It’s true that when you think of addiction treatment or drug rehab you likely think of completely, 100% ending your substance use. However, you should know that there are in fact alternatives to completely putting an end to your drinking or drug use. Ending your addiction is another story, especially if there are dangers putting your life at risk. This article will address the two other choices you have to quitting cold turkey.

If you want to get clean and sober, there are essentially three ways to do it. Each path isn’t going to be easy, but let’s take a look at your options. The following explanations will provide for you what you can expect on your journey of recovery.

Quitting Cold Turkey – Ending your substance use altogether is the method most people know. And if you’re familiar with the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), then you know that every AA member is aiming for no use of alcohol or drugs whatsoever. It’s referred to as the abstinence model. This is a model that values one’s ability to remain sober for 1, 3, 10, or 20 years with certain milestones of sobriety. For instance, an Alcoholic Anonymous participant would receive a pin and acknowledgement for being sober for a certain number of years. Quitting all at once and staying sober is the goal for AA and any other model that values abstinence in order to reach sobriety.

Quitting Warm Turkey  – If you don’t want to quit all of the sudden, perhaps to avoid the withdrawal symptoms, then you can quit gradually. And there are a few ways to do this.

1. You can simply experiment with quitting. For instance, you might experiment with quitting a little bit at a time. You might for instance quit drinking or using drugs for one week and see how that goes. Instead of quitting all at once, you’re experimenting with letting go gradually of your substance use. One method that has worked for some is Moderation Management (MM).  This path to sobriety encourages substance use in moderation to prevent harm, addiction, and the destruction that addiction can cause. Like AA, it is a group of individuals who support one another at regular meetings. However, unlike the AA and 12-step method whose goal is abstinence from alcohol and drug use, MM allows members to set their own drinking goals as they feel appropriate. They recognize that someone might want to achieve “controlled drinking”, versus quitting. MM is for anyone who is not dependent on drugs or alcohol, who want to limit their use, but not necessary stop. The goal for members is to moderate their drinking in order to reduce any negative consequences. To do this, MM encourages members to follow particular drinking guidelines, limits, goal setting techniques, and a nine-step program for change.

2. Work with a counselor familiar with harm reduction. Harm reduction is a new and growing topic in the field of drug and alcohol. It is a model that accepts a recovering addict where they’re at and does not stigmatize or judge for substance use. The goal of harm reduction is to minimize the amount of harm that takes place for a user. It does that by identifying the physiological, psychological, social and financial burdens of drug and/or alcohol use. Then, once those burdens are identified a counselor uses education and empowerment and attempts to minimize the harm a user might experience. In the reduction of harm model, drug treatment might include exploring ways that you could reduce the harm of the addiction. That might be drinking two nights a week instead of four. Or it might be refraining from driving while drinking. Drug treatment that uses the reduction of harm model might encourage you not to drink or use drugs when on medication, for example. However, drug treatment won’t judge you for your substance use and it won’t force abstinence. Yes, abstinence is an eventual goal, but it’s encouraged at the right stage of one’s recovery.

These are alternatives to bringing your drug and alcohol to an end quickly and completely. For some, quitting cold turkey isn’t the best option. This is particularly true for those who are self-medicating with alcohol or drugs for the pain they experience. Quitting gradually under the close observation of a doctor would be a better choice.

Abstinence and ending substance use gradually are options you’ll have to discuss with a doctor, psychologist, or therapist. However, be sure to contact a health professional for your highest safety.

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