Moderating Alcohol: Is it even possible?

Many clients seeking our addiction services are hoping to have a different relationship with alcohol. While this blog is focused on alcohol, moderating any problematic behavior or substance use can be paralleled. Moderation is necessary for certain behavioral addictions such as eating and shopping, and let’s be honest, for most people sex (although abstinence is an option of course). In this article I will provide some best practices for moderating alcohol and always encourage working with a professional for best results. 

Moderation with alcohol refers to consuming alcoholic beverages in a responsible and controlled manner, absent of excessive or binge drinking. Moderate alcohol consumption is typically defined as no more than one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. When we work with clients seeking moderation, I meet them where they are at and within their own framework of what moderate drinking would look like for them. 

Practicing moderation with alcohol can have several benefits, including:

  1. Reduced health risks: Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with various health problems such as liver disease, cardiovascular issues, and increased risk of certain types of cancer. By drinking in moderation, you can lower these risks.
  2. Better judgment and decision-making: Alcohol can impair your judgment, coordination, and reaction times. Drinking in moderation helps ensure that you remain in control and make responsible decisions.
  3. Avoidance of addiction and dependency: Regular excessive drinking can lead to alcohol dependence or addiction. Moderation reduces the likelihood of developing these problems and helps maintain a healthier relationship with alcohol.
  4. Improved overall well-being: Moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with certain health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease. However, it’s important to note that these potential benefits should not encourage individuals who do not drink to start consuming alcohol. This may be correlated with reduced stress from the atmosphere of drinking (ie in social settings with friends/loved ones). 

Here are some tips for practicing moderation with alcohol:

  1. Set limits: Determine how many drinks you will have in advance and stick to that limit. Pace yourself, sip, and drink mindfully to avoid drinking too quickly.
  2. Alternate with non-alcoholic beverages: Drink water, soda, or other non-alcoholic beverages in between alcoholic drinks to slow down your alcohol consumption and stay hydrated.
  3. Be mindful of alcohol content: Different alcoholic beverages have varying alcohol content. Be aware of the strength of the drinks you consume and adjust your intake accordingly. I usually encourage the avoidance of shots.
  4. Don’t drink on an empty stomach: Eating food before and while drinking slows down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream, reducing its effects.
  5. Know your personal limits: Everyone’s tolerance to alcohol is different. Pay attention to how alcohol affects you personally and respect your limits. If you are feeling buzzed, you are likely going down a slippery slope. More on this to comeā€¦
  6. Plan alternative activities: Instead of focusing solely on drinking, engage in other activities during social gatherings or events that don’t revolve around alcohol. This can help shift the focus away from excessive drinking.

One of the biggest shifts required for moderating alcohol relates to one’s intention with drinking. Oftentimes, the goal of moderating equals a desire to get a good buzz without any negative consequences. Drinking 1-2 drinks over the course of a dinner outing is unlikely to get us buzzed if we have been accustomed to drinking multiple drinks. For this reason, I frequently encourage a sustained period of abstinence in order to reset one’s tolerance that may have grown due to chronic alcohol consumption. 

Remember, if you have a history of alcohol-related problems, or if you’re taking medications that interact with alcohol, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice regarding alcohol consumption. Call us today for a free consultation if you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or any other addiction. We will meet you where you are and work on equipping you with the techniques and approaches to succeed with your goals.  

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