Some think alcoholics can learn to drink moderately. Agree?


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I guess it's a common school of thought in certain countries.

I think it's baloney.

But what do you think? Do you think your alcoholic loved one can learn to drink safely, under the limit, and have a good life?

I sure wouldn't want an alcoholic I loved to be seeing anyone who believed this. It is sort of like learning how to smoke moderately. If your body is addicted to a substance, how can you just do it when you want to do it and safely?

But I'm open to opinions as I have never known anyone closely who is an alcoholic unless 36 is (which is possible as in functional one) and that makes me not that knowledgeable. He has often said, "With my anxiety disorder, no way can I try to quit drinking or chewing."

Does this mean you can learn to smoke cigarettes moderately or shoot heroin moderately? If it's different, HOW is alcohol different and why? This kind of scares me. Say 36 IS an alcoholic and goes for help and some doctor says, "Oh, you can learn just not to drink every night. You can learn to only drink twice a week." I don't believe that would help him or that he could do it. But it's a license to keep on drinking, which can eventually kill you. However, this may just be MY fear as a non-drinker.

I am more apt to think that alcoholics can learn to be more sneaky about being drunk, but don't quote me there either.


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I cant say about alcohol but I can tell you about smoking. If you quit, there is no going back to saying...oh, well I will just have one every once in a while. No way.

I quit for 6 years and then one day I held a friends cigarette for them at work. I decided I was very stressed that day and one puff certainly couldnt hurt. Well...within two weeks I was back to smoking 2 packs a day and I havent been able to stop again for nothing.


Active Member
Just my opinion... an alcoholic is a person who recognizes they have a problem limiting their alcohol consumption therefore they attend meetings and attempt to abstain from drinking completely. Yes occasionally they will slip up and drink but they are usually in an AA meeting the next day; upset with themselves because they are back to day 1 on their recovery again.

My old neighbor "P" asked me one time if I thought she was an alcoholic? My response was "not as long as you are drinking all day every day, you are just a drunk"

Me it was cocaine doesn't matter that it has been almost 20 years since my last slip, I will always be a coke addict for the rest of my life... some thinking 20 years (no longer an addict) but I had 9 years clean before that slip, and yes I was back at NA the next day and working the program. I also can't ever be around coke or anyone using coke.

Just my opinion take what you can use and disregard the rest.



one day at a time
SO (in recovery for the past 7 years) says absolutely not.

He says anybody who does this is flirting with disaster.


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It surprised me that it is common to think you can go from alcoholism to sensible drinking in certain countries. I don't know which countries. I would not want to be an alcoholic there. JMO.


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I agree with you MWM. There is a group called Moderation Management that promotes people with drinking problems learning to drink moderately. I remember reading about how their founder was driving drunk one night, went the wrong way down the interstate and killed a father and son.

To me, not having any control over alcohol is what makes a person an alcoholic. The only power an alcoholic has is whether or not to pick up that first drink; after that, the old "lizard brain" takes over and it's not a matter of rational choice. To try to control that is most likely impossible; at the very least, the tremendous work and analysis involved makes having a drink far from relaxing.


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I had a friend who was an alcoholic. She lost her job, husband and home as a result of her drinking. She went into rehab and stopped drinking for a while. She had four sons. They were aged between 10 and 16 when she tried drinking again 'moderately' to get her over a difficult time. She had a stroke and died at the age of 49. She had no control over her alcohol intake and didn't know the meaning of 'moderately'. She just drank herself to death, literally. I don't know the definitive answer to your question MWM, I can only share my own experience of this.


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I seriously hope this fad mindset (in my opinion) never crosses the pond. I can only imagine our alcoholic adult children saying, "I CAN DRINK NORMALLY NOW!" while their livers turn to rot. To me it is a scary concept. If your body is addicted to a certain can't take it or it will suck you right back in again. That's not just alcohol. That's cigarettes (thank you, Janet), drugs or any kind of a compulsive behavior. Why would anyone choose to "teach" an alcoholic to drink at all?

In my mommy heart, I have a feeling 36 is a functional alcoholic. That means he is not falling down drunk, can work, can be a dad, can do a good job at work, then come home and drink just enough to blur the day, every day. If he is at home it is rare not to see him holding a beer. Now if he is going to drive, he far. He's been in a few car accidents and has never tested in the DUI range. But that doesn't mean he isn't addicted to alcohol. He himself will say he needs to drink at night to forget about his troubles. Along with the horrible habit of chewing, which he wants to break, but never can, I really worry about how he is compromising his health. Chewing is worse than smoking cigarettes (shudder).


one day at a time
n my mommy heart, I have a feeling 36 is a functional alcoholic. That means he is not falling down drunk, can work, can be a dad, can do a good job at work, then come home and drink just enough to blur the day, every day.

That is what my ex-husband was, MWM. A very highly functioning alcoholic. Until he wasn't. Since it's a progressive disease, you can't hold it constant. It's going to progress.

For years and years and years, he could drink and walk away---publicly. Evidently he was doing a lot of secret drinking, secret even from me.

We could go out with friends, and he could drink two or three scotch and waters (and he would be a LOT nicer) and not even be tipsy. I thought that was a good thing (lol).

Then, one day, he showed up at the credit union to meet with me and sign papers for a car loan. He was drunk and acted weird in front of the loan officer. When we walked out to the parking lot, I said: Are you drunk?

Of course he said no. That was the beginning of the unraveling of our marriage.

He had been hard to live with for years. I thought he was just hard to live with. It was alcoholism.

The sad thing is it affects so much more than the body. It affects everything.

My ex husband was a good dad, but he could have been a lot better dad had he not had alcohol as his first priority in his life.

I believe he hated himself and was ashamed at the lies and hiding and sneaking around to drink. A person who hates himself is an unhappy person and that permeates everything---every relationship.

Addiction is so insidious. It seeps into the pores of every single thing and corrupts it.

Any of us could be "allergic" to substances. Today, I have more compassion for those who are, and their lifelong struggles. My exhusband has remarried, doesn't drink as far as I know, and is better. I don't know how much better or worse, but I hope he is much better. He was always a good person in the grip of a terrible disease.

I hope 36 one day will stop drinking. His life would be so much better. But of course, that is up to him. He certainly won't do it unless he absolutely HAS to.

Warm hugs for you, my friend. GG! :watermelon:


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COM, I appreciate your hugs. I have no idea how long 36 has been drinking because he didn't do it while at home. When we made him leave, we searched his totally trashed room and found disgusting things such as urine filled containers (guess he was too lazy to walk to the bathroom????) and porn on this computer (some of it not normal porn, so to speak), but no beer bottles. Now he never doesn't have booze around and he acts pretty not drunk while drinking, at least at first. And he rarely gets so bad he passes out (saves that for "special occasions). The chewing scares me as much as the alcohol because it is so deadly. THat pure nicotine in every crevice of your being. And he has no pain tolerance so quitting anything he needs will be really hard for him.

I wish I could think his behavior is due strictly to drinking, but I think it is the other way around...he started drinking because he is uncomfortable in his skin and keeps doing it now because he needs it, like the chewing. It doesn't matter why. He'd be better off quitting, but since he admits he's addicted to chew, he claims he is just a moderate drinker, not an alcoholic and I can't prove it and, if I could prove it, so what? I can't stop it.

I always felt my family was a bunch of dry drunks. Nobody drank, really, but they acted like they did. Then my sister started drinking and she gets herself into more jams because of it, but, of course, she has no problem and maybe she doesn't. But she still gets into trouble when she drinks.

When I go to Al-Anon I feel like I fit right in, even though I can't prove I know any alcoholics. In my heart I know I have at least one in my life and that if anyone in my family of origin had drunk at all, they'd all be addicted, including me.

COM, again, appreciate another very thoughtful, helfpul post. I'm so glad we gained you as a member here.


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Hmmmm My mom smoked for 50+ years and then had to spend some time in a smoke free hospital and supposedly quit. She lived in another state and never told us she was smoking again, she wanted us to believe she quit. I was suspicsious she was smoking because it sounded like she was when I talked to her on the phone BUT I never said a thing, because when we went to visit there were no traces and when she came to visit me for a couple of weeks at a time she did not smoke..... so she did cut way down and I figured that was a good thing. A few years later she got pneumonia and was in the hospital and my bro talked to the doctor who told her she had to quit smoking! So although she probably did not smoke moderately she did cut way back so that she could not smoke for a couple of weeks at a time. After she got sick that time she did finally quit completely.

So I suspect some alcoholics can cut down on their intake although I certainly have my doubts. There are alcoholics who say dont drink during the week but keep it to the weekends.... so it may differ some. And certainly there are those who are functional alcoholics....

But yeah in general I think this idea that you can drink moderately is for the birds!

My worry is that my difficult child thinks he cant do drugs but that he can drink..... to me there is really no difference. Substance abuse is substance abuse.


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Nope! I don't believe that for one little minute! A true alcoholic can NEVER go back to drinking moderately ... that's the definition of the word "alcoholic". They are addicted to alcohol and when they are drinking, they have no control over their alcohol consumption.

I grew up around alcoholics - my father, my brother, and twenty years with an alcoholic husband. They were all "functional" alcoholics in that they could manage to not show up for work under the influence and made a good show of it but all three (and their families) have been severely affected by their drinking. All three would have strongly denied being an alcoholic. And NONE of them could have ever re-made themselves in to a moderate social drinker. Never! No way! No way, the same way that I could never turn myself in to a moderate, occasional smoker - it's all or nothing! I could maybe cut way down for a day or so, even stop, but once I had that first one, I'd be right back in to it full out.

My father drank all the time but sometimes would go on binges where he got worse and some of my worst childhood memories that still haunt me are when my father was drunk at family gatherings and made a scene. I know his drinking affected his health and shortened his life. My older brother drinks a lot, all the time. And now in retirement he has turned into a virtual hermit, doesn't go anywhere, doesn't do anything, just sits in his recliner in front of the TV with a beer in his hand. In both cases, both my mother and my sister in law were enablers, downplaying and minimizing the drinking so as not to rock the boat.

My ex was the worst though. To him, nothing is more important than his drinking. And it's cost him everything he ever professed to care about - his marriage, his children, his family, his friends, his job, his home, his health, his self respect - and he STILL insists that he is not an alcoholic! Yeah, right! He has a beautiful little five year old grandson that he has never even met because his daughter won't allow him anywhere near him, for very good reason! Over the years I've heard it all ... he could quit any time he wanted to, it was not the drinking but the principal of the thing, he's an adult, he can do as he pleases, and on and on. On the few occasions that he claimed to have stopped, we found out he had been lying about it. He's been hospitalized because of his drinking and he's spent time in jail because of his drinking, he's lost everything good he ever had because of the drinking. And he still claims that he drinks because he wants to, not because he has to, and that he can quit any time he wants to ... he just doesn't want to! For a true alcoholic like he is, there is NO WAY he could ever go back to drinking only occasionally or to be just a social drinker. Just one drink and he would be right back in it again. I think that's what the word "alcoholic" means.