In most recovery programs, total abstinence is advocated. Is there another way, however? Is it possible for the alcoholic to drink moderately? Is it possible for the heroin addict to use heroin moderately? You may see how ridiculous that sounds.
In other areas of life, many people say that everything is fine in moderation. However, I would argue that this is not the case. While many people are advocating moderation management in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction, I believe moderation doesn’t work.
It should be noted that moderation management is only ever taught with alcoholics. No one believes you can moderately use heroin or crystal meth and still live a normal life. But the problem with “moderate drinking” is that for the alcoholic, having a beer a week will be fine until something stressful happens that would cause a relapse. The abstinent alcoholic will be forced to find some other way to cope with the stress. However, the “moderate drinker” may feel that because he or she is already drinking, it’s okay to just get drunk. It’s easy to fall back into the habit of drinking every day.
For a person who has no successful history of being a moderate drinker, moderation is extremely difficult to master. Having the self-discipline to stop at one drink is even more difficult than having the self-discipline to not drink at all.
There are many different opinions on the effectiveness of moderation management. Still, many addiction specialists continue to argue against moderation management. Studies have shown that programs that require abstinence see a much larger success rate in alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery. There is a reason 12-step programs are so popular. They work.
On the other hand, some people in 12-step programs do take it to the extreme, refusing wine at communion at church or refusing to use mouthwash that contains alcohol. Some people will refuse medications that would otherwise be helpful. While this is necessary for some, there is a difference between having a sip of wine at communion and having a beer once a week. You are not likely to slip and relapse because of communion wine or mouthwash.
Some people argue that 12-step programs are not for everyone, and this is true. You should find the recovery program that works for you. However, that program should almost certainly include abstinence from drugs and alcohol.