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Why moderation of alcohol is a myth

The Myth of Moderation

I’ve been having an eye-opening experience with Caroline Knapp’s book, “Drinking: A Love Story.” Before I get started with this train of thought, I will just say that anyone who has or has had a bad relationship with alcohol should read this book. I find myself stopping to highlight and make notes a lot while I read. Often her words sound like conversations I’ve had in my own head. “Me too,” I say.

Yesterday, I read her thoughts on moderation and the self-help trend during the 90’s that she dubs the “moderation movement.” She calls the idea that you can teach or train an alcoholic to moderate her drinking a contradiction in terms. The lack of an inability to moderate is, by definition, what makes us alcoholics. Most of us have never moderated alcohol. She writes, “The struggle to control intake – modify it, cut it back, deploy a hundred different drinking strategies in the effort – is one of the most universal hallmarks of alcoholic behavior.”

I know this behavior all too well, as did Knapp, as do probably a million folks worldwide who experience the same struggles with alcohol that we do. I chuckled a little to myself reading the various examples she gives the reader: switching from hard liquor to beer (me, except it was cider), setting time limits on drinking (ex. I won’t drink before five – also me), and my personal favorite that never worked but was suggested to me by a women’s magazine, “have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol.” The amount of mental energy I have wasted negotiating with myself on alcohol consumption, finding ways to get out of stopping and just change it up a little, is both astounding and laughable. What was I doing? Why do I STILL find myself engaging in this song and dance…

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