Abstinence vs Controlled Consumption
My dad had become seriously ill in the last couple months of his cancer diagnosis. My sister and I moved him from his apartment, where he lived alone, so that we could care for him. We also took over the move and cleanup of his things from the apartment. He pulled me aside to tell me about some specific items he wanted me to take care of which included getting rid of some alcohol. While this appears to be no big deal to most, I was a bit perplexed and very surprised to learn this. My dad was a recovering alcoholic for the last 17 years of his life. He wouldn’t even use mouth wash if it had alcohol as an ingredient. While he told me his reasoning behind why he had the alcohol (which was for guest consumption, not his), I couldn’t help but wonder how he could even have alcohol in his possession. I was fully aware of his battle with alcohol addiction and I had never knew him take a single drop of alcohol in his last 17 years. In my head, I was questioning whether it would even be possible for him to try to accomplish a moderate/ social drinking pattern.
Fast forward to the present and my professional role in Public health and the addiction treatment community where I’ve been exposed to a variety of information from professional platforms to personal stories of addiction and recovery. The question of, ‘Can alcoholics ever drink again and remain in control?’ remains timeless.
He wouldn’t even use mouth wash if it had alcohol as an ingredient
A Dangerous Gamble
Critical to alcohol substance abuse treatment is setting goals. It’s important to feel like you will gain something positive and rewarding from obtaining your goals and increases motivation.
The goal of drug addiction treatment is to stop use, provide skills to maintain an addiction free lifestyle and lead a productive life.
The goal of abstinence is to completely refrain from and avoid any intake of alcohol, stay alcohol free and become a productive individual again.
These treatment goals contribute to the hotly debated topic of Abstinence vs. controlled drinking.
Many an alcoholic have tested the return to moderate or social drinking. Those who have found success with a moderation management plan were more in the realm of problem drinkers to begin with and not alcoholics. Those who quit drinking due to problems and then attempt to return to controlled or moderate drinking fail. For them, it’s simply not possible to have one or two drinks and stop and it is not a sustainable lifestyle choice.
Paracelsus, A wise old Swiss physician and alchemist during the ‘Medical Revolution’ of the 1500’s declared, “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison, the dosage alone makes it so…”
Fundamentally, this finding upholds that all chemicals (in this case alcohol) can be toxic if too much is eaten, drunk, or absorbed.
Abstinence is still the leading choice in terms of lower risk of relapse and better health outcomes. While abstinence can be challenging it’s likely less challenging than the risk of testing the waters of alcohol again.
After trial and error my dad discovered that his abstinence from alcohol was crucial to his survival. He didn’t accomplish this goal alone though. If you’re thinking about returning to alcohol after recovery please consult your counselor and/or doctor. Talk to your support group, your family, your friends. Reach out to a local treatment center. The more support you have in addressing your addiction goals the more success toward reaching them.