Abstinence vs Moderation (AVE)

I’m getting ready for folks to pillage and burn castle Furies for this blog.  I truly believe that recovery is self care and not a punishment.  We are worth it, but tend to forget that ALOT.  Peer support is such a critical and empowering part – when you don’t have your own back, others are there to help.. It’s what we do.  Only thing we ask is pay it back, someday I may need to chew on YOUR ear!

Folks in my “real life” know that recovery is near and dear to my heart.  Heck, if you are on this site, you are probably one of them.  This site and the content I  write is a big part of MY recovery plan, a VACI (vitally creative absorbing interest) uber Hobby in my mind.

This weekend, I had two friends share their current frustrations with their sober journey.  Different stories, but a nagging feeling that they were dealing with Abstinence Violation  Effect (AVE).  What!  Another acronym!  ACCCKKKKK.

What is AVE?  short version ~ broken promises to ourselves and  loved ones lead to self loathing and deeper lapses. We beat ourselves up over that first drink, and turn that into  a trip down the rabbit hole.  The more technical definition is when an individual, having made a personal commitment to abstain from using a substance or to cease engaging in some other unwanted behavior, has an initial lapse whereby the substance or behavior is engaged in at least once.Some individuals may then proceed to uncontrolled use.

What is the answer?  Sadly, I don’t know, nor do the endless recovery programs out there.  I do believe that each person has to be honest with themselves and figure out if abstinence is for them.  Look at the costs and benefits of using, heck of even abstaining! Is your destruction of choice creating more harm than good?   Many folks lead a very fulfilling life with weekends spent partying.  Bills paid, employed, not  hurting self or others?  Party on my friends!

Maybe moderation is the road to self acceptance, you can always come back to abstaining  ~ we will save you a seat!  Whatever you call it, moderation, temperance, self control, white knuckling – folks have been practicing that for generations.  Only drink on weekends, no hard stuff, never alone, the rules can be endless.  For me, moderation was just too complicated and HARD to enforce – it felt like self imposed prison.

Another thing that I find valuable is naming that inner voice that tells you to use .. the beast, salesman, or my own brain critters of a demon and an  angel. By naming it, you personify it and then can talk back.. tell it to behave, shut up, or take a time out!  Visualizing also helps ~ think of that voice as a slimy sales dude, bridge troll, angry demon or tempting succubus.  Image result for angel and devil

There is a program that advocates moderating  – Moderation Management – dedicated to reducing the harm caused by the abuse of alcohol.  http://www.moderation.org/

Anyone who works to reduce the amount they are drinking by any amount is also said to be practicing Harm Reduction. The term Harm Reduction can be used in either a broad or a narrow sense. In the broad sense of the word, Harm Reduction includes every strategy which helps to reduce harm including abstinence.

Lapses happen and are part of the stages of change.  Learn from it and move on.  It saddens me to see folks beating themselves up over lapsing when they may not believe they have a problem.  Natural consequences has a way of letting folks know if their actions are creating issues.

Only you have the right to say you have a problem. Snort dirt, eat feathers?  Think YOU have a problem with it?  Welcome to our recovery sandbox.

Abstinence versus Moderation SMART Article:


Broken Promises – The Abstinence Violation Effect

AUDIT Screening for Problem Drinking

If you are unsure if you have a drinking problem, try this simple screening.

Am I an alcoholic?Answer these 10 questions about your use of alcoholic beverages during the past year. The AUDIT was developed by the World Health Organization and is in the public domain. The information presented is not intended to replace the services of a health care professional.


4 thoughts on “Abstinence vs Moderation (AVE)”

  1. There have been times I stopped drinking for a while and thought I could return to it in a moderate fashion, and it may have seemed to be going okay for a while at the time, but always escalated. I did not drink when pregnant at 30 and 34, so I did think it was not really a problem anymore, and I nursed so was very aware of alcohol going to my babies. I drank between pregnancies somewhat and managed to keep it together for the most part but with a few bad incidents (fights with husband and parents).
    In my late teens and twenties I had been a…. drinking every day, in the morning, driving (2 DUI’s at 26), whole life pretty much revolving around alcohol, kind of person!! It was a bit of a turnaround to be a mostly sober responsible mom and I loved it but it did not last and by 38 my drinking was not daily but had become more of a binge drinking situation and I was hiding it. I incurred a 3rd DUI at 38 and went to treatment and that was the end of ever thinking I could moderate.
    I am now 50 and have had some crazy times, as I have relapsed in the last 11 years, and while relapsed thought I would secretly drink moderately for the rest of my life but I am a blackout drinker with a very noticeable and unfavorable personality change when drinking so that experiment failed : )
    Sorry for babbling but abstinence is the safest and sanest route for me.

  2. Good article, important idea worth exploring. I couldn’t moderate, try as I might. The fact that it was so important to me to drink at least some, I couldn’t imagine a life without some drinking, was in and of itself part of the final proof to me that I couldn’t moderate at all. I agree that a lot of people that have wondered if they have a problem maybe haven’t crossed that line to addiction, and with self awareness and control could pull back to enjoy with moderation. I wish there was more education in high school and college of what functional and dysfunctional use is. If you find yourself routinely getting more fucked up than you meant to, or getting fucked up when you planned on not getting fucked up at all, and you try to quit and can’t, then you probably have a problem and need to figure out a way to moderate, and if you can’t moderate, then abstain. But it seems to be perceived simply as two classes, everyone who drinks fine without much effort or thought, and the alkies, who are weak and lack character and need special treatment. I think of it as more as a continuum, and the transition from functional to dysfunctional use isn’t always so clear and obvious. Just my two cents. Thanks furies, always insightful and thought provoking posts.

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