Whether you are in recovery, considering recovery, or concerned about a loved one with a substance abuse issue you may be wondering if abstaining from drugs and alcohol has to be permanent. After time can a drug addict or alcoholic use moderately? Can they just have some champagne at a wedding? Can they just do heroin on the weekends?
Evidence indicates that total abstinence is the most likely route to recovery. If someone relapses, which means take drugs or drink after a time of sobriety, it is possible they can find their way back to recovery. It is also possible that the relapse will lead to serious consequences which unfortunately can include death. One may ask themselves if death is a risk of moderation, is that one drink or drug worth it. Only someone who has experience as a drug addict or alcoholic could understand how anyone could take that risk.
Moderation is one possible avenue in recovery. There is data to support the claim that moderation can work for alcohol abusers rather than alcoholics or drug addicts. Moderation programs can be successful for individuals who have not crossed the line into alcoholism or drug addiction. If you have crossed the line to alcoholism or drug addiction, moderation is off the table as a possibility.
Drugs and alcohol have a significant impact on brain function. With substance abuse often comes mental health issues, as well. Brain scans of individuals with increasing periods of abstinence show brain functioning returning to normal after a time. Moderation would not allow this brain shift to occur.
You may wonder if abstinence has to be permanent. What about toasting on your wedding day? What if someone dies? What if you lose your job and just need a little something to get you through? These are all great questions to ask yourself. Thinking through possible scenarios where you know you’d be more likely to want to drink or use can help you set up safety nets to navigate sober living.
One way to approach abstinence is that it’s just for today. Instead of worrying about all the scenarios in the future that could elicit a craving, be in the present moment. Ask yourself simply if you can commit to abstinence today. Simply take it one day at a time.
Abstinence is the proven way to maintain optimal health of mind, body, and spirit in recovery. Addiction is a chronic, progressive, and fatal disease. In order to preserve life, patients at Castle Craig learn to preserve their sobriety. Our proven success rates stand as testimony to the quality residential treatment programmes we have provided to over 10,000 patients for more than 25 years. Call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3731. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | September 5, 2017