Drinking in Moderation vs. Being Alcohol Free

Drinking in Moderation vs Alcohol Free  

The question of whether to aim for moderation or go completely alcohol free is a common one. Many who want to reduce their drinking ask themselves whether they could live a completely alcohol-free lifestyle. The instant thought for most people is “there’s no way I’ll ever want to do that!”. The idea of living a completely alcohol-free life can be daunting, and let’s face it, can seem impossible or way too extreme at first thought.  

At Hello Sunday Morning and within the Daybreak community, we emphasise that understanding your own personal relationship with alcohol is the key to change. No matter what approach you decide to aim for, it is important to stay open minded to change and what is working for you. Here are some answers to common questions. 

What does ‘drinking in moderation’ look like? 

Drinking in moderation is about reducing the risks associated with alcohol and monitoring your intake to be in line with the Australian National Drinking Guidelines. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s Australian Alcohol Guidelines recommend that to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for healthy men and women, drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. While there are no safe levels of alcohol use, these guidelines provide advice on how to decide how much is too much.  

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide how to stay within these limits. Being able to moderate can depend on several factors like how much you currently drink, how long you have been drinking for, the reasons why you drink, and how much alcohol is playing a part in your current lifestyle. Often, when there has been heavy drinking for a long period of time, there is a strong dependence on alcohol and keeping to a few drinks can be difficult to maintain. For people in this situation, it is much easier to aim for periods of alcohol-free time and then reassess how you’re going. 

How do I know if I can moderate? 

Although there is no surefire way of knowing if you can moderate drinking successfully, before you start making changes, there are a few things to do to prepare yourself for change.  

  1. Assess your drinking levels – It is helpful to assess your drinking before making any changes as there are a few risks with coming off alcohol too quickly. Knowing your current drinking level can help you prepare to reduce drinking safely. It can also give you an idea on whether you might need additional support to change your relationship with alcohol.   There are drinking calculators that assess your current drinking and provide advice on next steps.
  2. Try a period of alcohol-free time – Set a goal for some alcohol-free time (e.g., no drinking on weekends, or no drinking for a week or 30 days). It is important to check in with your GP before making any significant changes in your drinking behaviour. 
  3. Learn from the slip-ups Typically when people try moderating their alcohol use, they will have a few lapses where they drink more than they planned to. This can be disheartening but can also be an opportunity to learn about what worked and didn’t work. Be kind to yourself. Taking a compassionate and open-minded approach to these slip ups can help you decide if moderation is still for you, or whether you need some longer time away from the distractions of alcohol.  

Why go Alcohol-Free? 

Deciding to go alcohol-free can also be a liberating and helpful approach for many who want to change their relationship with alcohol. There are many reasons why people get to the point where they decide to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. After experiencing the benefits of staying off alcohol for a while, it can lead people to want to continue these benefits. People experience improvements in sleep, mood, cognitive functioning and energy levels, and subsequently see improvements in their work and homelife too. It can take some time before deciding if living a completely alcohol-free lifestyle is something you want to commit to. It is helpful to give yourself time to let this decision build momentum.  

No matter what approach we decide to take to changing our relationship with alcohol, it is important that we make decisions with honesty and kindness towards ourselves and others.

Everyone is at a different point along the spectrum with their alcohol use. Some people will find moderating works for them, others may not. Some people prefer a gradual approach to change, others prefer to dive right in.  

If you’d like a supportive place to explore your journey with alcohol, feel free to download the Daybreak app and link in with our online peer community. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you tried moderation or going Alcohol-Free? Leave a comment below. 



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  • After years of heavy drinking, I am trying something different. Where I would easily drink a bottle of wine each day, I am now dividing that bottle into 3 x 250mls. A bottle now lasting me 3 days. I am already feeling better when I wake up and saving more money. Also, keen to shed some kilos, so it helps me keep motivated. I must say thou that I do enjoy getting towards the end of the day & pouring that first glass of wine. It’s a start!

    By Shaza
    August 20, 2023
  • Moving to a moderated drinking plan for people who have been seriously abusing alcohol without first changing their thinking is almost certain to fail.

    Without a changed mindset putting limits on drinking just does not work and all you are doing is setting your client up to fail.

    About 50% of my clients have moved to a moderated drinking plan after undergoing our Reset My Future program and we have an 80% success rate.

    That said I always tell the client before they start their modified drinking plan that if it does not work then they will need to move to abstinence.

    By Graeme Alford
    August 20, 2023
  • I drink excessive amounts of alcohol and have tried rehab and medications. I’m still struggling and want to be either alcohol free or drink safely. A couple of days alcohol free for me is about all I seem to be able to do.

    By Marion
    August 20, 2023
  • Hi, I am currently drinking but what works for me
    for past 2 years is selected months of the year to enjoy drinking
    EG Jan – June no drinking …
    Summer drinks , quit again Sept – Dec, xmas drinks and back to January
    I don’t manage to moderate but I feel it has to benefit having so many drink free mths…. Anyone else do similar?

    By Dee
    August 20, 2023
  • I am so glad we have talked about moderation. For me it was the key. And a sustainable one. Going from four drinks per night to 4 per week. I feel stress free knowing if I feel like a drink I can have one. I think it also helped with some withdrawal symptoms I had. I have said to myself if I cannot maintain moderation then the next step is abstinence. This is a big incentive for me to stay on track. This is just my story.

    By Kathy
    August 20, 2023
  • This is really good timing for me. I did Dry July and was proud of my efforts, come Aug, bang went back to old drinking habits.
    While I can moderate on weekdays, on weekends I could easily get through 11 beers. (I was starting around midday and just pacing myself till about 10 pm) So I decided to stop till Sept and then see if I can start drinking again but in moderation.

    By G
    August 20, 2023
  • I can go alcohol free, generally it requires no alcohol between 4pm and 6 pm, the critical ‘feel like a drink time’. After that no problems avoiding alcohol. In a social setting very easy for me to slip into excessive drinking, 6 drinks between six and midnight maybe more. Easily slip back into boom and bust cycle.

    By Richard Gotch
    August 20, 2023
  • If you have an addiction to alcohol, you can’t moderate, there’s no such thing as putting a half empty bottle of wine back in the fridge for another day

    By Mark
    August 20, 2023
  • Interesting article and points. As a long term alcohol user/abuser (in recent years with successful and happy periods of complete abstinance), I know that in reality total abstinence is more successful for me (who wants to stop drinking after a few?). Also my smoking and drinking are so intrinsically tied together.

    I have Just done a month clean from all alcohol and tobacco (main aim to not smoke and leaving out alcohol came as a massive bonus)and i felt great in myself. Calmer, more present, more engaged with my daughter, clearer minded, much better physical health and more exercise, saved money the list goes on). I decided to let myself drink and smoke this weekend
    on a family and friends camping trip). I Have regretted the ill health and lower mood each morning after and am itching to get back to my healthier lifestyle). Not even sure I enjoy it like I used to, less fun and more pain and regret.

    Wanting to feel good is my key and self care the basis. A period of therapy helped me help myself go forward and feel better. Reaching 50 and wanting to mature wisely and healthily and live a more progressive and productive life and universe willing, longer and healthier life. I will always I think have an itch to use, but most of the time that itch will be left and go away by sitting with it.

    Raising a soft drink to a contented sobriety and smoke free days. One step at a time, embracing the re-discovered natural lifestyle.

    Good luck one and all

    Sam. Brighton. UK

    By Sam Germing
    August 21, 2023
  • I am probably like most people who have a problem with alcohol, incapable of being able to drink in moderation, ie, one or two drinks of an evening, with me its either all or nothing, fortunately for me in nine days time it will be three years since I last imbibed and the difference to my life is deep and profound.

    By David Charles Sier
    August 22, 2023
  • I can have periods of time being alcohol free but find moderating almost impossible. I guess this is where I struggle because as you mentioned in your blog, the thought of never drinking again feels daunting. I definitely feel better when I’m alcohol free.

    By Eve Gibson
    August 23, 2023
  • I have found moderation is hard. I have tried it, sometimes not drinking for 2 or 3 days. But as soon as I have alcohol in the house, l find it hard not to drink. I am going to try sober October, and hopefully will succeed.

    By Lynne
    September 9, 2023
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