Moderation: Various Shades of Heinous

From my inbox:

WildMustang (day 54): “Belle, I need to hear what people say about moderation. Why isn’t it worth trying? In your audio from Sunday you said people tell you all the time it’s not worth it. I need to hear more of that. Can you send me something or a blurb from what these folks say. Thanks.”

from me: 

~ The ideas of moderation may float into your head from time to time, especially if you’re distancing yourself from the sober blogs etc. And maybe it’s not that you CAN’T moderate, maybe it’s that it fucking sucks to moderate. It’s brutally hard, and not terribly enjoyable, and usually deteriorates into over-drinking quickly. Me, I drank to be numb, *not* to have a glass of wine with dinner (no matter what I said, this is the truth). The only freedom I know from the feeling of wanting to drink, is a continuous and longer period of sobriety. It really does start to feel much better after the first 100 days. By the time you’re at 6 months sober you’ll literally be a completely new human. Then at one year sober, your head will fly off with how free you feel and you’ll wonder why anyone would ever drink, ever…That shit is poison … Look how it ruins so many people’s lives …

 ~ and this from Matt S (day 12): “Every time I get here I start thinking about moderation also. It is such a mirage, such a myth. It’s like when you are in a fancy store and you wonder aloud how much something is because the price isn’t marked and your friend tells you ‘If you have to ask it means you can’t afford it’…. Moderation is the same way, if you find yourself thinking about it, it means you can’t do it.”

I have a few posts with some ideas:




~ AND FINALLY FROM ME: the part about moderation ideas that I really hate, is when I hear that someone’s “I’ll just have a glass” turned into 2 years of trying to get a new day 1 again… from ‘this’ side of the screen, the stories are always various shades of heinous.


Happy Day 50 to JustHadToHaveIt!

Happy Day 50 to phoenix!

Happy Day 50 to MScarlett!

Happy Day 50 to Bruce!

Happy Day 50 to BC!

Happy Day 50 to fowligirl!

Happy Day 50 to AM!

Happy Day 50 to Laure!

Happy Day 50 to Del!

Happy Day 50 to SurferChick!

Happy Day 50 to Moss!

Happy Day 50 to unsmashed!

Happy Day 50 to EileenH!

Happy Day 50 to ParisienneKnitter!

Happy Day 50 to James!

Happy Day 50 to Paulette!

Happy Day 50 to Mercedes!

Happy Day 100 to SadieGrace!

Happy Day 100 to Staying Present!

Happy Day 100 to Embur!

Happy Day 100 to Missy Gal!

Happy Day 100 to Pasquale!

Happy Day 100 to Smokey!

Happy Day 100 to Kimmy!

Happy Day 100 to Mastiffmom!

Happy Day 100 to Tracky!

Happy Day 100 to Heike!

Happy Day 180 to Tammy!

Happy Day 180 to Jz!

Happy Day 180 to TheFace!

Happy Day 180 to Wanting to be a Sober Mom!

Happy Day 180 to Gail!

Happy Day 200 to Josh!

Happy Day 200 to TheFun4!

Happy Day 200 to Laurel!

Happy Day 200 to Hazeleyes!

Happy Day 200 to Tim!

Happy Day 400 to KT!



I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • “The only freedom I know from the feeling of wanting to drink, is a continuous and longer period of sobriety.” Yup. That increasingly *reliably present* freedom from wanting to drink has been my saving grace during those mental battles. LOVE this, Belle. 🙂

  • If moderation was an option you wouldn’t be thinking about it you’d be doing it.

    Honestly talk to someone who is a normal drinker or someone who you know had a problem with something, whether eating, drinking, gambling, sex, shopping… etc. but who now is “ok”… They’ll say something like “One day I realised it was taking me over. So I cut back. It was hard for a little while but soon I was ok about it. I’ve never had to think about it again.”

    That is the key to me. I tried it… I tried it so many times. In fact probably at least every other day for at least 10 years of my drinking. “Today I’ll not drink as much”.

    There is a quote in the AA big book in the chapter More About Alcoholism which to paraphrase and summarise says something like. “At some point we crossed a line with our drinking. Once over that line we can never moderate again or drink normally. Once we start we invariably cannot stop and drink too much. We are like a man who has lost his legs we cannot grow new ones”… When I read that in rehab I got it… all my attempts at moderation were futile. I had crossed that line and lost my drink legs, I’d never regain them.

    If you are trying moderation and it is not working on a consistent basis – i.e. you know that you will break your rules and your limits sooner or later and repeatedly my advice to you as someone who has been there is simple. Find a route to stopping totally and then a route to staying stopped.

    Thought provoking post as ever…

    • thanks for this, i love it when you share here 😉 i understand that AA talks about ‘the line’ … but for me, this engenders the thinking like “have i crossed that line yet? maybe i can drink a bit more before i have to quit.”

      my focus is more on “don’t drink and you feel better.” no matter where the line is, no matter what side of the line you’re on. it’s just not worth the consequences. and our brains are emptier and our lives easier without booze.


      • I don’t disagree – I wish I’d wised up 20 years before I did, I wasted the best years of my life to booze. I still think if someone is having a debate in their head about moderation – they’ve already crossed some line

      • agreed 🙂 and for me, I knew that booze spoke to me, from right when I started to drink. I knew I drank differently than other people did. from the beginning. I asked myself variations on the moderation question then for the next 25 years. and then I quit. I wish I’d listened to my “this probably isn’t a good idea” voice a lot sooner.

      • Looking back I drank abnormally from the word go – denied it for years but me and alcohol were never meant to be good bedfellows.

      • I completely agree, Belle! The simplicity and straightforwardness of “don’t drink and you feel better” has made all the difference for me.

  • TOO MUCH WORK! One is not enough, a thousand are too many! You can turn a cucumber into a pickle, but you can NOT turn a pickle into a cucumber!

    IF you are truly alcoholic, and have crossed that line …….. there is no going back to moderation.

    Wolfie’s got the door cracked … don’t let ‘im in with the first drink.

  • Amazing blog and replies. Thank you to all of us out there in this community. Heading towards day 180 at the moment, and couldn’t do it without posts and blod replies like this.

    It’s so true that if you have to think about moderating then it’s a sign that you can’t do it! If you could, you wouldn’t think about it! It does seem simple, but I also know how when deep in the grip of Wolfie it can seem a lot less simple.

    Crispy x

  • Heinous, indeed . . . that moderation has ever worked for me over time. Spot on, Belle: Your statement of “I’ll just have one glass ” that then turns into struggling for two years to achieve a Day 1 again.

    That’s exactly what happened to me this most recent two-year bout with Wolfie after four or five years with perhaps 5 or 6 total drinking days–not entirely “sober” but drank maybe once or twice a year for that period–enough to know that life was pretty f-ing peaceful during that span.

    Today is, I think Day 33 for me (losing track, for me, is a good thing as it means I’m moving on from the constant “thinking about drinking”–or not– in some form or another), and I’d be lying if I said that over this past month I haven’t thought on a few occasions that maybe just one would be okay.

    Well . . . this time I think I really get it. Moderation is not an option for me–ever. For me, just saying no to alcohol works much much better all the way around.

    You’re one in a million, Belle! Thank you for letting me and so many others know that we are not alone on our path to freedom.

    ~Sober Zelda

  • Love the comment about asking about the price of the item in the store!!! I look at moderation this way: I find one or two regular drinks boring and unsatisfying (always did, even when I was young). This is because when I drank just a little, I always felt tired and woozy. To actually like the feeling of alcohol, I had to get pretty buzzed or drunk. So the choice for me is tired and woozy, or sickening hangovers full of regret. Not fun!!! All that said at 7.5 months sometimes I’m curious about drinking again, will it be different now? But knowing that I never really enjoyed light drinking is a pretty obvious sign. The fact is moderate drinkers like to drink moderately, don’t struggle to quit, don’t obsess over drinking, and definitely don’t find their lives on a crash course to alcoholism. As a side note, I never liked the feeling of day time drinking because it like light drinking it always made me feel woozy and tired. Once in a blue moon if I got invited to wine taste I would give it a try, and surprise, surprise the results were always the same. I know moderation would be the same! – Hana

    • I am glad people are commenting on this today – this is so timely for me because the whole moderation idea has taken hold of my brain lately.

      I almost cracked last weekend. But I didn’t.
      Since then I have been watching lots and lots of sober YouTube.

      Some people stand out from the blur of videos.

      Some made me cry: a woman who tried to hang herself after she got out of a 28 day rehab to find her husband had left her.

      Some of it was weird: a few sober dudes who talked like they had been lobotomized.

      Some made me gag: Anthony Hopkins who told the interviewer he regretted nothing about his battle with alcohol because it made him the extraordinary, superlative, peerless, fucking genius he is to this day (gag!).

      But you know who shocked me with his kind of funny but really sad talk about moderation after sobriety? Robin Williams. (Personally, I am not a Robin Williams fan one way or the other, I don’t go to movies.) An interviewer asked Robin Williams why he started drinking after 20 years sober only to wind up in rehab all over again. And Robin said “One day I thought, sure I can have a drink or two and be fine…I might as well have thought, sure I can jump off this ten-story building and be fine.”

      Shades of Heinous

  • I was just thinking and talking about moderation this morning. I went through the entire rationale in favor of moderation.

    I read the post by Belle and the reply by Lola and I thought that really, if I am supposed to take care of myself then I should be making nicer meals for me. What better way to do that than to have a nice glass of wine while cooking said meal? I would not have any wine with dinner, just while cooking.

    Then I thought, I should just do the 100-days and then I can moderate. To be sure I stay moderating I could do Dry July and Dry January every year – Perfect.

    Then I thought…etc. etc. – you get the idea.

    I am on day 38 and it is a struggle. So logically why do I think I can moderate? Obviously, it is the Werewolf who is instigating this train of thought. But the Werewolf’s voice sound so much like my own I get confused…

    Thankfully, I have Belle’s blog and emails to remind me it is the Wolf.

  • oh Lurking you are so right. When I try moderation – controlled drinking – i spend the whole day planning out my night….When I am not drinking i stop thinking about drinking and just enjoy or even get pissed off at what comes along, but at least now i know the difference and go with the feelings….

  • Moderation is also called controlled drinking. If one has to control one’s drinking, one is not really in control. It always ends up being white knuckling it until the next drink. Will I drink just one beer or fuck it, why don’t I just open that bottle of whiskey. It always ends up being the title of this blog. I’m so damned tired about thinking about drinking all the damned time. Isn’t a relief to be past that? Why go back?

  • Thank you Belle.
    I’m at 6 months. Occasionally I think -a drink here or there should be ok…
    But my life is so much better. Clearer. Full of joy. The same life that used to feel dull, sad and unfulfilled.
    I was missing the joy. Drowning it with wine.
    Why would I want to even dull it a bit?
    Sober is definitely better. I will protect my bubble at all costs!

  • Thanks for all the comments! I’m the wild mustang who needs to be reminded of why moderation is a bad idea. I’m heading out on vacation (to Alaska) in a day and I haven’t really every tried moderation. So I was thinking about giving it a try.

    I’ve thought and thought about drinking or not drinking more in the last few days than I have in the entire 58 days. All because of this trip to Alaska. I’m happy to report, I have decided to keep going. The sober car, my little classic red mustang convertible is doing great and I have decided not to mess with it. I’m one year older than my car and if that little car can keep going so can I. I can go to Alaska and have a blast and not drink. I signed up for a 100 day challenge and I am going to make it to 100 days. Then at 100 days I can think about moderation or not. I am going to make it to 100 days. The wild north is calling and seeing it sober sounds like a good idea. To Belle and all the other peeps on this challenge with me, Thank you! – Wild Mustang

  • I’m the poster child for failed moderation attempts. The last time I tried was when I was on vacation, after getting within 20 days of my 100 day goal. I kept telling myself, “I’ll just do this till I get home…”, but of course, that didn’t happen. Once I got home, I told myself “I can do this in moderation if I just pay attention.” Same old shit. Pretty soon, the constant arguing with myself every hour of every day over if/when/how much I would drink that day made me miserable. Because in truth, when I’m drinking, I don’t want to drink moderately. I want to drink as much as I want to drink and fuck all to the problems that come with that. Now I’m back at day 50, but getting another day 1 and getting through the first 30 days was just as hard as my first attempt at sobriety. Such unnecessary self torture for something that never really delivers what you think it will. Belle and all the others are right…when wolfie starts talking moderation, just keep on walking the other way.

  • *rant alert*

    right. think of your relationship with alcohol – your addiction, your dependence, whathaveyou – as a parasite. which has been affecting every single aspect of your life for years, for the worse.

    there are various types of human parasite. some, like tapeworms, are designed to not significantly affect the lifecycle of their host. because if the host gets too sick, their food source is gone. so they can happily co-exist with the host for years. just taking their little bit of food.

    other types, like the bacteria which causes cholera, do not give a damn about their human host. without treatment they will proliferate rapidly despite the fatal consequences.

    my addiction does not just want me back. my addiction wants me dead.

    so the argument for moderation is that you ‘only’ have a tapeworm, and that it is not worth the messy and uncomfortable treatment to get rid of it.

    and even if you are right, and it isn’t cholera, why would you decide to settle for living with a tapeworm for the rest of your life?

    whichever it is, the effort of the treatment is worth it. we CAN do it. hang in there!!!

  • For me, there is no such thing as moderation and alcohol. I tried it, tried it several times. Each and every time that I thought I was ready to drink just 1 0r 2 drinks, I failed. I might have just 1 or 2, but knowing that was my plan, I would bypass wine and go straight to the hard stuff. I would mix them strong enough to make your eyes water. But then I could say I only had 1 or 2…sigh. I was just fooling myself. Moderation always, always end with me back to drinking too much on a daily basis and causing all sorts of problems. And then each time I quit, it was harder and harder to do.

    You can do this WildMustang! Keep emailing Belle and reading the sober blogs…your first 100 days will be over before you know it 🙂

  • There are numerous posts on various blogs about moderation, seems it’s a path to relapse. A friend of mine had a glass after 2 years sober and it took 8 months to get back on track. I thought I drank for enjoyment, not to get drunk, but I couldn’t stop after one or two, I had to finish the bottle and open another. I’d fall down that hole if I tried to moderate. Unless you have superpowers , I’d be very afraid to even try.

  • ‘Moderation – Various Shades of Heinous’. I love it! That could have been the strap line for my life up until 6 months ago. I truly believe that if you have to proactively think about moderating something then it’s already in control of you, ergo your attempts at moderation won’t work! If you were able to successfully moderate, you would have been doing it all along and never have got to the point that brought you here! I always drank to get drunk, not because I particularly liked the taste – the object was to get hammered, be ‘witty’, have ‘comical’ things happen on a night out that would provide hilarity for my friends, loosen up, not be shy etc etc. A couple of glasses of wine would not make that happen, therefore would be pointless to me. Time makes it so much easier, as you lose the habits and associations that you have with drinking. Various Shades of Normality becomes your new life! Stick with it WildMustang.