What is Moderation Management for Alcohol Addiction?

Moderation Management (MM) is a program for people who have alcohol use disorder. If you aren’t finding success in traditional programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), then MM could be right for you.

Most alcohol recovery programs are abstinence-based, expecting you to stop drinking completely to participate. While AA and programs like it work for many people, they don’t work for everyone.

Some people worry about being labeled an “alcoholic.” Others find abstaining from alcohol harder than controlling their intake of alcohol. Yet others need help with problem drinking without having a long-term disorder. In fact, 70% of people with alcohol disorders are affected for a period of four years or less.

Here’s what you should know about MM for alcohol addiction:

What Are MM’s Values?

MM runs itself by 5 core values:

  1. You take responsibility for your own recovery.
  2. When you’re helping others, you’re helping yourself.
  3. People helping people builds strength.
  4. Self-esteem and self-management are critical recovery skills.
  5. Respect and dignity are part of interacting with others in recovery.

What Are the Steps of Change in MM?

There are 6 steps of change in MM, including:

  1. Daily journaling. You’ll start by keeping a journal. Write down your drinking habits and details about situations that led you to drink. This gives you a clear and honest picture of your drinking.
  2. Learning moderation. Now you’ll research moderate drinking limits for your age and sex. Your MM group may help you by providing education about this.
  3. Setting limits. Instead of setting an arbitrary drinking limit, set a limit that’s based on the research you’ve done. When you know the reason behind the limit, it’s easier to stick with it.
  4. Setting intention. Why are you embarking on MM and what do you hope to gain from it? Meditate on this intention in whatever way feels right, whether it’s talking about it in MM group or journaling about it.
  5. Abstaining. A 30-day alcohol fast helps to reset your body so you’re starting from a place of clarity.
  6. Mindful drinking. After the alcohol fast ends, you can resume drinking as long as you stick to your predefined limits. No negotiating!

There’s an invisible seventh step that’s always there, and that’s to reassess and renegotiate. It’s extremely common to experience relapses in any kind of alcohol recovery. MM is no exception. If you fall off, it’s important to get back on the program. Take the time to discover what went wrong so you can avoid it in the future.

What to Expect in MM

MM is an outpatient support program, so you’ll attend MM part-time while going about your life. You should attend meetings at least weekly. More often is better if your group meets multiple times weekly. In the early days of MM, you’ll talk about your experience at the group and begin to learn control skills for drinking. Those skills can include things like:

  • Putting the glass down between sips so you’re less likely to take another sip
  • Diluting drinks with soda water or mixers
  • Eating between sips to slow how your body responds to alcohol
  • Counting the number of drinks you take

You’ll also learn about over-drinking triggers or situations that cause you to drink too much. Everyone who is in recovery has them, and you can increase your odds of success by finding yours. Then, you’ll set drinking rules and begin a 30-day abstinence period, often called just your “30” in MM.

Throughout abstinence, you’ll keep attending MM for support. At the end of abstinence, you’ll introduce drinking again, but only by the rules. Your “rules” may include a certain number of drinks per night, only drinking in social situations, or only drinking at meals.

Now and then, you may opt to have another abstinence period. Many people have more than one 30. Starting another 30 can be a good way to control stress before it gets out of hand and affects your moderation.

Is MM Evidence-Based?

MM is an evidence-based program recognized by SAMHSA in the United States. It’s the only program that’s geared toward problem drinkers who don’t necessarily have an addiction. You can treat problematic alcohol use before it turns into severe addiction!

The current science says that most people who develop alcohol addiction have trouble moderating their drinking first. MM is a program for people at that stage who need help reducing their alcohol usage.

What to Do if You Drink in MM

If you have a slip while you’re in MM, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just an opportunity to reassess whether what you’re doing is working. You should:

  • Isolate why you drank
  • Remove factors that led you to drink (e.g. cut off a bad friend group)
  • Consider another 30-day abstinence period

Many people have a relapse while in MM and go on to control their alcohol disorder again. Still, not every treatment program works for every person. You may need to consider that MM isn’t the support that you need.

Is MM Right for Me?

The reality is, MM won’t be right for everyone. 30% of people who start MM go on to an abstinence-based program later. The program is designed for people who:

  • Are early problem drinkers
  • Are stable
  • Can moderate their drinking

If one drink turns into four, then MM isn’t right for you. The same is true if you have a severe alcohol addiction. MM is only right for you if you’re able to control the amount you drink. Talk to your care provider about MM. They’ll let you know whether the program is right for you.

If it’s not, then they’ll recommend alternatives and help you find the right choice. There’s no single solution that’s right for everyone.

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

Are you ready to start recovering from alcohol addiction? At Northeast Addictions Treatment Center we’re here to hold your hand through it all! MM isn’t the only option available to you. Our cutting-edge treatment solutions include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication-assisted therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • And more!

Today’s the beginning of the rest of your life. Pick up the phone today and schedule your intake appointment with our treatment specialists. We’re proud to be here with you through this journey!


  1. NIAAA Spectrum. (n.d.). Alcoholism isn’t what it used to be
  2. SAMSHA National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices
  3. Treatment for alcohol problems: finding and getting help
  4. What is Moderation Management?

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.