Leaving AA – Moderate Drinking 20 years on

I matured into moderate drinking 20 years after leaving AA; is this possible?


Alcoholism is described by AA as a progressive disease which progresses even during long periods of abstinence. After 20 years of abstinence, 6 months ago I started to drink again. I did not go insane, go to jail or die, as AA taught me I would with the first drink. In fact I am finding drinking to be a pleasant social activity. Out of curiosity I monitor myself and find that I have not had more than 3 drinks on any one day, and that there at least 3 non-drinking days in each week. I have also just recently graduated as a drug and alcohol counselor, where it was difficult to discuss moderation at all. Is it possible that the so-called “Maturing Out” phenomenon is also progressive, and that it can in fact take place during a prolonged period of abstinence???? If not I have no explanation for my own experience, except a profound change in my emotional and psychological outlook on life.


Dear Michael:

In order to answer your question fully, I would need to know your drinking levels and patterns before joining AA. In other words, certain patterns of problem drinking can be moderated fairly readily, and you might have been able to do so instead of wasting time at AA. More severe alcohol dependence requires some time. This time does not need to be spent practicing drinking moderately (as a purely behavioral approach suggests). In other words, the magical purposes which alcohol serves for some individuals can simply fade into the background as they mature emotionally, develop alternative gratifications, and lose the desire to modify their consciousness. Indeed, this is really what maturing out is about.

Best, Stanton

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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