As an alcoholic (and addict), I am one of those all-or-nothing, black-and-white-no-shades-of-grey types. But, when I first came to the rooms, I thought, “There’s gotta be a way that I can moderate my drinking.” After all, plenty of other (normal types) can do it – no problem. Even before I realized I had a drinking problem, I had heard about alcoholics who, after some time abstaining from the drink, could go back to drinking socially. I was determined to be like them.
So, when things got really bad while I was out there drinking and using, I finally decided to get help. Yet, I always had that reservation that someday I could drink again. When I got to the rooms, however, I heard people talking about how they couldn’t drink or use anything lest it lead them back down that road of addiction, through the floor of their last ‘bottom,’ and down into an even deeper, darker place. They were saying complete abstinence was the key. And I was determined to prove them wrong. I’ll tell you how this alcoholic learned to moderate.
The kind of moderation I learned is probably not what you’re thinking, however. I am clean and sober today from mood- and mind-altering substances but, as a recovering alcoholic, I have to practice moderation with everything else because, let’s face it, we alcoholic/addict types like to overdo things…amirite?
Before getting acquainted with a program of recovery, I used everything (not just alcohol and other drugs) – food, relationships, sex, work, exercise – to try to feel better about myself and be comfortable in my own skin. And none of it worked. Once I began my process of recovery, I got to take a look at those behaviors – and the obsessive thoughts that accompanied them – and that’s when I knew – I really knew that I could never drink or drug again because there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to substances.
When it comes to all the other things in life – the things that are important for living and thriving, such as food, exercise, and well, sex – I need to figure out how to moderate because I can’t abstain completely from them.
Being conservative with my food intake is one area that takes a lot of tool-using. I have a tendency to eat emotionally, that is, when I want to avoid my feelings. I might eat because I’m happy or because I’m stressed or upset. It’s hard for me to understand the concept of food as fuel rather than food as reward. What supports me is practicing mindful eating: making healthy choices and planning meals ahead of time so that I don’t give in to temptation for the fatty and fried foods. I also practice yoga and meditation, both of which help me in being self-aware and mindful.
Moderating exercise isn’t as difficult for me because, quite simply, I don’t like to exercise. I do it, though, because it supports me in my recovery. For one, it helps to manage PAWS symptoms when they crop up by relieving and releasing stress. I feel better physically and mentally by working out. For some, however, the good feelings they get from exercising might have them over-exercising, which is a real thing. Just like before, when it came to substances, we can become obsessive and compulsive when it comes to working out. Practicing moderation with our exercise routine is just as important as with anything else.
Finally, when it comes to work, relationships, and sex, it’s all about moderation. I have become much better at being aware of what drives me when I notice that I’m seeking something out. Talking about it with my therapist as well as sober supports and sharing in meetings helps me. And again, I get a lot from my yoga and meditation practices. Basically, these activities help me with getting in touch with my Higher Power as well as my intuition. Feeling a close connection to my spirituality helps me tremendously in learning and practicing moderation.
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