There might come a time in sobriety where you wrestle with the big question of recovery: “What if I choose to stop being sober?” This is an entirely different issue than relapse, where someone is tempted by intense urges that overpower their mental training. This is a time where you might wonder whether you need to maintain total abstinence or whether you might be able to enjoy alcohol or other substance use in safe, healthy moderation.
Deciding whether or not you want to maintain total sobriety isn’t a decision to take lightly. It’s something that should absolutely be thought over and carefully considered. Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but at the very least, it should be an informed decision and not an impulsive one. If you’re considering ending sobriety, learn about all of the possible paths and your motives to take them.
Depending on the patient’s treatment needs, in some cases, some practices recommend abstinence while others say moderation can be okay. Abstinence in sobriety is complete cessation of using that substance and is the most common, especially for people with heavy addiction.
Moderation is when you avoid drinking or using in excess. Instead of binge drinking, you set limits. This isn’t exactly easy for those with severe addiction, and it isn’t recommended to everyone. However, moderation could be an alternative to someone who only has a moderate addiction, and the idea of remaining abstinent forever works as a deterrent for getting help before the problem gets worse.
The truth is, moderation isn’t for anyone; in fact, it’s rarely the best approach for most people who are dealing with addiction. You are dealing with a disease, and like all diseases, it’s possible to come out of remission. You might seem fine now, but will you be able to handle just one drink in the future? Or will it become one drink, then two, then five, and then you’re dealing with a full-blown relapse?
By being honest with yourself and the people in your support system who have an outside perspective and your best interests in mind, you can adequately judge whether or not this is the best road to take.
Some people can handle having one drink, but since much of sobriety is about willpower, that willpower can go away when under the influence, and that’s where the problem starts. Addiction completely rewires your brain and how your reward centers work. Over time, some of that is repaired, but the chemistry of your brain might be altered. Not being able to drink in moderation doesn’t make you weak or less of a person, and you shouldn’t feel the need to prove yourself by breaking sobriety. This is why it’s important, to be honest with yourself and your feelings behind this decision.
When you decide whether or not you want to break sobriety, make sure you are making this important decision with a clear head. Recognize your motives. Be aware of your limits. This is the time for radical, intense honesty.
When making this important decision, ask yourself what your motivations are:
Before deciding this, keep your support system informed. Be completely transparent with them. If you feel afraid of what they’ll say, or you find yourself wanting to lie to them about your inner thoughts and feelings, evaluate why that might be. Chances are, you aren’t being honest about yourself, or you might be afraid they’ll see something that you are personally trying to ignore.
Talk to your sponsor about these thoughts and their perspective. Not everyone in 12-Step organizations has the same beliefs about sobriety as what’s typically said in those organizations. Everyone’s perspective is different. Hearing from someone who’s had those same questions can help you navigate these unexplored waters while avoiding capsizing and drowning.
Your therapist is also a great resource because they know your history of addiction, and they are aware of your behaviors and the science behind them. As a result, they can give you the best medically backed advice, and they are the best resource for an honest and accurate answer.
This type of decision is different from relapse as long as it’s not an impulsive decision. If you are genuinely thinking about ending sobriety, consider all of your options. Speak with your healthcare professional or sponsor about your current thoughts. Do the necessary research to know what to expect and look for if you commit to this choice. If you believe that you might be able to enjoy alcohol or other substance use in safe, healthy moderation, understand that this isn’t a decision to take lightly. Search deep within yourself to make sure you are making an informed decision. Ultimately, the choice is yours to make. If you’re interested in talking to one of our counselors or therapists, contact us at (800) 643-2108. At Cornerstone, we are dedicated to keeping our patients informed and on the right track. We are passionate about our clients having agency in their lives, and we are always here to help.