“Half measures avail us nothing” (Thoughts on Sobriety)

Empty bottles in green container

(Facebook friends, if I’ve tagged you, I’d appreciate it if you’d share this.)


I hate to see someone have to live through the hardships that lead them to seek to live the sober life. Still, I think we have to be thankful for whatever inspires us to be better.

A friend of mine has struggled with his alcohol consumption, and he’s reached out to me for advice a couple of times in the past.

Both of those times, my friend has come around to the point where he’s going to manage his consumption in some way other than complete abstinence. These are what we consider half measures. A half measure is any plan of action other than complete abstinence from alcohol. We’ve all heard someone talk about how they’re just going to “stick to beer” or “only drink on weekends”; perhaps it was even us. Those are half measures.


It’s not a coincidence that the statement that titles this post, “Half measures avail us nothing,” comes from the last paragraph before the introduction of the twelve steps in the AA Big Book. If you’re looking to make a change, that’s where you might find the best answers.


So, my friend reached out to me, I offered some supporting thoughts, and he came up with some self-management regimen that was less than completely quitting drinking. I don’t recall just what his plan was, but I knew it wouldn’t work. Half measures might work for a while, but I’ve never known of a case where the person didn’t get back around to where his or her drinking was once again in need of management. My own personal history is filled with countless attempts to do just about anything to manage my drinking without having to put down the bottle for good.

It didn’t work, and he reached out to me again some months later. That time he also came up with some half measure solution. Again, I knew it would ultimately fail. It did, and he recently got in touch with me again. He’s finally made the decision that the only thing that’s going to work is to bite it off and try to quit drinking altogether.


In the next post I’m going to go over some of the things I’ve said to him in our recent conversations, but first I want to talk a bit about how a person who is already in recovery should handle a situation such as this.

It’s easy to say that one should take a hard line when someone says they’re going to try to manage their drinking in some way other than complete abstinence. Still, I’ve never chosen to take that route; rather, I support them. They’re making an attempt, and the last thing they need is a naysayer beating down an idea they’ve thought long and hard on.

At this point, I find that it helps to run a bit on faith. I have faith that God is going to support their efforts enough to see them through their stumbling around period. They’ve made a decision to better themselves, the last thing they need is someone pointing out the their errors in judgment.

That’s not to say that I blow smoke up their backsides and tell them how great their plan is; that isn’t necessary either. It’s not necessary to say one way or the other about the merits of their program, but only necessary to support them for having made a decision to do something at all.

There are many ways to support their efforts, many things to say to help, without ever pointing out that there’s a very real chance that those efforts are going to get them back to where they’re trying not to be, which is at a point when their drinking has become unmanageable.

There are many tools that I’ve discovered–never first I’m sure–that have helped me and can be helpful to someone who’s attempting to manage their drinking by way of half measures. I support their efforts and share these tools with them. And then, yeah, give the rest up to God.

In this case, it seems to have worked. I haven’t burned any bridges by chastising him or lording over him with “here’s what you need to do” statements, and my faith that he would get through the half measure stages has been rewarded; he has realized that those have led him back to where he needs to do something about his drinking and to where the only thing left to do is to quit drinking altogether.

Like I said at the outset, I hate that he had to live through the hardships that brought about this awareness, but I’m also thankful that he did; he has gotten to where he needs to be.

Now the true work can begin. Say a prayer for him, please, and I’ll be saying a prayer for you.

Until we meet back here soon…

7 Replies to ““Half measures avail us nothing” (Thoughts on Sobriety)”

  1. I enjoyed reading your post and I fully agree with you. Quitting is a process that involves much trial and error for most of us, and support your friend in his own efforts to figure it out is the way to go. Sending prayers for you and your friend. Xx

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