Moderating Drinking and AA Views

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on July 5th, 2010 - Last updated: January 31st, 2014
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Further Reading

My “had a drink and I was okay” sharing was not met with a enthusiasm by my fellow A.A. friends

Dear Stanton:

I am 45 years of age and have spent the last 15 years both drink and drug free. From the age of perhaps 20 I was a drug user up until my 30th birthday when I entered a twelve step program. I experimented with all drugs starting with recreational and progressing to intravenous heroin use. While not wishing to minimize my drug use, I am aware that my habit consisted of periods of use accompanied by lots of trouble and long periods of abstaining. When I eventually stopped the drug use I turned my focus to heavy drinking. While I have had physical withdrawals for drugs, I have never experienced any from alcohol. My heavy drinking was confined to a three years period which resulted in me seeking out A.A.

My problem now is, six months ago I had a drink. I was surprised that I was able to use alcohol in moderation over a three day holiday. I was even more surprised that I was not compelled to drink to drunkenness, indeed my total consumption was six drinks over 3 days. As you know this outcome is contrary to what A.A. informed me would happen if I drank again. However when I returned home I was fearful of returning to the way it was (notwithstanding my holiday experience) and promptly returned to A.A.

The drinking experience had a profound effect on me in the sense that I began to question things in general. My “had a drink and I was okay” sharing was not met with a enthusiasm by my fellow A.A. friends. Indeed I felt alienated because I wasn’t returning with the horror story they needed to hear to sustain their beliefs. I became aware that I no longer pocessed the degree of helplessness I needed to be a qualifying member. Indeed they felt a degree a pity towards me for having, lost the way. This made me even more angry as I felt just as wise and intelligent as I was before I drank.

I have given 15 years of my life to A.A. I feel that the promise of spiritual well-being (a life beyond your wildest dreams) has not been realized. I put as much work into “the program” as is humanly possible and all I feel is an emotional dependence towards fellow A.A.’s who seems to be the only ones that can understand me. As a child grow growing up I lived with rampant dysfunction. My father left and my mother became a prescription addict. As a young man I suffered from acute low self-esteem and couldn’t cope with confrontation, abandonment, or any emotional issue. I tried to live in a world where I didn’t need to feel but in the end the problem became unmanageable.

My question is, is it possible to drink socially again and to enjoy the company of normal people? Today I have a stable family situation with teenage children. I am an assertive, aggressive and successful businessman and no longer feel the need to hide from life’s difficulties. Is it possible to outgrow or overcome the compulsion to drink out of control? Is it possible that the coping skills and the maturity I have acquired in the last 15 year would simply disappear if I drank again? I believe not, I believe if I don’t need a drink to cope at present, I won’t need to drink to cope if I drink. I’d be grateful for your views.


Dear Paul:

I agree with you about overcoming loss-of-control drinking. Proceed carefully, but with self-assurance. Now, if you’ll only teach me how to cope with teenage children, I’d be forever indebted to you.


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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