moderation? Ask Yourself These Questions.

By Sabrina Spotorno, LCSW-CASAC, therapist on the Monument platform

As a therapist specializing in substance use, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, can I moderate my drinking, or should I quit altogether and be sober? In short, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The path to changing your relationship with alcohol is deeply personal. What I’ve come to find is that no matter which route you take, it’s important to look at the heart of your question: what are you hoping to get out of this journey?

Below, I’ll lay out five questions that I’d like you to reflect upon. And after reflecting, I’m confident you’ll feel closer to understanding which approach to changing your drinking best aligns with your hopes, needs, goals, and intentions.

First, how does alcohol impact my wellness?

And if not, how can you course correct?

This chart can also serve as a way to visualize goals and guide you in taking action. For example, perhaps you’d like to improve your social sphere. That might mean having socially distanced coffee with a friend once a week or giving yourself permission to share openly with your community about your drinking. This wellness chart can be a vision board: what would you like to improve in order to live a healthier and happier life?

When it comes to deciding to moderate or stop drinking, think about how those choices will affect your chart. Can you achieve those goals with alcohol in your life?

How do I go for a swim?

Are you someone who prefers to dip their toe in the pool or do you cannonball right in? Do you dive or do you sink in, one step at a time, to keep your head above water?

There is no right or wrong answer. Whatever your answer may be, getting a solid sense of our patterns can help us make a sustainable change. When our approach to change matches with our inherent patterns and tendencies, we are more likely to achieve our goals. Deciding whether to dip your toe in the water (moderation) or to dive right in (stopping cold turkey) takes recognition of our nature. It’s also important to note that your approach doesn’t necessarily equal your endpoint. You might want to start moderating to reach an ultimate goal for sobriety because easing into things works best for you. You might stop drinking entirely because you take comfort in yes-or-no decision-making but find down the road that you can successfully moderate.

You are not locked into any given path.

What do I feel attached to?

The benefit of personifying alcohol is that it can bring greater clarity to its function in our lives. The bigger the role alcohol plays, the more challenging it will be to control it. If alcohol plays a leading role in your life, that might mean sobriety is a more attainable goal. If it’s more of a supporting character, perhaps moderation can work for you both.

Taking a look at that attachment and asking ‘is this relationship net-positive or net-negative,’ is a useful tool for assessing if this is a relationship worth sustaining, and to what degree.

What do I value?

  1. In the first column, list some concrete values you hold. For example, I value compassion.
  2. In the second column, next to each value, write out how it shows up in your day-to-day routine. For example, because I value compassion, I strive to give each patient my undivided attention during session.
  3. Now, in the third column, write out the whyWhy does this value matter to you? For me, compassion matters because I want others to feel safe and heard.

As it concerns alcohol, inquire about whether your values are being met. Living through your values is an excellent indicator of how you can best honor yourself in your journey to change your drinking — whether that’s by way of balanced alcohol intake or none at all.

And last but not least: Do I believe in myself?

Changing your drinking requires honest self-reflection and self-compassion. Think back on these questions, and evaluate if the sobriety or moderation path is best you right now. And also remember that paths intertwine, loop, and cross. This journey is not always linear, but it is worth it. Believing in yourself is setting yourself up to succeed. I know you can do this, and I believe in you.

If you want to stay in touch, join us in the Monument Community, where you can connect in the anonymous forum, and attend virtual therapist-moderated support groups where we tackle challenges related to changing your drinking. I hope to see you there!

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Sabrina SpotornoSabrina Spotorno, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with an affinity for working with children, adolescents, individuals, and families. She is a therapist on the Monument platform, and is trained in several modalities, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Narrative Therapy. She’s passionate about empowering her clients to recognize their strengths amidst their life transitions to optimize their sense of efficacy and alignment of their actions with their beliefs and dreams.
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