Is my moderate drinking okay or was AA right?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on March 16th, 2010 - Last updated: January 31st, 2014
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Further Reading

Hi Stanton,

Just like some input from you. I resumed drinking after 10 plus years sober, was involved with AA. Started doing some critical thinking on the subject, and read tons of books and literature. My conclusion, that I could safely drink again. All in all I feel I have done pretty well, although there have been some occassions where I have drank more than I intended. Is this a red flag or am I overreacting, old AA brain washing? I have been drinking again for a little over a year. I have no problem stopping for days, I am not a daily drinker. I can go for a week and not even feel like having a drink. Nothing awful has happened, I do not drink and drive etc. I have a feeling that I am beating myself up as a result of going to AA for so long. I am determined to succeed. I am also a very healthy, active woman. I have a lot of interests and have been married to the same guy for 28 years, with two great kids. So I feel I have a lot going for me. Everyone in my family says I am much too hard on myself. I have a great deal of respect for you and all the research you have done. Would love some advice.

Thank you and regards,

Dear Ilsa:

You sound like you are doing good. Evaluating feedback about how your drinking is going is critical as you decide on your plans and goals. Of course, I am relying on your reports of how you are doing. You have a husband and children, and they seem to be agreeing that you are doing well; they even say you are too hard on yourself.

Your family knows you better than I do, and so I think you should engage with their feedback. But I do know that sometime people who have been in AA or in treatment suspect every misstep shows they are doing poorly, or even that they’re doomed. A lot of drinkers occasionally drink more than they intend or than they wish they had. The issues are (1) is this a regular occurrence, (2) can they stop, resist, and reverse this overdrinking, (3) are they showing problems in their life as a result of overdrinking, (4) do those close to them feel their overdrinking is harmful to the drinker and themselves?

Your answers seem to be “no” to these things. You should keep examining these signs. One particular question is whether there are specific occasions on which you drink when you go too far? If we can enumerate, identify, and limit or change these situations, then we can perhaps go a long way to putting you at ease. For example, do you drink in certain social circumstances that otherwise make you tense? How can you reduce your anxiety in these situations? Can you (and your husband) make sure you don’t drink more than you want on these occasions? Should you avoid these situations all together?

You sound sane and sensible. Let’s apply this thinking to addressing the situations you wish to change, with the help of those close to you, and with you own considerable ability to interpret and regulate your actions. And the determination to change, and confidence you can do so, is the most important ingredient of all for success.


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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