What Does Drinking Responsibly Mean?

Medically Reviewed By Nicole Arzt | Last Edited :February 04,  2021 | 4 Sources

How Can I Stop Drinking To Excess?

Drinking responsibly is an achievable goal
Moderation Management gives you the tools to curb your alcohol consumption

Drinking responsibly with moderation management is a totally different kind of alcohol support group. If you have to ask the question, 'How can I stop drinking alcohol or at least cut down on my consumption?' and you are not yet suffering from full-blown alcoholism (take an alcoholism test to determine the nature of your drinking problem), then Moderation Management (or MM for short) might just have the answer.

Who is Moderation Management for?

As the name suggests MM is not about abstaining from alcohol, though those who wish to abstain are welcome to participate. it is about stopping drinking problematically and returning to drinking responsibly.

This method might be right for you if you are somebody who....

  • ...has begun to feel concerned about your drinking habits.
  • ...has been told you are a problem drinker or are displaying some of the first signs of alcoholism.
  • ...has made the decision that you would like to begin making positive changes in your lifestyle.
  • ...has decided that complete abstention from alcohol (the AA way, as I like to call it) is not for them.
... then Moderation management could well be worth a try.

Moderation Management vs. AA

One of the problems with Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings is that it has a nothing or all approach to the treatment of problem drinking.

What this means is that at AA meetings it is generally assumed that anyone who is worried about their drinking is an alcoholic, if you say you're not an alcoholic, then you are in denial.

If, on the other hand, you say you are alcohol dependent, then complete abstention is the only option offered by the 12 step program.

As the Moderation Management website states, this forces problem drinkers to either...

  • ...reject AA and continue with their destructive drinking and then possibly go on to develop alcoholism,
  • ...or to stop drinking altogether and consign themselves to a lifetime of abstention and being labeled an alcoholic.

Neither of these are ideal; this is where Moderation Management's program can help. The focus of which is on drinking responsibly NOT abstaining from alcohol altogether.

Other AA Alternatives:

What is a Moderate Drinker?

According to MM, a moderate drinker...

  • considers an occasional drink to be a small, though enjoyable, part of life.
  • has hobbies, interests, and other ways to relax and enjoy life that do not involve alcohol.
  • usually has friends who are moderate drinkers or nondrinkers. generally has something to eat before, during, or soon after drinking.
  • usually does not drink for longer than an hour or two on any particular occasion.
  • usually does not drink faster than one drink per half-hour. usually does not exceed the .055% BAC moderate drinking limit.
  • feels comfortable with his or her use of alcohol (never drinks secretly and does not spend a lot of time thinking about drinking or planning to drink).

In general, moderate drinkers understand their own limits. While they may drink too much on occasion, this is more of an exception than the rule. They know how to maintain their routine and commit to their usual responsibilities.

Why You Might Want To Look For Another Way"

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Where Can I Find A Meeting?

Similarly to all the other alcohol support groups out there, meetings are a central part of the Moderation Management method.

Face-to-face meetings can be found in the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Thailand. If you can't access an off-line meeting, then there is an email list and a dedicated Moderation Management chat room.

Go the Moderation Management website to get more information about meetings and other aspects of their method.

There is also the possibility to start your own meeting, details of which can also be found at the MM website.

What Can I Expect At An MM Meeting?

Like an AA meeting, meetings involve a group of like-minded people getting together to discuss their experiences of, and ideas on returning to drinking responsibly.

There is a set format that every meeting follows, however there is a degree of flexibility and meetings can vary considerably.

The only requirement to attend a meeting is that you are concerned about your drinking. You do not need to have another specific agenda, spiritual beliefs, or mental health issues. Meetings are free to attend, but a hat is passed around if you wish to donate to the running costs. All MM meetings are part of the MM non-profit organization.

There are also certain ground rules to the meetings: You are asked to not drink on the day of a meeting; respect each other; You are there to help not confront; members should try and avoid drinking with one another and alcohol is not allowed at meetings; judging each other and giving unsolicited advice is frowned upon; a meeting is a secure, private and respectful place; even if you choose a different response to your drinking you are still welcome at a meeting.

Drinking Responsibly is Unachievable for Some

For some people returning to moderate drinking is just not possible. 30% of people who start Moderation Management go on to attend abstinence groups.

This does not mean MM has failed them, it has merely given them the opportunity to see that a return to normal drinking is not for them. Something that AA merely states and which many alcoholics do not believe. MM gives them the belief.

Those who are already deep in the throes of alcoholism are highly unlikely to be able to return to drinking responsibly. This is also usually true if you have relapsed on alcohol many times.

If you are unsure, an alcoholism test will generally give you a good idea as to the severity of your drinking problem. A medical professional will give you a much better idea. Talk with your doctor or therapist if you are concerned you have a problem with drinking.

For those who doubt their ability to return to normal drinking, Moderation Management suggests you attempt to remain abstinent for 30 days, and then attempt to drink in moderation.

If you are unable to do this, then the answer to "How can I stop drinking to excess?' is you can't. It may well be time to consider a program that encourages abstention. Keep in mind some people prefer an abstinence approach. It’s straightforward with no room for subjectivity or error. You should also consider abstinence if you need to quit drinking due to pregnancy or other health reasons.

There are also other treatment options that can help you recover from alcohol abuse. Contact a dedicated treatment provider today to know more.

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Moderation Management Overview provided by Moderation Management: https://moderation.org/about-mm-support-overview/.

ModerateDrinking.com and Moderation Management: Outcomes of a randomized clinical trial with non-dependent problem drinkers provided by the US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3066281/

Harm reduction and 12 steps: complementary, oppositional, or something in-between provided by the National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21391893/. 

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