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Understanding drinking in moderation

A bit of a warning

Many people love the idea of moderation. Who wouldn’t like being able to say ‘no’ after one drink and still feel like a part of social life, where alcohol is so ingrained? But after trying various tactics, many swear that moderating doesn’t work. And that’s okay! Alcohol dependency is a serious topic that should be handled with sensitivity and care. As we are taking a closer look at moderation for this week’s blog, we would like to give a heads-up for those who don’t find it works for them. If this is you, we suggest giving this blog a miss. 

Suppose you have people around you who may be interested in moderation, reading or sharing this article might be helpful to support those whom you love. Either way, both abstinence and moderation are attempts to have a healthier relationship with alcohol. At Hello Sunday Morning, we fully support your decision without judgement – what works for one person might not be the same for another. 

For the rest of us who are on the first stage of trying to give alcohol a break, you might fall into the category of ‘trying to cut back’ rather than trying to quit everything right away. It can be a lonely and challenging journey, so here’s an article that we’re hoping will give an insight on what it looks like to moderate. We’ll be covering what it means to moderate, understanding motives behind moderation, tips that might be useful for you, and when moderation isn’t an option.

Before moving on, everyone is on their unique journey and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Our suggestion is to speak to your GP first and talk with our community on the Daybreak app, for some community support.

So, what is Moderation?

You might recall one of our recent Tips and Hacks – setting small goals to begin with might be more sustainable in changing your relationship with alcohol. There is no definite answer to what moderation looks like, and it is different from one individual to another. The most common belief about moderation is that we limit ourselves to one or two drinks. 

Although this is true, moderation does not stop here. There are many interpretations of moderate drinking. It could mean having no alcohol at home, drinking a big glass of water after you finish a glass of wine, or establishing a time limit and quantity on consuming alcohol per sitting. Choosing an alcohol-free day or weekend can also mean cutting back.

Understanding motives

There are stages in changes, and for those in the contemplation stage, the idea of moderation sounds more manageable. If alcohol is a big part of social life, the idea of cutting back can be used as a motivation to make the change. In other words, moderation could be the first step to abstinence (If you are interested to read more about stages in changes, read our previous article here).

Most people choose moderation to have both the benefit of enjoying alcohol and a hangover-free morning. For some, supporting a loved one means choosing to cut back. Limiting drinks seems manageable if it means being supportive to those whom they care about. You might recall a friend or a family member who altered their drinking behaviour around you. This could still mean an attempt to moderate drinking.

Challenges in moderation 

Just like training for a long-distance run, having small jogs and walks in between intervals could make it manageable to build endurance. But often, as those who train for running commonly express, it can feel like cheating. Of course, like most analogies, it falls short in comparing the two situations together. But the point is, for those who moderate, it can often feel like they haven’t done the heavy lifting yet and therefore, their attempt can be seen as unvalidated.

On our Instagram feed, we’ve seen celebrations for three weeks , 18 months, or two years of sobriety. Even one day of sobriety is well celebrated too. What would be the equivalent of soberversary to those who moderate? After all, stopping at one drink is a good attempt and well-deserved praise for self-control. This is an area that we honestly haven’t been able to tap into.

Some tips on moderating

Trying to moderate can be tricky as we tend to set a big goal on our first attempt. Remember, setting small and achievable goals is the key here. Alcohol can cloud our decisions. What might start out as a good intention can serve us negatively. So set a clear plan and have a person whom you trust for accountability. If you decide to have one drink at the party, perhaps being a designated driver or sticking with non-alcoholic drinks to start with might be your party tricks.

In the past, we shared a few personal stories of those who moderate, like Rob Mills and Lucy Bloom. Reading stories that are similar to ours might help inspire and motivate us. It is the connections that make the journey feel less daunting.

When moderation is not an option

Although moderation is one way of having a healthier relationship with alcohol, there are times where we’ve compromised our commitment. Ask for honest feedback from your loved ones and friends. If alcohol use starts to take control of your life, it is time to speak to your GP or a counsellor in the AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) field. Here at Hello Sunday Morning, we have extensive resources on our website, to get started. If you like, our Daybreak app might be a great place to start as we have a supportive and anonymous community. 

A high level of dependency on addictive substances including alcohol can cause damages to our body if we seek to abstain too quickly – seek medical advice for what works for you.

A healthy relationship with alcohol it’s not just about sobriety or moderation, but there is a world of difference between trying or not trying. 

If you are trying to moderate your drinking, please share your insight and tips in the comments below.


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  • Surely if you need to set strict rules around your drinking it’s gone too far. People who can moderate wouldn’t even know the word. It’s just a beverage, stop giving it so much of your energy, once you stop you won’t believe that you thought it was so important

    By Dee
    October 23, 2021
    • I don’t agree. I like drinking more than most and rather than fight that I accept it and put boundaries around my drinking. I don’t drink Mon-Thurs and a limit the amount of booze I have in the house Fri-Sun. It’s not easy but works for me. I also enjoy the discipline of this. I’m not always perfect but it gives me a goal to work with – just like goals I have with my nutrition and exercise – and I like that approach.

      By Jess W
      October 23, 2021
    • Right on Dee, if one’s habit has been to consume at least a half to one bottle of wine every day, sticking to a “dosage” of 120 mls per day is quite impossible……go easy on one’self and cut the temptation….give the poison away entirely ! It’s MUCH easier to embrace full on sobriety and the wonderful benefits…..I feel renewed going totally AF since February 1st, nearly 8 months and I highly recommend it..go on, you can do it too ! Moderation is just too hard and the truth about ingesting poison embraced.

      By Jen
      October 23, 2021
  • Thank you for this contemplation.
    I have been working on rewriting my relationship with alcohol. The community on your DayBreak app are fantastic.
    When i started out, my end goal was to be able to enjoy a cellared wine with a fine dinner occaisionally.
    The more time on DB the more relieved i am in my abstinance. 117 days AF
    Yesterday i had a glass of bubbles as a celebration with a friend. I did enjoy the moment. But am so happy to be AF now whereas before i would have kept drinking.
    I will keep focus on my AF life, with room for the occasional shared drink. The longer i find peace in AF, the less inclined i am to ever want to be drunk again

    Thank you for your app and blog. You have provided a space that helps many of us

    By Ella
    October 23, 2021
    • Ella, I agree with you! Getting drunk isn’t the end game any more, it the enjoyment of 1 or 2 at most! Thanks for putting this into words, it really resonated with me. I’ve been mostly alcohol free for over 2 years but would like to be able to enjoy a drink with friends now and then. Whereas before, I always got drunk…couldn’t stop once I started. I’d like to moderate, but I’m also scared of falling back into old habits.

      By Helen
      October 23, 2021
    • Thank you so much Ella. You have captured the thoughts of many who are seeking an alcohol free life. So glad you can still have a glass occasionally and so impressed that you can abstain. Well done you give us all hope and inspiration. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

      By Geoff
      October 24, 2021
  • I accept your interpretation of moderation in that it is a individual’s choice and everyone experiences all sorts of events in life differently . Alcohol in my opinion is not one of those things and cannot be treated as such . Alcohol is not really a addiction . It is a chemical , genetic / gene type of inbalance that cannot be corrected or cured. If only it could . Moderation might be an option for a life with or without alcohol but it is not the cure .

    By Pete Colvin
    October 23, 2021
  • I am currently working with SMART Recovery, attending meetings and working my way through their handbook. My initial goal when joining was to find my way to abstinence. As I work my way through the exercises I am finding that my attitude to both excess booze and food consumption is changing, less often over indulging and more often saying “no thank you”. Learning to step back for a moment and accepting the urge as an opportunity to make a good decision for my long term goals of optimum health and deeper connection to the things that are important to me seems to be the key. By following the path I have set out out for myself I truly believe that I will be where I need to be whether that is moderation or abstinence. Thanks for this article. Hadn’t really thought much about moderation until now.

    By Lee Ann Weigold
    October 25, 2021
  • Such a hard subject….I love a drink…it really brings the best out in me …without it such a serious dude …after a few sips I let go and feel so relaxed…how the heck can I stop that? how can I moderate laughs and being chilled ? …but deep down I know that although not a raging drunk,…I probably have two glasses too many each night…just enough to make me think …damn I gotta take abreak sometime…I know I can and I will but finding my magic workable and sustainable way is the challenge we are all here reading in search of ….

    By john paul
    October 26, 2021
  • Wonderful post. It is indeed a complicated issue and, before responding, people would do well to reread the first paragraph. For goodness sake!

    By Helena
    October 30, 2021
  • Moderation is difficult for many, I know for me that if I have 1 I might as well have a 100…. “Cancel

    I find having 1 is hard also, it’s like giving a Kid just one lollie but asking them to hold the whole packet.

    For many it’s probably easier to just say know to 1 than trying to count drinks, or stop, particularly when we get alcohol into our system.

    Everyone is on their own journey so good luck to all, I hope you achieve your goals today.

    By Ron.b
    December 11, 2021
  • I have been in awe of all those who are trying-and succeeding- in being Alcohol Free. My New Year goal was more humble. To cut back my regular drinking by half. I’m a numbers person, so decided on a generous figure of 17 drinks per week total. That works out at 3 days of 3 evening drinks, and 4 days of 2 evening drinks. So far so good, with only one “blowout” week of 20, with two birthday parties to attend.
    I feel that although it’s a huge temptation sometimes, to have another glass of wine, I’m doing ok. I have a variety of tricks and coping mechanisms! I think that I will be able to reduce the weekly total in the future to around 14 or 15. Small steps!

    By Gillian
    February 18, 2023
    • Yes I’m much the same. My goal is 16 standard drinks a week and 2 alcohol free days. No more than 4 standard drinks a day. I’m being careful to measure out the standard drinks so I’ve now got a much better sense of what a 100ml of wine looks like!! I’m keeping track of consumption each day on my phone and this is really helpful. Great sense of achievement when I tally up the week’s consumption and can confirm that the goal was met.

      By Elizabeth
      February 20, 2023
  • Hi All
    I find alternatively sipping one glass of alcohol and sipping a glass of water slowly , helps .
    It’s something for your hands to do still and I love the feeling of being in control .
    Shortening your time while socialising helped me too ; instead of 4 hours at the pub or a party, I would keep it to two.
    That way it is a short and sweet experience rather than a prolonged temptation down towards the possibility of defeat.

    By Anne
    February 19, 2023
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