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When Moderation Fails but Brings an “Aha” Moment

police car

Looking for guidance on how to navigate an OUI and a recommendation that a breathalyzer be installed, E320 has written in.  She then sent in a second comment with an update on some pretty enormous natural consequences that her husband encountered. It may be the kick in the pants that he needed to start treatment…

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"Hello, My husband recently got an OUI. His license is suspended, until at least the court date in one month. His lawyer is recommending he install a Breathalyzer in his car. He let my husband know that most likely his license will be suspended for several months or longer. Very gladly no one was hurt. We can afford this.

My question is should we see if our insurance will pay for it? And are there consequences to doing this. And any consequences in general? It really would be help me for him to be able to drive. And he wants this, so he can drive for work.
Thanks again for any help."

and the following week, she posted this update:

"Hello, a lot has happened since this post. I struggled with the idea of moderation for several weeks. Even small amounts of alcohol can be very difficult. I realized I forgot to mention that his doctor told him he cannot drink while taking his depression meds. So, I decided to try moving away from moderation. And to move toward a planned talk. He was continuing to drink and hide it from me.

Then, he had some good news, and while out to lunch with a friend, the friend bought them each a shot of whiskey. He ended up getting into an accident, getting arrested, got an OUI, and his license was suspended. We're waiting to hear what from the court how long this will be.

Since then, I was able to suggest a counselor and group meeting. He was mildly receptive. He called. Next week will show if he follows through.

I also spoke with his counselor at an IOP from two years ago. Our minister described it as two steps forward and one step back. We all agree he needs structure and counseling to succeed.

I've reviewed the elearning on hard emotions and the posts on hope because I've really struggled this time to believe in his success. The recent post on doing things differently this time has helped a lot. I'm working on deliberate actions. It's still quite challenging, so further insight would be helpful. Thank you for this great site."

We didn’t coin the term, but things “changing on a dime” could have been at the top of a short list of the 10 Things We’ve Learned in our 20 years of Addressing Addiction with CRAFT.

Attempts at moderation can bring eye-opening moments

Your husband was essentially trying to moderate, in the sense he had to sneak around the house and try real hard not to overdrink, get sloppy, or have a rash moment…

With 30 years of heavy drinking behind him, the chances your husband would succeed with moderating his beer, let’s say to a 6-pack a day, were slim-to-none. We knew it wouldn’t work, but he didn’t. He gave it his all, but in a rash moment, he became blind and dangerous, got arrested, hopefully painfully embarrassed, and more!

All of these were natural consequences of an OUI, and they're all consequences that you can safely let happen. Try your best not to raise these bad feelings for him. Let him feel the internal pain they cause his consciousness.

When the game of moderation is on, so is the mental wrestling match of whether to use or not, day by day, moment by moment. You awaken your addiction biology with the moderate use, opening the doors to compulsion. For most, the battle becomes unwinnable fast. Moderation can work, but not surprisingly, mainly for those who were lighter drinkers.

Natural consequences are often a blessing in disguise

There is nothing you could have done to prevent him from getting drunk and getting an OUI.

Thank goodness no one was hurt.

You have been given a gift, E320. Your husband has been given a big kick in the pants by life. This is a moment in which your husband should sit alone and reflect. He knows the score. Trust it.

You’ve helped get the treatment started. Now sit back. Say little. Be gently loving as you move forward towards the treatment date.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Thank you for the encouragement and especially for the advice on the elearning and posts on how to speak lovingly and honestly. I had a terrific conversation with my husband this weekend about treatment. And I could also express my concerns kindly by adapting the conversation prompts I’ve learned here.

    1. We’re so glad you continue to make progress, and find that communications with your husband are becoming easier. Wonderful that the conversation prompts were a useful place to start. We’re rooting for you both! Your husband is so very lucky to have a partner willing to work on her part of things and determined to infuse everything with more kindness!

      1. I thought I’d give an update. We went together to look at a counseling center, to “just check it out to see if he liked it or not.” (My words) Now he has an appointment for an evaluation after Thanksgiving. Him acknowledging he needs help, by making the appointment is a huge step. It’s a lot for him to process. But I have taken your advice and let the force of this realization come to him without my input. It’s a relief for me to be “the good guy” and let the tough topics be handled by someone else. And then we went out to lunch, something we both love to do.

        1. We are cheering for you and your husband E320! I feel so inspired by your words and your experience of CRAFT. You two have come so incredibly far.
          Addiction recovery is a long and winding road; it’s so heartening to see that educating yourself, working on your stance, on your communication and on your own well-being can make a real difference for you and your Loved One.
          This is a beautiful example of what CRAFT can bring into your life. He took a step towards recovery as you were by his side, holding his hand, and you were both rewarded for it. We salute your dedication and thank you for keeping us in the loop!