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Setting Goals: Moderating, Abstaining & In-between

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    sup on Scared for perm abs, nominated by Kurt

    I'm only on day 43 of my abs so I can't give a long-term perspective,
    but I have been mulling over my abs versus moderation goals. I like
    the idea of moderating and permanent abs also scares me, but I'm
    finding the vague concepts of 'like' and 'scared' aren't enough to
    make my decision. I'm keeping an open mind based on a few things:

    1. No decision is permanent. If you don't like moderating, you can
    abstain and vice versa. Even if you commit to a day, week, month or
    year, it's only a commitment to not consider it for that time. You
    don't need to abstain 'forever', but can find a timeline for
    reconsideration that is less stressful than a daily decision as you
    find in moderation.

    2. I've had to ask myself why I 'like' the idea of moderating. What
    does that mean? I'm my head, I have an image of me dancing and
    drinking, it's very fun and sounds good. Okay, now a more realistic
    image of drunk me... not social, not fun. If I'm going to moderate, it
    can't be code for "I want to get drunk" and it can't be code for "I
    want to live a tv beer commercial life." It has to mean a commitment
    to drinking moderately... maybe a few drinks a month, always with
    friends, in a social context. Aside from whether that's possible, is
    it even desirable? Knowing the risks, does that sound like any fun?
    I'm waiting for my idea of moderate drinking to solidify into
    something more realistic before making any commitment longer than a

    3. What scares me about abstaining? Really, it's that I lose my coping
    mechanism of last resort. The thought of facing down life's crises
    with no soft cushion scares me. Something terrible will eventually
    happen and I won't be able to drink and I'll just... explode and die?
    That's what it feels like. It's not rational, although yes, that will
    be a big challenge for me, but facing my problems without alcohol is
    part of moderation AND abstinence. Crisis drinking is not BTB. I need
    to learn the skills to cope better with life, whatever my choice. I
    can focus on building them and hope that they will endure. It will
    either work or not, and no prior decision is going to hold in any
    event, not without the skills to underpin them. Crises are scary and
    will always be scary. Let's face it, if I really can't cope then I'll
    break any and every rule I've made because I will always try to
    survive - just like I always have. I don't need to wait for my fear of
    crises to go away, because it never will, before I start nurturing the
    skills I need to survive and thrive in whatever else life decides to
    throw at me.


      SBRS on The Post 30 THIRTY, nominated by dld

      for those that wonder how to approach life with drinking follwing a 30, here's my suggestion:

      The basics: when you get back from your 30 sticking your toe in the water rather than diving in is the way to go. If this is about habits, maxing out 4 days a week as a goal is just going to put you back where you started. If you take the 30 and slowly phase in some drinking, say over a month after the 30, you're going to develop some good habits.

      I advise a very slow re-introduction of alcohol into your system over a month:

      Step 1: Pick a day, have one drink. Drink it like it will be the last one you get in your life. Careful which you choose and how fast you drink it. It's going to be a while until your next one.

      Step 2: Do a 7 day ABS. And go do something good for yourself that you wouldn't do otherwise like a massage. Or in my case, work on the Todo list and remember to congratulate yourself.

      Step 3: After the ABS, Repeat Step 1, but this time take 2 days, but one drink each day.

      Step 4: Repeat Step 2 and cycle weeks 2/3 for another 2 cycles.

      Depending on when you took that first drink, this should take you out to about another month.

      The endgame: It's a recipe for success. At the end of this, you have been mindful for at least 60 days.


        Pono on Acceptance, nominated by Kurt

        Just going to abs. I don't have any desire to drink. Frankly it scares me. I'm not under any illusion that just because I was able to moderate once, I am cured. Nor do I want to plan drinking, keep track of drinking, obsess over when how I will drink...It's easier just not to drink. I haven't thought about it at all until I read the list, actually. I have no illusions that I will ever be able to drink safely like normal drinkers. And I can never afford to forget that. So I will continue to keep it at an arms length in general. But I need to understand this anxiety thing and get to the core of why I have an innate belief I am not a worthy human. I have to fix that, because it's bullshit. Alc might lubricate social situations, but I don't want it to be a mandatory part of them. I don't want to end up a hermit a hermit either...but more than anything, I don't want to be a drunk. That persona I reject completely. The others I will work on.

        Acceptance is kind of my focus these days. It's as close as I can come to developing the loving compassion that CP talks about. It's at least solid ground from which some sort of new foundation can be built.

        In a word, it's not so difficult to understand the idea of "acceptance" on a cerebral level, but I find myself continually having to remind me to practice it, like taking clothes off and on trying to figure out what to wear for a big date, and finally slumping on the floor naked with a sigh...and more recently even a chuckle and a kind word or two.



          Kary May on choosing abstinence, nominated by dld

          I like that word "chose". I like the fact that I "chose" to quit striving for moderation, that perm abs was something that I chose. It didn't choose me and it wasn't chosen for me.

          That brings me to one of the reasons I finally decided to quit trying to moderate. In my year of trying to moderate here on MM and in all those years when I tried to moderate, once I started drinking, my choices were wrested from me. Alcohol took control. It was okay for a lot of years. For a lot of years, even though alcohol still had the upper hand and I was unable to drink at the levels that I wished I could, I could still function. I still worked, I still maintained relationships, and although they were tainted by my drinking, I didn't lose any family members or friends because of my drinking.

          But then, about twenty years into my drinking, in my early 40's, booze started calling in my debts. I started getting sicker and sicker after my drinking bouts and I could no longer be counted on. I'd always been a person you could count on. I looked into the future and saw a life without the people that mean the most to me in it. My kids and my grandkids. And most importantly, me. I was losing me. I was becoming more and more unrecognizable to myself every day.

          The thing is, I spent another nine years trying to hang on to alcohol. Trying to gain that control that I had never had. Finally, someone was kind enough to point out that I was getting nowhere, in fact, I was getting further and further from myself.

          Luckily, I had found MM. And in my year of trying here, I had gotten some glimpses of a person I recognized. I liked her. As a matter of fact, I loved her. She was worth giving up drinking for. She was going to be fifty years old and I owed it to her to give her a chance at another fifty years.

          So I did.

          That person was me.



            Kary May on predicting the future, nominated by dld

            THM, the thing about MM is it is going to give you plenty of experiences on which to base your decision of whether you can moderate or "need" to abs, but it's also going to give you the opportunity to decide whether you "want" to moderate or "want" to abs. There are people out there who could probably moderate (I'm not one of them) but, through their exposure to abs days here, have decided that they prefer to perm abs. They couldn't embrace that choice before because they hadn't had any long term or regular experience with absing.

            Don't try and predict your future right now. Just do the work and enjoy the ride and see where it takes you.



              RB on aiming for perfection, nominated by several people

              On January 12, 2016, I said I'd join in aiming for perfection, as it's worth having lofty goals to try to meet our highest standards. That way the least I can hope for is "pretty good."

              On reds and perfection: Ok here again with my 3rd red of the year, last night. I still believe in aiming for perfection; or, at the very least, knowing what perfection is, so that I may have it there as the standard to which I'd like to think I want to aspire. I see nothing wrong with wanting and aiming for perfection, while knowing that nothing, and no one, is ever really perfect. Perfection is the ideal, the epitome of success, the ultimate dream. Many human pursuits involve striving for perfection. In so doing, we can always achieve more: greater, farther, faster, higher, better. We can at least be "pretty good" or "good enough," as we continue to strive to do our best.

              My being here is underlain by my desire to stop doing damage to myself. I think I've gotten pretty close to turning around a very long-term, very unhealthy habit of overdrinking almost every day. I guess if anything is my basis for judging whether I'm doing ok or not it's "how am I feeling?" If I'm feeling anxious and my heart is beating too hard and too fast and my mood is in the tank and I'm sniping at my nearest and dearest, then, most likely, I'm not doing well on managing my drinking. If I'm hungover, I drank too much last night. If I don't remember bits and pieces, or all, of the evening, then I drank too much last night. I don't want to do that. I guess that's where I draw the line on whether the Red I committed was acceptable or not. How do I feel? Am I losing out on today because of what I did yesterday? That's kind of it, in a nutshell, for me.

              So, knowing that I've found, through trial and error, that the MM limits are reasonable sideboards for me, in that I feel good when I remain well within them, I consider keeping my drinking levels under those limits to be "perfection" in the Alcozone. And, although this week I'm beyond those limits and will continue to abuse them because of a social event coming up tomorrow, during which I've been planning on drinking wine, I do intend to recommit, every Sunday morning, to attaining perfection where my drinking is concerned. I'm going to just keep on trying, on a weekly basis, to attain that perfection and be happy that I'm so much healthier and so much happier than I was before I started dealing with this situation.

              Thanks for listening, everyone! And keep on making progress! And whether you aim for perfection, or simply improvement, whether you're standing in the winners' circle or just stopping the bleeding, keep on being happy and healthy and spreading joy in the world.


                bruce's "I miss the buzz"

                I will admit that there are times I find myself thinking "I miss the buzz," but I also recognize that my old way of chasing that buzz wasn't working for me. I suspect it wasn't working for you, either, or else you wouldn't be on this forum. I think this is a profound question because it gets at the crux of what so many of us are wrestling with and what led us to MM. I don't know all the answers for myself (and I think we can only answer these questions for ourselves), but here are a few random thoughts:

                I do miss the buzz, but I don't miss all the sh#t that went along with getting that buzz (hang-overs, lost passion, all the stuff that made me want to modify my drinking). You can't have one without the other. What I can do is to hold onto as many of the positives of drinking through moderation (still being able to enjoy the taste and sensation of drinking, social drinking, the warm glow of some alcohol in my system, not having the stigma of "being in recovery") while completely eliminating the aforementioned negatives of drinking.

                Growing older means things change. There's a whole lot of things I used to do that I can't do any more, and I miss them all terribly. I can stamp my feet all I want, but the fact is, things are different now, so I'd better make the best of the reality of my current situation and body. I can't keep drinking the quantities and frequency I used to experience. I just can't. So I need to get over it, and deal with it.

                I DO still get a buzz. I feel warm when I stop after 2 or 3 drinks, I feel like there's a light inside me, I feel like my problems and worries and sadness and all that other crap I feel most of the time is dulled, not like my brain is full of cotton, but like the edges have been polished and rounded, like I can let go of it for a moment and appreciate the good. And now I'm conscious of how I feel. In the past, I'd ride the express elevator to inebriation - and there would be a rush or a thrill involved - but once I was wasted, I was no longer conscious of any thrill. The elevator had reached the top floor, and maybe even started to slide back down a bit. My drinking would become a desperate - and ultimately unsuccessful - attempt to return to the feelings of a few hours ago. And then I'd wake up feeling miserable. If you look at it rationally (and I know the human mind is not always rational), the first "buzz" I described is much more preferable and sustainable than the second.

                I will admit that in the back of my mind I have the thought that once I am successfully and confidently a moderate drinker, I have not ruled out the possibility that there may be some future out-of-the-ordinary celebration or event at which I will drink more than I should. I will probably get drunk again at some point in my life. When I do, I will re-experience that buzz that my former self experienced as a daily thing. And I also suspect (and hope) that once I do, and I deal with the morning after, I'll realize I prefer the new buzz to the old one.

                I am practicing moderation precisely because I would miss the buzz if I had to remain abs, and I see that as the only other alternative. Indeed, as life and my body has changed, I have reached a point where the old way could not continue. That leaves me with the options of either drinking in moderation or not drinking at all. If moderation doesn't work, I'll have to go abs - and I would because the alternative would not be acceptable. I've done my 30, and realize that life went on and I even had moments of pleasure - moments I may have missed if I'd been numbed by drinking.


                  Astrid to a new member:

                  BTB (by the book) means drinking within the moderate drinking limits defined by the founders of this program (based on scientific research of what is healthy). At the top of the page you'll see a tab Steps of Change, and if you go there, on pg. 2 the BTB limits are defined. Briefly, though, this is what it means:

                  For Men:
                  No more than 14 drinks per week, and not more than 4 per occasion.
                  For Women
                  : Not more than 9 drinks per week, and not more than 3 per occasion.
                  For Both
                  : Do not drink on more than 3 or 4 days per week.

                  These are 'standard drinks' which is defined in the document. It is my belief that to be BTB one must also stick to the rule of not letting your BAC (blood alcohol contenet) exceed .055%. So, in other words, don't chug your 3-4 drinks within a half hour

                  Abs (abstaining) can mean for a single day, or during a 30, or permanent abstinence (perm abs). There are a lot of perm abs people here at MM.

                  This method (or program if you want to call it that) has specific reasons for doing a 30. It's discussed a bit in the Steps of Change at the top, and in more detail in the book that goes along with the program called Responsible Drinking (RD). The 30 is a time to reflect, with a clear mind, on the problems alcohol has caused you, what you think moderating will bring you, and also give you a chance to practice abstaining and figuring out what triggers tend to make you drink when you didn't plan to or tend to make you over drink. It also lowers your tolerance to alcohol, which makes moderating easier because you won't need to drink as much to feel the effects.

                  RD also highlights research showing that "large numbers of people with alcohol problems do effectively learn to moderate. Indeed moderation is actually by far the most common resolution for people with less severe problems and for people who do not undergo professional treatment."

                  Does that mean that it works for everyone who tries it? No. RD talks about this as well and how for some people abstinence is really what they are going to need to do.

                  This method has and is gaining more acceptance. Read some of the news stories on the home page of this website. But AA has been around since 1935 and has grown tremendously. And it does work for some people.


                    Kary May on What Do You Expect from Moderation?

                    I think a couple of things we have to look at is what we want drinking to bring us and will it be able to bring us that if we drink in moderation. If you drink to fit in, can you fit in with whoever you're trying to fit in with and drink within MM limits? If you drink to relax, ask the same question. If you drink for taste and because you enjoy trying new beers or wines or whiskey, can you do that and moderate?

                    Something I don't think I really sat down and thought about when I attempted moderation is that alcohol couldn't do any of the things I wanted it to do if I drank in moderation. Maybe, if I could have gotten my resistance down low enough, it could have relaxed me when I only drank 2 or three glasses of wine, but I couldn't maintain those low numbers so my resistance went up and down, and drove my body crazy. But as far as fitting in, my friends can drink, and drinking in moderation wasn't going to make me feel like I was one of the crowd, I would feel just as left out as I do when I abs. In that instant, moderation was not much different than absing. If I was drinking to escape, moderation sure wasn't going to take me away from the reality I was trying to avoid.

                    One of my favorite fantasies is of being able to drink a couple of glasses of wine at sunset, but I can't say what I want those glasses of wine to accomplish. Celebration? That could be a good reason to moderate. I do miss having a way to celebrate something special, but for me, it wouldn't be wise to start drinking to have the occasional celebratory drink. I think I'd always want it to do more.

                    Ask yourself, am I expecting moderation to do something it can't? If not, then you can work on pushing booze back over that line and keeping it there. But if you think, honestly, that you're going to have everything that you had while drinking beyond moderation limits when you moderate, and I'm talking about the things you like about drinking, not the hangovers or remorse, then you really need to look at that.


                      Cameron to someone new to MM

                      Welcome to the group. It is a great group, as you have seen. There are number of successful moderators in the group that can help with your transition to moderate drinking. The prevalent goal that I have seen in the group is for each individual to determine the optimal path for him or her, whether that be abstinence or moderation. In either case, those two options are good, while excess or alcoholic drinking is sub-optimal. I thought it interesting the words that you associate with sobriety. Social awkwardness, social stigma, burden, etc. One of the goals of getting drinking to a "small, but enjoyable part of life" is to disassociate negative feelings with sobriety. In moderation, it presupposes that there will be a variety of situations where drinking will be off the table, and ultimately, the idea is to feel equally comfortable whether abstaining or drinking. In other words, to truly enjoy the moderate life style, you will need to learn to enjoy sobriety, because sobriety is a component of the moderate life style.


                        Christy Dee, on getting a do-over:

                        “Independence Day”
                        July 4, 2020. In the midst of a pandemic and a multi-angular stressful life, my drinking was getting up there in numbers, and I went to an Independence Day party that might have been what people call a rock bottom. I had been working on cutting back for a while and made efforts for Dry January and moderation. I read books, recognizing the many facets of why decreasing my alcohol intake is important. I am not sure looking back what happened that night, but I do know that I was argumentative, rough, emotional, and in general, an ass. I said hurtful things, I was not a good friend, and blacked out for the first time. I woke up the next morning realizing I needed to apologize, but not sure exactly what for, because I couldn’t even remember what I did. Boozy parties have always been my nemesis. The next day, I signed up for a sobriety boot camp with an intention to center the imbalances in my life and release myself from this beast.

                        It’s been a year of amazing discoveries. Full of wonder, education, sitting in my emotional discomfort, learning more about my triggers, setting boundaries, and how to care for my whole self. I’ve connected with some fantastic people along the way! I have felt the pain of others, received the wisdom of coaching, and the relief of being caught by a community that cares, like a giant trust fall. I’ve done a sober funeral, birthday party, holiday celebration and vacation recently for the first time ever. It hasn’t been an easy time, but it has been incredibly valuable and I’m proud of myself and my journey, even if it hasn’t been perfect or pretty. Being here has changed my life as a person, as a supervisor at work, a student in college, and I am so incredibly grateful for the many tools I have in my toolbelt thanks to everyone here.

                        For me, Independence Day is like a Giant Day One, or a do-over. This year, I am going to the same party with the same people and a firm commitment to no drinking. I’m going to enjoy the people there because I’m fully present. I will nosh on the food and relish the flavors. I’ll be kind with my words and not pick a fight this time. While it’s true that I can’t take back the party foul from last year, it is true that I can move forward from it and keep a commitment to myself that I will be a better person and friend at the next one. I’m excited to show off my sober skills, actually. July 4, 2021, marks the end of a year of healing, hard work, and healthier behaviors. It’s the kick-off of another year of upward trajectory. It’s my personal “Independence from Alcohol Day,” and I am able to be free from the beast that has held me back. I am free! It is my wish and hope that in your personal journeys, you can find your own independence and freedom from what binds you and holds you back, and that you get a do-over if you need one.

                        ~ Creating a life I don't need to escape from ~