Nearly every program intended to help you stop abusing alcohol requires you to spend about a month abstinent. There are many reasons for this and if you are nearing the end of a month of sobriety, you have experienced most of the benefits. You may also be a little timid about moving forward into a life that includes enjoying a drink from time to time. If you are wondering what moderation will look like for you, you aren't alone!
I have heard people describe the end of an abstinence period with many mixed emotions and it is likely you are experiencing them too. You may feel refreshed, clear headed and excited to continue the journey and you may also feel worried and fearful about what your future relationship with alcohol will look like. The mixed emotions make perfect sense, nobody starts this journey because their relationship with alcohol was all roses and sunshine! Memories of times where alcohol betrayed you in the past are likely resurfacing. What you need to remember is that the relationship doesn’t have to be all one-sided this time around. If you reintroduce alcohol into your life mindfully, with awareness and a little bit of planning, it is possible to have a healthy relationship with alcohol in the end.
First, you have to decide what moderate drinking will be like for you. After spending months or even years as a heavy drinker, you probably have no idea what “normal” drinking looks like I know, I didn’t! I created the charts below to show what different countries and organizations considerer to be healthy. This should give you a good idea of what is expected.
These are units of alcohol. A unit is one 5oz. glass of 12% of wine, one 12oz. glass of 5% beer and 1.5oz. of distilled alcohol. This information was retrieved from the www.moderation.org and www.drinkaware.com website.
I have to be honest, when I first learned these limits I was shocked. My friends and I had spent years drinking more in one night at a bar than we should have in a week! I took one look at the limits, closed my laptop and went back to the bar for another couple years to experience few more blackouts and drunken mishaps. It really wasn't until my close family members and friends started getting sick from their alcohol consumption that I decided I needed to take these recommendations seriously.
If you are ready to move forward in your journey toward moderation, and I believe you are or wouldn't be reading this then I have to warn you, it isn't going to be easy. It is much easier to not drink alcohol at all, then it is to drink moderately. After all, when you aren't drinking, you only need to make one decision every day: don't drink. When you are moderating it gets complicated. You have to decide how many days you will spend abstinent, and how many drinks will you have at every dinner or party. You might to have to ask yourself if you should have a mimosa a brunch or not cause if you do, you won't be able to have the two at dinner that evening. It can be troublesome, and I am not going to lie, you will likely slip up. If you have just spent a month sober and the most prominent feeling you have right now is fear, I am guessing this is what you are most afraid of... slipping up!
If you are experiencing this fear, you may consider doing another month sober but unless you plan on giving up alcohol forever, you will eventually need to start learning and practicing how to be a moderate drinker. The best way to start out in my opinion, is to resolve to never drink for the wrong reasons. This is a HUGE deal because I believe that overindulgences and alcohol abuse always have an underlying cause, even if you don't realize it. I drank for nearly a decade to deal with the social anxiety I didn't know existed. I drank too much at a parties because of unhealthy relationships and I drank way too much the day before an important work trip because I desperately wanted to quit. In examining those underlying causes, I have been able to make positive changes in my life. Meaning now, when I have a drink, I am not doing it because I am self-medicating, or avoiding a feeling, I am simply enjoying the drink.
You can count your drinks, measure the ounces and use all the moderation tools in the book but if you are drinking for the wrong reasons, you will inevitably drink too much.
This is the exact reason that I created the Mindful Drinking Challenge. Participants of the challenge go the usual 30 days without drinking alcohol, but during this time they are also challenged to dive deep into the parts of their minds that they have been masking with the alcohol. This way when they do introduce alcohol back into their lives, they are more aware and less likely to overindulge. They also have the support of a group of people who are also on the same journey because unlike most programs, the Mindful Drinking Challenge is 60 days long! Participants spend the second 30 days reintroducing alcohol into their lives with a group of people all doing it together!
If you are interested in learning more about Mindful Drinking Challenges just click this link or join the Facebook Group and see what it is all about. Moving forward, there is no reason to be fearful, just remember to stay responsible while drinking, and never ever drink and drive! When you do inevitably slip up, rather than beat yourself up about it, learn from it. If you find moderation is too difficult for you, please reach out and ask for help, there is plenty out there!