Ask an Expert: Is It Possible for Me to Drink Moderately?

By Rita Milios 02/19/15

Today's question is on whether a former addict is able to drink socially.


I have been really conflicted for the past two years. I got into cocaine about 10 years ago. It started off fun and then progressed. Drinking has always accompanied my use. I indulge in anything that gives me momentary happiness. I've never really known how to moderate. Typically, I have to burn out in order to stop. I believe that's what happened two years ago when I entered an outpatient rehab. I was becoming increasingly paranoid and I was terrified. I was happy to discover that once I quit the drugs, the paranoia went away. Needing to give up the drugs was obvious; however, the idea that I could not drink socially left me very conflicted.

I stayed sober for a while and then started drinking again, only to end up doing coke on a regular basis and ending up putting myself in risky sexual situations. I scared myself enough to enter a 28 day rehab. I stayed sober for about 5 months. I got bored. I now drink moderately and I have slipped into doing coke every once in a while.  I've been completely sober for the past 10 days. I would like to have periods of sobriety and periods of social drinking.  Is this delusional of me to think that I can drink moderately?

A part of me feels that my actions were just apart of my young age. I feel like I have become much more responsible. I have a good job, I work out, I try and live a mostly healthy lifestyle, and I'm trying to develop healthy relationships with my family and friends. Having been in recovery and a treatment facility, I feel very guilty wanting to drink socially (not very often).  I do not know if I'm in denial. - Said.


Rita Milios:  You are certainly not alone in feeling resistant to the idea of having to remain completely abstinent from alcohol for the rest of your life. This kind of denial of a previously rewarding behavior sets up a competition between your logical, thinking brain and your inner subconscious mind. Your inner self is resistant to accepting the idea that deprivation will be your constant companion. You need to first re-train your inner mind that it is not really deprivation you are embracing, but rather a more balanced, healthy and life-enhancing (vs. self-destructive) mindset. If you can realign both your inner and outer mind parts so that they no longer feel in competition with regard to your intentions, you will be off to a good start.

You mention some positive new habits that you are working on establishing….a healthier lifestyle, healthy relationships. Continue reinforcing these and add more such positive habits; and with diligence, honesty (with yourself and others) and commitment, you may just be able to pull off what you desire…to obtain what is called “moderation management” in regards to drinking. (Note this method is for drinking only….not other drugs …so yes, you will need to give those up.)

Moderation Management is not for everyone. It requires that you monitor yourself and be responsible and dedicated about making sensible choices. According to the website,, “ Moderation Management (MM) is a behavioral change program and national support group network for people concerned about their drinking and who desire to make positive lifestyle changes. MM empowers individuals to accept personal responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path, whether moderation or abstinence. MM promotes early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, when moderate drinking is a more easily achievable goal. MM is run by lay members who came to the organization to resolve personal issues and stayed to help others.”

The MM website offers an online forum, online alcohol-drinking limit guidelines, and an online calendar where users can report their drinking. There is a book about MM that can be ordered from the website. Face-to-face meetings also take place in certain geographic areas; a listing of in-person meetings can be found on the website as well.

There is some research that suggests that MM is helpful for reducing both overall drinking behavior and problems associated with drinking. You can read about one such study, in Psychology Today’s online blog “All About Addiction” (March 9, 2011). You can also find information about MM at the government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) website.

These are excellent resources for you, should you decide to go this route. But the bottom line is that you are the most relevant factor in determining your success or failure. If you take responsibility for your choices and use the tools that are available to you, you could attain your goal. But be aware of the slippery slope of habit and the risk of  “inch by inch” returning to old patterns. You must be diligent and determined in order to overcome these risks…yet it is possible.

Good luck. Feel free to report back regarding your results.



Rita Milios, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice, author of more than 30 books, and frequent professional lecturer and on-camera expert. She also facilitates workshops and training for clinicians, therapists, writers, holistic practitioners, businesses and associations. She is known as "The Mind Mentor" because of her unique approach to “mind tools training.”    Full Bio.

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