Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

The Question of Moderation: Is It Okay for Your Loved One to Drink Small Amounts of Alcohol?

An Allies in Recovery member hears her loved one expressing a desire to reintroduce small amounts of alcohol into his life. He’s been through program after program for the past year or so, and he’s been back home for just a few months. It’s hard not to panic when he talks about wanting to try moderation… Read the full blog post for our CRAFT-informed answers.

“My loved one completed a 30-day stay in residential treatment in mid-January for alcohol use disorder. This past year has been full of ups and downs, with him being in and out of treatment. He has been doing fairly well being home since January as far as drinking is concerned. He had one slip that I am aware of since returning home. Over the last week he has been talking about how he would like to try and reintroduce alcohol into his life in a very limited amount. This of course has set every alarm in my brain off. I am very concerned this is the start of a relapse back into full on alcohol use. I would love some advice on the best way to handle this situation using the CRAFT method.”

Using CRAFT to shepherd your loved one into recovery

CRAFT is based on social learning theory. The family uses CRAFT to shepherd a loved one into a position of recovery. The family helps to maintain the change by rewarding non-use and stepping back when they see use. They allow natural consequences, and they remove themselves from the equation as best they can.

If your loved one ends up needing to drink again to prove to himself that the problems of alcoholism are real and beyond his ability to control, this is part of his path. You may not have a choice in the matter.

Getting sober is easier than staying sober. Staying sober usually involves a daily focus on staying sober. You continue to use CRAFT around your loved one to help prevent a relapse, but ultimately, it’s going to be his choice.

Your use of CRAFT – such as rewarding your loved one for non-use and helping to create an environment where he’s not using (like introducing and encouraging other activities that don’t involve alcohol), will be key as he works through his decision to try moderation or not. A moderation plan will also be key – read on below for more on making a plan.

Efforts to moderate use often fail – but they can be learned from

We argue in our CRAFT e-Learning Module #1 that efforts to moderate often fail, but that these failures can help teach abstinence from substance use; it is the social feedback described in social learning theory. Please revisit our CRAFT e-Learning Module #1, and see the set-up I describe below – options for when you take action, and planning together beforehand. These perspectives may help you see the potential merits of going along with a call to moderate.

Moderation – the practice of learning to consciously limit the amount one consumes of alcohol or drugs – just may work for those with less severe addiction problems, some research suggests. Check out this book by Miller and Muñoz for a closer look at both the research on moderation, and suggestions for how to plan around it.

The line between severe and less severe problem use depends on several things, including the amount your loved one ingests, the reasons for their use, the context in which they use, and their biology.

For everyone who crosses that line into more severe use and for whom abstinence from alcohol is likely the answer, moderating at some earlier point was probably part of the picture.

Agreeing to go along with your husband’s attempt at moderation may be okay for now, because even if it doesn’t work, he will learn that he really can’t continue drinking or drug use as easily as he thought; and, he may even have the thought that this drinking or drug problem is bigger than he realized. These are good thoughts for your loved one to have on his own! Trying moderation can lead to these thoughts. But…

Years of alcohol use? Moderation is not likely to succeed

Given his many years of alcohol use, there is not a strong likelihood that he will be successful. This means you step away a little and let this play out. This won’t be easy for you. You will need to watch for signs of danger and be willing to step in various ways. Perhaps a call to the police if he is drinking and driving, calling police to the home if he is drunk, unresponsive, and/or potentially a danger to himself or others.

You’d be intervening like the above, if/when he steps over the line. Remember, as we outline in our CRAFT e-Learning Module #1, his efforts at moderation may be an essential part of his learning process. This ultimately could bring him to a clearer realization about his need for total abstinence.

Make a moderation plan together, and consider medication assisted treatment

If your loved one wants to moderate, then he should be willing to put in place a proper moderation plan that includes a recovery coach and a therapist who is on board and knows what they are doing. This by necessity must be a tight plan, for the chances are good that your loved one will overdo things and put himself in jeopardy again. He would also need to agree to a plan for if/when he does overdo it: detoxification, more residential or intensive level of services, and other measures as he and his coach/ therapist see fit.

If he is going to try to moderate, I would also suggest he get on Naltrexone (Vivitrol is the monthly shot). Naltrexone is a medication assisted treatment that discourages drinking as it blocks the euphoria of alcohol. You drink less because the alcohol isn’t giving you the same good feelings, and your brain’s endorphin system learns to become less interested in alcohol. Here’s the site for The Sinclair Method, which outlines this approach and claims a very high success rate. For our members, we have discussed the Sinclair method in a handful of other posts as well.

Once all of this is in place, then your loved one could be in a stronger position to try moderation. Can you work this out, in partnership with him? What I am suggesting is somewhat unorthodox in mainstream treatment right now, but it agrees with what people in recovery have known forever: if you think you can go back out there safely, go ahead and do some more experimenting. No one can stop you. At least there is a safety net in place and you’re not going into it “blind.”

Take the time to process this and care for yourself, too

You have been navigating so much with your loved one’s use over the years. You undoubtedly still have so much to unravel, process, and heal within yourself. Your concerns about trust, the alarms going off in your head, and all that you are carrying right now is 100% legitimate. It is also a cue to redouble your efforts to dedicate real time to caring for yourself.

Seek out and lean on the supports that help you process, accept, and own whatever you are feeling. Accepting full responsibility for our own feelings, so that we don’t end up asking (directly or indirectly) our loved ones to be responsible for them is a key part of practicing CRAFT.

You have done an incredible job weathering the storms with your husband’s use and you should give yourself credit for all that you have accomplished, held together, and learned. In the past year especially, you have experienced so many ups and downs, but you have also both come a long way. It is very heartening that your husband completed the residential treatment successfully. This is huge, and we are glad to hear of his willingness to look at his use in different ways over the past year.

A relapse won’t erase what you have learned so far

A relapse does not erase the lessons you have learned along the way. You become savvier and better equipped to take swift action as needed. You become better aware of your own reactions, tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. Meanwhile, relapses can also be opportunities for a loved one to come to a greater understanding about their relationship with the substances involved, and to ultimately arrive at a decision about their need to embrace abstinence. This can all be vital and valuable information, for everyone involved.

Whether or not moderation will work for your husband, this is for him to discover. Considering the approach I’ve outlined above should help you see how to adopt a strong yet flexible stance during his experiment with moderation. It is key to put those protective measures in place, and to be as open as you can in discussing the “plans” with your husband. Use the many resources on the Allies site, along with whatever else is available to you right now to support and fortify yourself.

Thank you for reaching out. You are not alone. We are all here for you.

*                            *                                  *

With a membership to Allies in Recovery, you will have access to this article – and hundreds of others – in full. Allies in Recovery members have unlimited access to a complete archive of our blog posts and the ability to search by topics of interest such as those mentioned above.

If you’re an Allies member, check out the member site for our “10-day Challenge” to claim your reward of a complimentary One-Day CRAFT Workshop – just for finishing half the modules!

If you’re not yet a member of Allies in Recovery but want to join us TODAY to get trained on how to reduce the chaos of addiction in your family and in your lifeclick here.

A membership at brings you into contact with experts in CRAFT – the proven, most successful method for getting your loved one into recovery. Our unique, award-winning learning platform teaches you CRAFT, so you can play an important role your loved one’s recovery journey.

With Allies, you’ll get information critical to understanding your loved one’s alcohol/drug addiction; you’ll learn the strategies and skills you need to engage your loved one onto the path to recovery; and you’ll also get guidance on how to identify and cope with the flood of emotions you are feeling – because when you are coping better, you can better help your loved one.


Related Posts from "Recovery"

He’s on Suboxone and Hiding Away for Most of the Day. We are Worried.

Her son was using heroin, and he just got out of jail. He reached out for mom’s help and asked to live at home as he starts recovery, and he is getting MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), specifically Suboxone. But he’s secluding himself so much at home she can’t tell what he’s up to. He’s accessing counseling and groups remotely, but he stays holed up in his room all the time and rarely emerges. Mom worries about his isolating so much and whether he might be using. We weigh in with some thoughts about the varied aspects of early recovery, and with some reminders about practicing CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training.)

Real Allies in Recovery Success Stories: Families Share How CRAFT Helped Their Loved Ones with SUD

Read real success stories from families who used the CRAFT approach to help their loved ones with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Learn how CRAFT helped them engage their loved ones into treatment, and how it improved their relationships and reduced stress levels. Discover how you can use the CRAFT method to help your loved ones find recovery, and visit for more stories and resources.

He’s in a Recovery House and Struggling. What Can the Family Do?

A mom is worried about her son who is struggling in his recovery house setting. The family has been practicing CRAFT when engaging with him, in hopes of continuing to steer him towards recovery, but still feel this is a dangerous time for him. They would like to make their continued help with the rent contingent on some sort of counseling if he’s not using, or detox if he is. Or let the consequences happen…

“Heads Up” Tips for Those New to SUD

Have you ever looked back on a particularly stressful time in your life and wished you’d known a few things ahead of the struggle? Or maybe you were offered some “heads up” advice when enduring a hard time and found that the advice you received drastically empowered you through the situation. This blog shares some helpful tips for parents and other family members who are new to facing the crisis of addiction, alcoholism or Substance Use Disorder (referred to as “SUD”) with a loved one.

3 Months into Recovery and He Doesn’t Show an Ounce of Gratitude

This mom has been able to successfully use CRAFT principles to shepherd her son into treatment and to support him during early recovery. However, her son’s lack of gratitude is beginning to feel unbearable. Director Dominique Simon-Levine weighs in with a reminder to practice communications skills, and to take care of yourself – all part of the CRAFT curriculum at Allies.

In-Person & Virtual Recovery Resources for Your Loved One

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (AA World Services, Inc.) Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. This is an informational website for anyone interested in learning more about their organization, 12-step program of recovery, and how to find local meetings. PHONE: 212.870.3400 Click here for Online AA Meetings What is AA? What to Expect in an AA Meeting  What is Anonymity in AA?  AA INTERGROUP ONLINE MEETING FINDER IN THE ROOMS In The Rooms offers over 150+ weekly live online meetings, a variety 12-Step and Non-12- Step Fellowships, and Specialty meetings. Some of our most popular meetings are AA, NA, ACA, Al-Anon, and Nar-Anon meetings, and much more. In The Rooms has 69 live online AA meetings weekly, so there’s bound to be one that fits your schedule! We have specialty AA meetings too, like AA Pride (LGBTQ). We also have an Agnostic AA meeting, if you’re seeking a meeting without a secular approach to recovery. We have 30 NA meetings on ITR weekly. Like AA, there’s also an NA Pride meeting (LGBTQ) and an Agnostic NA meeting. For support for the family, friends, and allies of those in recovery, In The Rooms has both Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings, which each meeting, 1-3 times a week. We also have many other 12-step fellowship groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Sex Addicts Anonymous, CODA, Dual Diagnosis, and much more. If you can think of a Recovery fellowship, we probably have it.  FULL LISTING of LIVE VIRTUAL/ONLINE MEETINGS  12Step.Org We strive to provide information, tools, and resources for working a 12 Step program (or any program using 12 step principles for recovery) in as simple and effective way as possible. Online Meeting Calendar Online Video Meetings Phone Meetings Forums, Text Chats, and Email Meetings List RECOVERY DHARMA Recovery Dharma is a peer-led movement and community that is unified by our trust in the potential of each of us to recover and find freedom from the suffering of addiction. We believe that the traditional Buddhist teachings, often referred to as…

His Need for Friends is Outweighing His Desire to Get Sober

It is difficult for our Allies member to see her son struggling to make friends while at the same time using alcohol to overcome his social anxiety. By following the CRAFT principles of effective communication, she is able to step back and allow him to experience the negative consequences of his drinking, and to focus on rewarding his positive choices. This is easier said than done, but her loving support and commitment to CRAFT is guiding him in the right direction.  

He’s Relapsing – Are We Enabling Him? CRAFT and Encouraging Non-Use

A member of wrote in to our “Pose a Question” blog with concerns about her son being stuck at home and struggling without his Suboxone program. Relapses continue to occur. His brother has thrown illicit drugs in the trash and insists that the family be stricter. The parents are feeling torn about whether they are enabling. Can the family be of any help? Read this blog for our insights on how applying CRAFT strategies and “encouraging non-use” through your actions in the face of your loved one’s substance use disorder can be helpful.

My Loved One Also Struggles with Mental Health – Is CRAFT Right for Us?

One of our long-time Allies in Recovery members wrote in to our “Pose a Question” blog with an update on her loved one – her husband – who has given up harder substances but continues to struggle with alcohol and marijuana. Since our member first discovered CRAFT, her husband was diagnosed with serious mental illness. She wonders if CRAFT is a compatible approach to support his mental health issues.

Our Son Moved Back Home But He’s Using: My Anxiety Is Off The Charts!

Her grown son has moved back home and is using cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana — and angrily denying it. Her husband has had enough and is ready to kick the son out. Our Allies in Recovery member wants peace for her family and healing for her son. To call the situation in this home stressful is a huge understatement. We help her sort through the challenges of her situation and offer guidance with communication using the time-tested strategies outlined in the CRAFT approach.