Bright vs Blurred Lines

I read this yesterday and it perfectly sums up why moderate drinking doesn’t work for me but abstinence does.

“Bright lines…are clear, simple, unambiguous rules. You can’t help but notice when you cross a bright line. If you promise yourself to drink or smoke “moderately,” that’s not a bright line. It’s a fuzzy boundary with no obvious point at which you go from moderation to excess. Because the transition is so gradual and your mind is so adept at overlooking your own peccadilloes, you may fail to notice when you’ve gone too far. So you can’t be sure you’re always going to follow the rule to drink moderately. In contrast, zero tolerance is a bright line: total abstinence with no exceptions anytime.”

For those of us who feel bad because our enthusiasm for alcohol means we don’t get to have any at all, maybe we should instead feel pride at our adept ability to overstep perceived peccadilloes, which is also a real mouthful.

If only we could apply bright lines to the gray areas of life, such as eating or relationships or productivity. I can’t realistically apply the bright line “no more snacks for you, chow hound!” though I could make a rule limiting what I allow myself to eat in the afternoons, ie “only fruit or green juice or small tubes of cardboard”. I could do that. I might. Who knows.

Too many rules leech at the balance between clean living and wanting to live in the first place. I am reminded of trying to put the octopus to bed. I remind myself I am sober, and this is the muscliest tentacle of all that gives strength to even think about dealing with the wispier ones.

I am reminded sometimes the heart just wants what the heart wants, and anyway, our fun-loving vices could always be worse.

I am a little sorry for the last link, so let’s cleanse the palate with this remix (thanks Joe! xoxo) featuring Fat Albert and the son of Alan Thicke, two important staples from childhood.


18 thoughts on “Bright vs Blurred Lines

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  1. First, thanks for the childhood memories of Fat Albert! Blurred lines was a song I loved until I actually listened to the lyrics, then could not stomach, and now I can listen to it again and fondly remember Mush Mouth, so thanks for that!

    This post speaks so much to me. It takes time (and of course I’m stating the obvious here) to appreciate the bright line of sobriety, but once over the hump of acceptance, I am so profoundly grateful, and proud, that I have been able to establish it. But there are several issues in my life that I need to tackle that would benefit just as much from a bright line perspective, and yet I find myself procrastinating. Why, when I know how much better I will feel, not just establish the bright line of say, “no added salt” or “resume X minutes of physical activity, every single day, no matter what?” Of course the answer is the same as when I was actively addicted… I just don’t want to! I don’t feel like tackling the challenge. It is so much easier to say, “Yes, I know this is what I should do, and I know it works, but the instant gratification is so much more appealing,” and off I go to the salt shaker or the Lazy Boy.

    In the end, it comes down to a firm commitment, and a clear definition of whatever bright line I choose to set. And the difference for me today, with the gift of sobriety, is the absolute faith that I can, and will, do it!

    Thanks for an uplifting start to the day, Kristen!


    1. Due to a lifelong inability to pay attention to song lyrics, it mostly just reminded me of the 80s. I just read he wrote it for his wife! Kind of sweet. I bet she thanked him with a frying pan upside the head.

      You hit the nail head on with the whole wanting to make the change thing. The consequences from drinking/using become so severe and impossible to deny. Lazying about with chips doesn’t carry the same penalty. I suspect we will get there in our own time, maybe bit by bit instead of abruptly.


  2. The Fat Albert version is much better than the original! With sobriety, bright lines are the only way for me. Blurred lines didn’t work because I became obsessed with the whole process of moderation. Anxiety and obsession just made me want to drink more. Thanks for the links (even the cheese one)!


  3. At first I was distracted by peccadilloes but then the worser vice made its appearance. Can you picture the squad room during the briefing? How did they word the APB? The line of jokes goes way ’round the block. So funny. Wait, it’s not funny, it’s criminal. Excuse me I have to leave the room a minute. I’m sorry. Really.


    1. They haven’t tracked this guy down yet? Or is everyone just enjoying it too much, save for the poor women who are forever turned on dairy. It just feels like there are holes in this story. (sorry. really.)


  4. What a fine line it is between the bright lines of “no more alcohol for me” and the very blurry lines of “life’s too short…eat a cookie”.

    Still trying to figure out how to bring that blurry line into focus…or…if I even want to!



  5. I first need to get rid of the Emmenthal that is in my fridge.
    Grocery list: Cheddary cheese. Disinfectant.

    Now that that is done…

    Yes! hard lines, bright lines, lines in the sand. Imagined or real. I need them. I have a whack of blurry ones – disciplining my kids, sugar, time in front of computer, etc. Sometimes I am ok with them, other times not so. I have some bright lines – booze the first and most important one. Because if that line ever got crossed, I lose anything else down that list.

    I also like what you said about clean living vs living. My justification machine will easily lean towards – hey, live a little, will ya? What’s wrong with a burger just before going to bed? Ugh. Like the drinking, I can rationalize like a champ.

    Need to listen to Fat Albert and the Gang there…they knew how to live.
    Loved this post…!!



  6. I’ve started to enjoy coming late to the post because I get to read ALL the comments. LOL In early sobriety the line was clear. (And by early sobriety I am not speaking of the years of relapse) When I finally got sober I knew it was the right choice. It didn’t make it easier, but it was the right choice. The blurry line now can be hard to identify. Living humbly and growing spiritually. This is the challenge I see before me. I like what Amy said about the boundaries … the rules make life easier. The principles I choose to live by, or not, create the quality of my life.


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