Can an Addict Use in Moderation?

There is one mistake that many addicts make that can add months or even years to the time when they are finally able to live a sober life.  They believe that they can just change their usage habits to become more moderate and then everything will be fine.

Their thinking goes something like this:

  • Rehab programs say you have to adjust your thinking until you understand that you can no longer use drugs or alcohol
  • If that’s true, then I should be able to just adjust my thinking another way
  • Instead of adjusting to NEVER using my substance of choice, I’ll just start using less of it… I don’t really have to stop

This may sound good in theory, especially to the addict, but it is really just wishful thinking.  All it does is drag out the process of recovery so it takes a much longer time before the addict can truly change their life.

The piece that is missing from that way of thinking is that you can’t manage an addiction just by changing your way of thinking.

Fuzzy Thinking

One of the problems with drugs and alcohol in the first place is that they compromise the way you think.  When you are completely sober, and you know that you can’t have a drink, it makes sense.  That is a line you know you cannot cross.

However, if your plan is to only have a few and then stop, that plan goes out the window.  After a few drinks, your brain will tell you it’s ok to have just one more.  Since you are no longer clear headed, that one turns into 10, or more.

Your Brain Must Heal

Another reason that drinking or using in moderation isn’t the answer is because over time, the substance you have abused actually alters your brain. There are receptor cells in your brain that feed your compulsion to use when you are abusing substances.  When you completely stop using, those receptor cells gradually become deactivated.

However, this doesn’t happen overnight.  Depending upon the level and duration of your abuse, it can take months for this to happen and for you to feel “normal” again.

If you use during that time, even in moderation, it will stop the recovery process.  This becomes even more difficult, because your body will likely begin to feel “normal” much sooner than your brain is actually repaired.


If you are an addict, you can’t use in moderation.  It simply does not work.

Using, even in moderation, will cloud your judgment making it more likely that you will begin abusing your substance of choice again.  It will also delay the healing process in your brain that is required for long term sobriety.

Previous post:

Next post: