Dear Beth

Drinking problem: I want to drink in moderation

Happiness is: gorgeous wild flowers adorn Ontario meadow

Dear Beth,
I come from a family with a history of problems with alcohol. Lately I have been under a lot of stress, and over the last couple of months I have been drinking quite heavily. I want to get back in control.

My uncle is Mr. A.A. According to him, once you have a problem with alcohol you have to quit drinking forever, or you will always be an out of control drinker. A counsellor that my brother consulted told him the same thing, and said that the research supports her 100%. Is that true?

She said it is a waste of time to go into counselling with the intention of being a moderate drinker. Do you take people on with that objective? I do not want to go through the rest of my life being unable to have a drink with my friends.

Beth answers: Yes, I do take clients with that objective. Do not be discouraged by the research. It is true that research among people who believe that they are powerless to control their alcohol consumption (mostly A.A. members and people who have been through traditional North American alcoholism treatment programs) shows that they do not gain control. This is not surprising, because such a belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. More broadly-based research shows that many people who have experienced alcohol dependency become moderate drinkers. If you would like more detail on the research, see The Diseasing of America by Peele or Alcohol and Drug Problems, published by the Addiction Research Foundation and reviewed in the Books section.

In the case of a long-standing drinking problem, for many people abstinence works out best in practice, sometimes because they lack the resources to make the changes needed; but many others successfully become social drinkers.