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The Dependent Moderator.

*Note – I refer to alcohol addiction throughout this article, however this can be applied to any problematic substance, action or behaviour.



For many people, complete abstinence from alcohol is not even on the radar.  It is too final, too permanent and far too overwhelming to comprehend.  This is especially relevant when contemplation about actioning any change, is in its infancy.  It solidifies an abrupt finality to something that (until now for many) has been a normalised, joyous, habitual and consistent part of our lives.  It is so interwoven into our fabric that it is significantly automated.  It is something that we know we can rely on and that has been the one and only saviour, go-to and even a means to inclusivity and belonging.  At least it may have been perceived that way.  What was the lifeblood at one stage, has now become an unforgiving and destructive enemy.


In the early stages of reviewing our relationship with alcohol, we are in the honeymoon phase, often fuelled with excitement, anticipation and motivation.  These feelings and emotions, however, are always nestled in amongst considerable fear, trepidation and multi-layered, compounding concern.  This all comes of course, after considerable work toward a shift in mental strength and innate motivation to arrive at a place where we even contemplate anything different.


We are only just starting to review this relationship, including building upon knowledge and experiences in our new journey.  What we may not possess at this early stage, is the knowledge about addiction, including further exploration of ourselves, our values, and meaning making.  The familiarity of alcohol’s embrace can often come flooding back – rapidly and deceptively.  Perhaps then (especially at the beginning), a hard reset could be what is required, where exploration into the relevant “grass-roots” reasons and causal catalysts behind seeking solace in alcohol to begin with, comes into play.


Most importantly, we have not been afforded TIME.  Time to acclimatise to the new way of life, new routines, new habits, new systems, thought processes, mindset and approach.  Time for the reliance, triggers, cravings, and impact that alcohol has on us as individuals and our lives, to fade.


So, if we haven’t yet been afforded the opportunity to thoroughly explore our dependency with alcohol, are we therefore unaware of what INDEPENDENCY from alcohol looks like, feels like, or IS like?


At first, when we are almost teased with the initial feelings associated with accomplishment, freedom, and glimmers of hope and joy – we are still not used to these feelings.  We are still not used to any difference.  These feelings can often lead to a new sense of confidence, ability and capability when it comes to alcohol.  In these times, this new sense of confidence and ability can falsely convince us that we could very well ‘dip the toe’ in again, without the negative consequences.  Why?  Because we are entrenched in the honeymoon period of change, having a crystalised view and fantasy about what this change may look like.  Commonly, we may think “I could easily drink again, but it would only be 1 or 2.  I won’t even be hooked.  It won’t be the same as before because I am changing my ways”.  In itself, this could be viewed as positive thinking.  But...we haven’t yet addressed the reasons why we relied on alcohol to begin with.  We haven’t been afforded the knowledge or experience AWAY from alcohol.  Without this deep dive, we are unable to combat the slippery slope of relapse, because we are entering unchartered waters, and haven’t yet developed the right mental toolkit to do so.  The only familiarity at this stage, is inevitable misuse and saturation.


Enter: The prospect of moderation.

How much is too much?  Should I keep a tally?


Applying moderation may seem far more achievable and easier to digest.  Moderation could be seen as affording ourselves permission and the ability to experience the way things were – a glimmer of what once was, within this new journey and world we are striving to create.  A chance to dabble without the significantly impacting, negative and destructive consequences.  The glimmer I refer to glorifies only perceived positive associations.  It is a false security and only a seemingly small part of the overall picture.



Moderation could also be seen as a win/win.  One can still receive the (perceived) benefits of drinking without the costly consequences and crippling aftermaths.  However, consider this: moderation can often result in paying more attention to your relationship with alcohol.  It can inadvertently put a spotlight on something that previously went without quantitative measure or extended consideration.  Moderation accommodates an option for alcohol to be accessible, waiting on the side-lines “just in case it is needed”.  If we consider the intense gravitational pull that dependency has, blurred lines can emerge between the delicate balance of moderation and the slippery slope that can lead to dependency once again.  I refer to the longer-term picture, and every single time you pick up a bottle or glass.  We therefore easily turn to moderation as a viable and very attractive option, being unaware of the masked issues contributing toward a perceived necessity and dependency.  


Let’s remember that for many, many people, our boundaries, regulation and permissions significantly shift even after only 2-3 drinks.  In fact that is probably relevant for nearly everybody.  The whole concept of moderation or a desire for its application – is suddenly out the window.  Think back to the automated nature of one’s relationship with alcohol.  Think back to how ingrained, habitual, comforting and accepted it is.  It makes sense therefore, that we would gravitate toward the option of it still being an option – not permanent cessation.


For some, moderation may work (ish).  For others, not so.  Everyone is completely unique and different.  With this in mind, I acknowledge that this is just from my observation and experiences.  I merely want to encourage thought around the concept and notion of moderation, when viewed alongside the prospect of complete abstinence.  It is up to everyone experiencing addiction to discover what resonates and works best for them.  There is no wrong or right answer or pathway.  Often, the guidance, influence and direction one requires for their new pathway will be continually realised and ongoing as they progress through their journey ahead.


Please take care of yourself and those you love.

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