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Does the Rule of Moderation in Sobriety Apply?

One of the biggest hurdles of remaining sober is accepting the idea of abstinence. Many people wonder why they can’t just learn to control their consumption. If moderation is accepted by society, should the rule of moderation in sobriety also apply? If someone in recovery wanted to moderately drink, without suffering from the relentless force of addiction, then life would be perfect, right?

The answer lies deep within the chemical makeup of our brains. However, understanding what occurs after becoming sober may be better explained by using a metaphor familiar to most of us.

Imagine breaking up with your significant other.

We know a relationship that has been going on for a long time is painful to leave. But continuing on in a relationship that has run its course to avoid pain is not a good decision for anyone and it isn’t going to resolve any issues in the relationship.

In a past relationship, a clean break is needed to move on with your life. You may wonder if you can return to the person every so often. Perhaps the two of you can go on dates now and again, spend the night once in a while, and recapture the best feelings of your relationship whenever you wanted. 

However, deep down, we know that after a few weeks or even months, occasionally would no longer be enough. You would start to miss seeing them every day. Before you know it, you’re caught back in the same relationship you were once desperate to leave, now facing more pain and regret than you did before. A relationship with a substance you are addicted to is no different.

Abstinence vs. Moderation

One of the greatest on-going questions in addiction treatment has been whether moderation is possible. Do people seeking help for substance abuse need to learn how to live without their drugs (1) of choice forever? Or can they learn to control their behaviors and engage in occasional social use?

When it comes to certain drugs, like alcohol or marijuana, many people with an addiction don’t see why they shouldn’t just be able to cut back and call it a day. It would seem the rule of moderation in sobriety could certainly apply to “soft-drugs.” But the truth is, that if you were able to cut back and live life just fine, you already would have. Anyone who needs professional addiction treatment knows that they are beyond their limits of self-control.

Unfortunately, some rehab centers teach patients how to moderate their use rather than having them abstain entirely. The most important factor is how severe the addiction is. Science shows that the severity of addiction influences the risk of relapse (2). For most people, this means that overcoming substance abuse isn’t a one-time deal; it’s a lifetime commitment.

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Why Detox Isn’t Enough to Cure Addiction

In Alcoholics Anonymous, there’s a common story about a drunk horse thief. The thief is a drunk who decides to get sober, but even sober, they’re still a thief. The same goes for anyone with an alcohol or drug problem. Getting the substances out of your system only changes you physically; psychologically, you are still addicted. Recovery only lasts if you’re willing to work on it.

Keeping a clear head about your sobriety cannot happen without abstaining completely from the substances that got you here in the first place. If you’re worried about abstinence vs. moderation (3), your mind is still focused on substance use. During rehab, you can learn why the focus must shift to an internal perspective. This helps you uncover the parts of yourself that truly need acknowledgment and caring for.

Getting Help When It’s Needed

Choosing a holistic rehab program can help you gain the skills necessary to transform your life from the inside out. Rehabilitation and recovery are not only about stopping abusive behaviors. The right treatment centers can provide the skills and knowledge necessary to replace the hole that addiction leaves behind. 

Getting Help for Addiction 

If you or someone you love is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, contact your local hospital or contact one of our professional counselors at Desert Cove Recovery today. Reaching out can help someone stay sober and avoid the temptation of social use by connecting them with the best professionals and resources in your area.