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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.