• Nicole Arzt

Alcoholism and Recovery: Exploring The Shame Associated With Controlled Drinking

It’s no secret that America has a complicated relationship with drinking, and national alcohol-related statistics tell a compelling story.


Over 86% of Americans report that they have consumed alcohol at some point in their lifetimes. Nearly 6% of adults meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, but only a small fraction of those individuals struggling actually receive appropriate treatment. More than 1 in 10 children live in a household where a parent has alcohol problems. Finally, alcohol is responsible for a whopping 88,000 deaths each year, and it accounts for 31% of all driving fatalities.


With all this talk on alcoholism, many experts still struggle to pinpoint and define a healthy concept of recovery. Is abstinence the only approach? Can controlled drinking work? And how do we continue raising awareness to cut through the shame impacting so many lives?


What Is Controlled Drinking (And Is It Effective?)


Before you accept your alcohol problem, you may feel defeated, scared, defensive, and angry over your drinking. Maybe a loved one has suggested cutting back. Perhaps, you’ve experienced some difficult consequences like relationship problems, health scares, work issues, or even a DUI as a result of your consumption.


Chances are, you’ve probably already tried to moderate your drinking. For example, maybe you’ve attempted to switch from drinking hard liquor to only drinking beer or wine. Maybe you’re determined to only drink on certain days of the week, or you’ve decided to only drink a set number of drinks per night.


Maybe these efforts have worked. Maybe they’ve worked for awhile, but now you are struggling again. Perhaps, you’ve attended an AA meeting or two, and you’re now wondering if you’re supposed to give up drinking altogether.


Successful controlled drinking is a method that entails a harm reduction approach to alcohol consumption. Proponents of controlled drinking advocate that this method teaches people how to manage their vices without needing to believe that they are eternally sick or damaged. These proponents also argue that abstinence is too restrictive. They suggest that most people do not wish to completely stop drinking, and that it is better to focus efforts on safety rather than shaming them for continuing to drink.

How Does Controlled Drinking Compare To Abstinence?


Controlled drinking takes a very different approach to abstinence. For one, it’s a significantly more subjective angle on drinking. People have more control to choose how they integrate alcohol into their lives. They can engage in a trial-and-error process to figure out what works best for them.


Of course, this method has its setbacks. Addiction can be incredibly complicated. It’s easy to rationalize or minimize your drinking- even if it’s not intentional. It can also be easy to set specific limits- only to sidestep them when things become stressful.


Abstinence, on the other hand, is a strict, black-and-white approach. You completely avoid alcohol. There is no room for error. This, of course, makes matters incredibly simple. You don’t have to “guess” if you’re in recovery. You don’t have to worry about how many drinks you should have- or when you can have them. However, if you do relapse, you may continue spiraling out under the pretense that you’ve already messed up.


What About The Shame Associated With Controlled Drinking?


Controlled drinking can invariably trigger shame. You may worry about others judging you for your decision, and some people may even make snide comments.


Unfortunately, all problems with alcohol can trigger shame. Shame is often the undertone of all substance problems. It’s often what keeps people continuing to drink in the first place! Moreover, the shame can make it incredibly challenging to reach out for help.


That’s why support is so essential during this time. You need to feel like you have a solid tribe that can respect your decision, hold you accountable, and offers you guidance and compassion if you do struggle. Your support should ideally consist of a mix of peers and professionals. In early recovery, working with a therapist, life coach, or doctor should be a key part of your treatment process.


Final Thoughts


Whether you commit to abstinence, controlled drinking, or something else, we don’t believe that problems with alcohol should be treated with a single, one-size-fits-all approach. We believe in individualized care that honors your unique strengths and needs.


At The Resurface Group, we’re doing things differently. And we want you to join us in changing the way we treat addiction and mental health. Contact us today to get started!


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