Planned Uses? Or nonabstinence only program?



I’ve come to a whits end. I don’t know what to do. My loved one is opposed to ‘total abstinence’. When I first met him he was in drug court and was 100% open about his meth use. He had a slip up here and there and probably had about 10 a year (usually after rehab or stressful situations). My friends are appalled when I tell them that, but honestly it’s like less than once a month. So 25 times in our relationship.

Recently, he’s gotten off probation and has been sober and working his own recovery program for about two weeks. Then around Christmas he got high once, then twice… Then he had a 5 day bender from New Years until last night.

I sat him down to talk last night, I knew he was high but not THAT high. Anyways, the conversation went in circles, I just want some confirmation that he’s going to be working on his program seriously. After about 2 hours we finally came to a conclusion. When he gets his job he’s going to be trying to stay clean and get high once a month (I know that’s not how addiction work, but it’s a good theory and I know he can do it).

Anyways, he woke up and didn’t remember ANYTHING! On top of that he was angry and confused when I brought it up.

Am I completely crazy to be thinking planned uses is going to work?


Great question @huckjb13.

I don’t have personal experience to offer here, but want to offer up this book as a possible resource: The Abstinence Myth by Dr. Adi Jaffe. I first heard about it on this podcast.

Also want to invite Village Coach @erica to weigh-in here. She may have some professional insight on this topic!


I would have been more open minded in terms of the decision to work his own program (which was a bit of a stretch already) but I have a hard time seeing him being successfull if there isn’t even a memory of the conversation that initated his committment to this new plan. It is a red flag and makes me worry that he too easily committed to the new plan and that you may see more of that with follow through that comes up short when working on accountability, building trust etc.

Not trying to be negative but I get a bad feeling and right from the get go there seems to be flaws in this plan.

I don’t think 12 steps or total abstinence or inpatient are programs that work for everyone. I think they (in their current form alone) work for very few people in fact. I think it is important to also foster that desire he has to look for new and creative solutions to problems coming from his use but also be open about your concerns if you see him “slipping” or see potential obstabcles he perhaps didn’t consider. I imagine it is very important for him to know that you support him in finding something that does work and knowing he is supported will also hopefully squash any denial self talk like “well of course she thinks it wont work, she has been closed minded ever since i started this program”.

I hope you guys figure out something that makes your lives more manageable but don’t go stepping on any land mines if you can see them a mile a way.


From my experience with my husband - it has taken years and an incredible amount of self restraint - if he is high or doesn’t want to talk don’t bother! Find something else to do, get outside the house, talk to a friend if you must but don’t have the conversation or if you do don’t expect anything out of it. You may have to wait a week but I promise the conversation sober and when they give permission for it will be so so much better and well worth the wait.

Also, I was worried that my husband wouldn’t accept abstinence or work a program. Still 3 years on from rehab he’s going from strength to strength. Doesn’t mean there aren’t ups and downs but the dark depths of his addiction are a distant memory to me now. Abstinence can be really scary and can actually put people off getting sober! Think of it like giving up sugar or any treat you like, it’s hard and it doesn’t happen over night.

I hope this provides a little peace. Deep breaths and love <3


Hey there @huckjb13, navigating this topic is really tricky, especially in early recovery! And you _are not crazy_to be thinking/asking this question! Unfortunately there is no one straightforward answer, no one size fits all.

Regarding the conversation part of or your post, you may find a previous post about a recent webinar called "How to Have Conversations That Actually Work".

Regarding planned uses vs abstinence only: I wish i had a golden answer, but unfortunately, to date, there is no clear evidence that gives an answer one way or the other. There are so many factors to consider and with most things, it’s an extremely individual experience for everyone. Generally, if someone is considering using moderately down the line the best outcome will come if they have a significant amount of abstinence, have worked a recovery program, and have worked with specialists in the field to understand the underlying reasons for using in the first place. If, and when, one decides they want to try using in moderation it’s best to be open and honest with all parties involved (family, therapist, addiction psychiatrist, etc), to help keep accountability.

It is very normal to struggle with the idea of “never using again ever”, that sends people spiraling into a world of future unknown situations and circumstances that no one can predict (also known as anxiety). In clinical settings when my clients would bring this up I would really try and drive home the thought process of one day at a time, “today I won’t use, and hopefully tomorrow I won’t use”.

Please comment below so we can continue this dialogue, @huckjb13 . I’m here and happy to help!

A note from Village :love_letter: : Our Coaches are trained in the leading evidence-based methods. If you’re interested to learn more about Coach Erica, click here.


My boyfriend has told me he would still like to smoke pot because it has nothing to do with his opiate addiction. I still am not sure how to respond to this, as I myself am a medical marijuana patient. I hate being a hypocrit, but I cant help but know that total abstinence is probably best for him.


When my husband was in early recovery for heroin I really wanted him to stop using everything. He has since quit drinking (only drinks occasionally) and he actually is prescribed medical marijuana because many of the symptoms on his recovery mirrored those of PTSD. Marijuana is a huge part of his recovery and is extremely effective in helping with his urges and anxiety. He is also on suboxone (although tapering off), adderall for his severe ADHD, and other medications. According to AA he is not actually sober. But he’s not using heroin, and he’s the healthiest he’s been in years - in all aspects of life. Abstinence only is not the only way.


My husband has struggled with sleep ever since his addiction and asked me what I thought about him trying marijuana for sleep. My view at the time was - could we try some other options first (eg sleep routine, hot cocoa etc) before going to marijuana. Sleep is important too though so I understood that it might be helpful to use something if it really does help.

Over time he’s built better habits around sleep.

He still drinks at times (his addiction involved cocaine) and this can seem fine at times and problematic at other times. We’re still navigating this and I think the more sober time in general helped him get clear to be able to consider a drink. It’s a process of continual evaluation.