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Approaching the Topic of Moderate Alcohol Use with Family


Today I’m pleased to present a guest post.  As always comments are most welcome.


Bio: The following is a guest post by Saint Jude Retreats, a non-12 step non-treatment alternative to traditional drug and alcohol rehab. The program concentrates on self-directed positive neuroplastic change and positive self-change as an alternative to traditional alcohol and drug treatment.

Approaching the Topic of Moderate Alcohol Use with Family


If you have struggled with an alcohol problem in the past, your family has probably weighed in on their concerns and opinions on how you should be living your life. Speaking with family members regarding substance use is certainly a delicate topic, especially if you have had a long history of heavy use. If your family members watched your life deconstruct in the past, they most certainly do not want you to venture down the same path. They may think that they know best about how you should live your life and may even tell you not to behave in a certain way or associate with friends who drink as well. However, if you have already overcome an alcohol problem after a period of abstinence, how do you tell your family that you feel comfortable now drinking in moderation?


Understanding Alcohol Use In Moderation

Since the 1950’s, abstinence was one of the only options for someone with a drinking problem. This is mainly due to the development of the 12 Step Model, which has been viewed for years as the “only way” to become sober. According to traditional alcohol treatment centers, abstinence is the key sign of successful treatment. This idea can be damaging and is associated with negative labels such as “alcoholic” or “addict.” The idea of complete abstinence from alcohol can be rather limiting too, causing a person to associate with a belief that they may lose all control if reintroduced to substances.


However, research on moderation proves the opposite and can empower you to realize that you are a freely acting person, and the decision to abstain or moderate is purely yours to make. This concept of moderation is consistent with independent research that shows most problem drinkers, and even those classified as alcoholic, successfully moderate their drinking rather than abstain completely. (Sobell, et.al.) There are now alternative programs to treatment that are supporting the idea that moderation is possible for even the heaviest drinkers, after a period of abstinence.


It wasn’t until the last decade or two that people began looking at their drinking differently and realizing that moderate drinking could be an option as well. Moderate drinking can be categorized as drinking a small amount of alcohol, daily or weekly, in a controlled manner.  When a person can engage in moderate drinking without problems occurring in their life related to drinking, this choice of behavior serves as proof that a substance user is in control of their own actions, behaviors, and thoughts- a concept that is often not taught in traditional treatment programs.


While you may be already practicing moderate drinking or maybe even thinking of starting, you may feel the need to ask for your family’s or loved one’s permission. This is a normal reaction, however, it’s important to understand that ultimately the choice to drink- or not – is exclusively yours.


Getting Your Family to Understand

If you have been a heavy drinker experiencing problems for many years, it may be harder to convince your family that you are ready to moderate. You must understand that it won’t be easy for them to accept, especially if you have lied about drinking or went back on some promises in the past. However, an important part of your journey is letting go of the past and focusing on the future. It’s important for your family to know and for you to understand, that the future is open to new possibilities. In order for all of you to heal and grow towards a better future, anger, resentment, and harsh feelings can be refocused into positive, encouraging, and supporting ones.


Tips For A Productive Conversation

A conversation regarding substance use in moderation will probably not be an easy one to tackle, so it’s very important for all parties to remain calm, cool, and collected. Anger and other emotions may arise, but try to remind yourself and your family that this will not lead to progress, just a repetition of the past. If someone throughout the discussion becomes belligerent, it’s best at that point to stop and resume the talk at another time. A screaming match will get you and your family nowhere fast.


For a beneficial experience, try meeting in a small group on neutral territory. This will allow you to express yourself without feeling ganged up on or attacked. There’s no need to share your feelings with 15 of your closest relatives, tell the people that matter most such as a spouse, parents, or children. Try your best to remain calm and avoid becoming hysterical or overly emotional. Your family only has your best interest in mind, contrary to what you may believe. If you are firm about your decision to begin drinking again in moderation, stick to what you think is going to make you happiest and your life the most productive.


Believe In Yourself

Regardless of how your family feels, it’s important for you to believe in your ability to change your life for the better. If you feel like you have made significant changes in your life, remind your family of these successes. Overcoming a drinking problem was your first success and you can prove to them that drinking in moderation can be another achievement for you. In the past, you may have used a bad day or a traumatic experience as an excuse to consume alcohol but, by now, you have a better understanding of how to react and behave- regardless of the circumstances. By taking responsibility for your actions and focusing on goals and future success, you can have the life you want and even repair relationships with family that may have been damaged in the past.


Sobell, L.C., Cunningham, J.A., & Sobell, M.B. (1996). Recovery from alcohol problems with and without treatment: prevalence in two population surveys. American Journal of Public Health, 86(7), 966-972.


I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don't hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.

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