I don’t want to identify myself as an alcoholic but I do want to change my drinking habits.
We can change our behavior without labeling ourselves. Our self-descriptions are entirely our own; most of us in MM avoid labeling ourselves.
I really like getting buzzed or getting drunk. Isn’t that a sign of a severe problem?
Most of us who drink have experienced ambivalence about it, haven't we? The relaxation and spiritedness brought by a couple of drinks is thoroughly enjoyable (or it wouldn't attract us in the first place) just as much as a morning-after hangover and long-term health effects are not. That is the essence of ambivalence. Appreciating the benefits of drinking is just one side, and a valid one, of the ambivalence.
Isn’t my ambivalence about drinking the core of my problem?
Ambivalence is a normal aspect of healthy lives.
We're most likely to change when we work with our ambivalence, reframing and reshaping it, instead of waging war against it. Getting on top of nonproductive behaviors requires us to face our ambivalence honestly, think about what we want most out of lives, and find new ways to shift the balance toward more productive behaviors.
Much -- but often not all -- of the ambivalence is resolved along the path to a healthier, more balanced life. Instead of being a problem, it lights the path to healthy solutions.
I’m doubtful about changing. Can MM help?
No one can overcome our doubt for us, but optimism can be contagious.
Many of us started our MM journey doubtful. Listening to others, we traded our doubt for hope. Taking simple steps forward, we beefed up our hope with confidence.
Spending time in a supportive, grounded community of our peers, it is no surprise when we learn to leave our doubts behind.
I’m confident that I can change, but the things I've tried so far haven't worked ? can MM help?
Adopting the belief, "I'm confident I can change" is a critical step. Research has even suggested that believing we can change is as likely to predict success as getting professional help.
And, as the study of human behavior shows, it's common for us to cycle through trial and error before finding techniques that work for us. Think about the news coverage devoted to New Year's resolutions every year -- their success rate is low. Very few folks simply decide "I'm going to change because it's the smart thing to do" and trigger forever-and-ever changes all at once.
All of us in MM are using a wide range of techniques -- abstaining periodically, saying "no" or "not yet", recognizing our triggers, changing our assumptions, eating and drinking differently -- with each one of us finding what works for herself or himself.
There is no guarantee that the MM approach will ultimately work for all of us -- it's not a good fit for some -- but the support from our MM peers gives us all sorts of options and tools to try.
My loved ones say I need AA, and I’m not ready or willing.
MM is a peer support group which does not diagnose problems, prescribe solutions, or offer treatment. While there are a few experts in our midst, this is a place for self-evaluation, self-determination and self-directed choices.
Some of us in MM have been active in AA in the past. Some of the folks who try MM find that it doesn't work for them, and move on to AA or other abstinence-based support later.
A number of us have discussed the question, "Would I be better off abstaining long-term or permanently?" with our peers in MM. No one will answer the question for us.
Those who move on to AA are supported and encouraged as well as those who question AA and other groups.
Each of us can answer that question best for ourselves.
In our quiet moments, alone with our thoughts, we usually know the truth. Often, it is already screaming in our ears. How much are we drinking? How is it affecting our lives? Are we happy with our lives? What changes would we make if we could?
We are most likely to show signs of denial -- understating our problems, overstating our progress toward change -- when interacting with folks who have some control over our destiny. Interacting with our peers in a safe environment like MM, there is no need for self-aware folks to perpetuate self-deception.
Do I need to hit bottom first?
Many (if not most) of us haven't.
Do people begin eating and exercizing in healthy ways only after becoming morbidly obese and/or incapacitated? Sometimes, but certainly not always.
The extreme consequences of hitting bottom can and do trigger motivation to change, as can the threat of hitting bottom in the future. So, these awakenings can be helpful.
But, most of us are determined to be proactive and prevent consequences, especially when the tools, options, and support are readily available.
Doesn’t harm reduction perpetuate denial?
It's possible, especially if we're playing manipulative games with ourselves.
It's unlikely, though, when we're being mature, responsible adults.
I don’t think I have a problem, but I want to change my habits.
In the big picture, moderation is about living well based on the definitions and values we choose for ourselves. That's much bigger than simple drinking issues, and yet drinking can add to and/or subtract from our quality of life.
Those of us who find MM helpful aren't merely solving problems, we're learning how to live well.
I drink less than the MM guidelines already, but I still want to cut back. Can MM help me, or isn’t my problem severe enough?
Some of us have gotten support from our friends in MM while abstaining during pregnancy. Some of us have health issues which require us to abstain or severely limit our drinking. Some have chosen to abstain as a matter of preference for 90 days, a year, or longer. Some have chosen very low-frequency drinking.
MM doesn't use a one-size-fits-all approach to identifying problems or finding solutions. It is focused on supporting each other in meeting our unique goals.
What if my therapist (physician, mentor, counselor) doesn’t like MM?
Remember that MM is not treatment. Being peer support, it is not intended to replace expert medical and psychological care.
That being said, there are a number of options for dealing with a physician, counselor or psychiatrist who is unaware of or not open to harm reduction approaches like MM.
First of all, be self-aware. If we've already achieved stability and health via abstinence, or if prior attempts to drink responsibly caused harm to others, what is drawing us to moderate drinking? What risks are we up against? MM isn't for everyone; is the therapist picking up on valid clues that it might not fit us?
Next, if it still feels like moderation is worth pursuing, we can bring basic information back to our caregiver and talk about the evidence which supports approaches like MM. Perhaps a a 90-day trial period with MM could be negotiated, after which we would evaluate it jointly with our therapist.
Finally, if a meeting of the minds is not feasible, there are therapists, physicians and substance abuse specialists who support MM and other approaches geared toward harm reduction. We can use MM's therapist finder
to see if any are near us, or use questions like these
to look for a therapist whose skills match our needs.
I’m abstaining long-term ? can MM help me?
Everyone is welcome to pursue their own goals -- including long-term abstinence -- in MM.
Abstaining and moderating have many parallel themes: Recognizing triggers and becoming adept at responding to them, enjoying and learning from our abstinent days, taking responsibility for our behaviors, making concrete plans, and examining what it means to be healthy and balanced.
MM isn't the only group which supports abstinence. SMART Recovery
, Women for Sobriety
, Secular Organizations for Sobriety
, and others are geared toward permanent abstinence.
I abstained with the help of AA for years, and have been drinking (sometimes excessively) for the last year. Can MM help me?
Again, everyone is encouraged to pursue their own goals in MM.
While MM has not been defined or designed to meet the needs of folks in AA who choose to drink again, we make our own decisions and take responsibility for our own actions.
At any given time, our numbers include some who have participated in AA in the past. Some find drinking moderately to be beyond their grasp and return to AA or another group which focuses on long-term abstinence. Others of us have used the techniques and support we?ve found in MM to learn to drink responsibly.
My problem is that if I drink one day I can’t stop the next.
Stop for a moment and think about the word "can't".
If that is the best description of our drinking habits, and wrestling over control is a continual battle, we might find ourselves living a healthier, more stable and contented life by abstaining. Powerlessness isn't a concept that folks in MM use much, but when it's the closest description we can find to the way we seem to respond to alcohol, isn't that worth our full consideration?
And yet, if the words "powerless" and "unmanageable" don't accurately describe our lives with alcohol, are there things we can do to empower ourselves?
A good place to start is changing our language, shifting to something like: "My problem is that if I drink one day I often don't stop the next".
Next, we can examine our behavior. What sort of triggers are at play? Are we drinking excessively the first day? Do we become fearful about letting go of the alcohol? Have we convinced ourselves that drinking more is preferable to the hangover that is sure to follow?
And finally, we need to consider our options. What simple steps can we take to defuse the problematic behavior? Drink more slowly, or drink lighter, on the first day? Stop sooner to prevent the hangover and get better sleep? Eat well before the first drink, and drink a glass of ice water periodically to keep ourselves hydrated? Avoid the triggering environment or go home early?
Generally we have a lot of control over our lives, but need to condition our muscles, reflexes and habits to effectively exercise that control.
It's good for us to challenge ourselves to try new things, and yet forcing ourselves prematurely can backfire.
While we're not feeling ready, we can work on clarifying our thoughts.
What am I not ready for? The possibility of making a big change? Am I afraid of losing a comforting part of myself, the carefree me, the uninhibited me? Am I reluctant to admit that my current habits and patterns are not working as well as I'd like?
If I'm not ready for big changes, am I ready for small ones? Baby steps in harm reduction to decrease the problems I'm facing? Making myself more conscious of when, how and why I drink? Charting the number of drinks I have each day?
And lastly, if I'm not ready to change at all, could I spend some time just listening to others? Studying the issues? Looking for similarities and differences between myself and others?
Being "not ready" is normal when we're first considering a change.
I think MM allows too much / too little drinking ? what if I disagree or don't follow the rules?
Each one of us needs to choose the option that works best for us.
MM offers guidelines. Staying within those guidelines gives us a very good shot at being healthy and balanced related to our drinking.
Most of us started out drinking more than the guidelines, and didn't change instantly after becoming active in MM. A few came to the group drinking less than the guidelines or not at all.
The path to moderation is often not instantaneous or quick, and it's seldom a straight-line journey. Time is required to change habits. Detours, slip-ups, and discovering triggers the hard way are all common learning tools.
So, we each have unique goals and we're each at various points on the path to achieving those goals.
I'd like to be in an online group, but I don't have much time to spend at the computer. Can MM still help?
The primary online group
typically generates dozens of messages each day. People there are often responsive to each other's needs and enjoy entertaining conversation. The deep well of optimism, support and humor offers a unique opportunity for us to engage in insightful conversation about changing our behaviors.
For those of us with limited computer time, other options are available. Online groups have formed for specific geographical areas and special interests which generally produce smaller volumes of email.
There is also a Yahoogroup named ModerationManagement
which serves the same purpose as the primary group but is smaller.