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MM > FAQs > How do I start? (brief)

How do I get started with MM?

Brief answers Full answers

Where do I start? Chart. Chart: One of the simplest changes we can start with is recording how much we drink each day. Mark it on a pocket calendar, keep it as private as we wish to start off with, but start. Also:

Don't rush: A few of us find MM at a point when we are already energized and ready to make solid changes; however, probably more than of us need to spend time thinking things through first.

Reduce harm: When we're not ready to embark on big changes, we can start with smaller harm reduction steps: Eating well before drinking, drinking lighter, starting later, having water or soda before, with, or in between drinks.

Think long term: Effective moderating is a long-term lifestyle change, not a temporary program. It's generally taken us a long time to get ingrained in nonproductive behaviors, so it's no surprise that it may take a while to make long-term positive changes. Now is the time to start thinking about what we'd like our lives to look look like in 3 months, a year, or 5 years.
Why chart? Increase awareness. Increase awareness: Some of us have come to MM concerned about our drinking yet not knowing for sure how much we drink. Recording the numbers shows us that we're drinking more or less than we suspected, but most importantly it gives us a baseline -- our starting point for change.

Identify problems: Simple trends can leap right out of our first week's charting: We drink consistently each night, or much more in certain environments. Relaxing at home on Sundays leads to more drinking, or our traditional Thursday night gathering at a favorite bar with friends.

Enable progress measurement: We might be reluctant to be reminded that things aren't in a good place, but it will help us to see our progress. Over time, a lot of us have reduced our weekly drink totals to one-quarter or less of our original amounts, but we started by reducing them by 3-5 drinks per week. Charting is the best way to confirm that we're making incremental changes in healthy directions.
How do I chart my drinking? Drinks per day. One drink is a 12-oz beer, a 5-oz glass of wine, or a 1.5-oz shot of liquor.

If we don't know a precise number, we can use the morning-after evidence: How many empty cans or bottles? If we went out, what is a reasonable estimate based on the time and money we spent?

Many of us have customized our charting methods. MM member PKZippo developed, and other MM folks maintain, an excellent charting tool at Abstar.org. Abstar allows MM us to track our goals and progress side-by-side with our peers and supporters.

Initially, it's good to keep the charting simple. The most important number tends to be weekly drink count.
30 days is way too long for me to think of abstaining. That's OK. Start small. If it's been a long time since we've had an abstinent day, the best place to start is by planning a single one. Its good to plan alternate activities, like something enjoyable we haven't done recently, for that day.

Next we can build up to one abs day each week, then two and three. We can monitor our triggers, challenges, environments along the way. Learn what helps us abstain for a day and what gets in the way.

Being abstinent for as little as a day can help us learn what works for us and where our challenges lie.
Do I have to do a 30 right away? No. Some of us start a 30 soon after finding MM, and some explore MM concepts, reduce harm, and work on moderating for a month, a year, or more before attempting a 30.

The 30 days of abstinence has been an eye-opener, a tremendous teaching tool, for a lot of us. It is hardly the only tool that works, though.

The most important thing is to begin making progress, using whatever baby steps fit us.
What if I fail? Learn from it. Fear of failure is normal in our early stages. Some of us have found MM after being told that we're powerless to moderate effectively. Often, we've struggled in silence and solitude, wrestling with nonproductive behaviors that stubbornly resisted long-term change.

We're here because we believe we are capable, responsible adults who can choose to live more productively.

The simple fact is that change is seldom a straight-line process. Human behavior is never so perplexing as when we're trying to change it, and changing our drinking can be a perfect example of that. Everyone who has come through MM's door is familiar with setbacks and momentary failures. Being here does not make us immune -- most of us continue to slip up at least once in a while -- but it helps us decrease the frequency and the severity of the slip-ups.

It's important that we keep the big picture in mind, though. It is possible to make fundamental changes in our behavior over time, as people in MM prove over and over again.
What if I still need AA after trying MM? That's not unusual. For some of us, time in MM leads us to other options.

It just makes sense that if we spend time and energy working on our drinking, but it doesn't get us to where we need to be, that the time may come to try something else. For those of us who move on to permanent abstinence, MM has often helped to resolve our ambivalence about taking that step. We've faced the question, "Couldn't drinking responsibly work for me?" squarely and found peace of mind in admitting, "Y'know, moderating turns out to be a heckuva lot harder -- or nearly impossible -- for me compared to abstaining."

Moving forward from MM to AA or other support for abstinence is not failure, it's perseverance.
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Revised 07.25.2006 mm@moderation.org

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