Wanting to remain sober while wishing you could drink alcohol can seem paradoxical and confusing to yourself and those surrounding you. But many people who stop drinking regularly ask the same question: “Will I ever be able to drink again?”
It can be difficult to maintain sobriety when surrounded by people who drink socially without any issues. Many temptations additionally often arise around the Holiday season, birthdays, and even weddings. Other times, you may simply miss social drinking and believe you could start drinking in moderation.
A general widely held view is that abstinence is the only way to recover from an alcohol use disorder. After all, the 12-step model is based on abstinence and is scientifically accurate and effective in helping you quit drinking.
Although there may be cases where a recovering alcoholic has been able to introduce moderate drinking into their life, it differs for each individual, similar to how some alcohol treatment programs may be beneficial to some but not everyone. Because of these differences, this question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no.
What Is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcoholism, otherwise known as an alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, is an all-encompassing neurological disease that causes a person to become dependent on alcohol despite the negative consequences. When discussing addiction, it is crucial to remember how dangerous it can be.
If you struggle with an alcohol use disorder, you may find yourself unable to control your desire to drink, and, instead, you may be governed by compulsive drinking. Like many others, you may also find yourself unable to cope or function without alcohol, which could create many issues in your personal life.
However, it is important to remember that not everyone who abuses alcohol has an addiction. Although some people may drink too much, they might be able to control their cravings, cut back, and drink in moderation.
Typically, alcohol use disorder can be categorized as mild, moderate, and severe. Although each has different side effects and symptoms, it only worsens when left untreated.
Alcohol Abuse Treatment
If you suffer from an alcohol addiction, various treatment facilities and options are available to help you overcome alcohol abuse and achieve any goals you have set towards developing a healthy relationship with alcohol. The most effective treatments involve numerous methods, such as alcohol rehab, medication, therapy, and attending support groups, such as an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting.
When it comes to treatment, the first step is detoxing from alcohol. This typically takes one to two weeks to complete and can be extremely difficult as withdrawal symptoms may be experienced. Although withdrawing from alcohol is achievable at home, it is suggested that this process be undertaken in medical professionals’ presence.
When you stop drinking, you will go through withdrawal. If you decide to drink alcohol upon completing treatment, there is a high possibility that you will experience withdrawal symptoms even after just a few drinks. These can include psychological symptoms such as:
In addition to psychological symptoms, you may experience physical side effects including:
- Shaky hands
- Racing heart
- High blood pressure
- Heavy sweating
- Breathing problems
Upon completing detox and withdrawal at a rehab center, medications that reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms are available. Herbal and vitamin supplements have also been found to keep the body healthy and enable the process to go smoothly.
What Happens When You Quit Drinking?
Upon completing substance abuse treatment, your body will now be free from alcohol. After addiction treatment, you must continue attending support groups and remain involved in activities that enable you to maintain a healthier lifestyle and relationships.
Though many people believe that recovery ends upon leaving rehab, this is not true. Recovery is a lifelong process that requires you to talk about urges, find healthy alternative ways to distract yourself, and seek support from those around you.
The majority of those who have recovered from alcohol abuse are intent on abstinence. This is because alcohol will no longer control their life, and they will be content with their sobriety. Many alcohol support groups are also adamant about abstinence, especially as long-term research suggests that those who were once dependent on alcohol cannot successfully drink in moderation without falling back into addiction.
Abstinence vs. Moderation
Abstaining from alcohol can seem daunting, and drinking in moderation may seem like the easier option. However, this is not always the case, nor is it the only option. Although controlled drinking is now an accepted treatment, its success is entirely dependent on the individual, their addiction, and how much alcohol they drank.
Some people in recovery will choose to complete a moderation management program, which involves a level of abstinence where the person learns techniques to identify and control triggers. Throughout this treatment, those in attendance are taught how to replace drinking with healthier alternatives. It is most effective for individuals who don’t have a severe or official alcohol addiction.
However, controlled drinking contradicts the core belief of many treatment programs that believe those who abuse alcohol are in denial about their ability to control their drinking. A typical 12-step-program will prohibit any alcohol consumption and often states that if a person starts drinking again, they will instantly relapse and fall into alcohol abuse.
This can be the case for some. However, for others, controlled drinking is possible if they identify the problem and assert a level of control. Research concluding that heavy drinkers damage the part of the brain that controls a drinking habit has found that the extent of a person’s addiction can influence this.
For example, research suggests that those who have a mild to moderate addiction diagnosis are able to complete controlled drinking. But there are always risks involved.
Staying sober and achieving abstinence may seem unachievable in early recovery. But many of those in recovery have expressed drastic positive changes to their daily life, personal relationships, and mental health after quitting alcohol.
Are There Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol Casually?
During early recovery, you may find it tempting to drink alcohol. For example, you may feel more comfortable in social situations or when you are surrounded by others drinking. In this instance, there are alternatives for social drinking situations when you feel tempted, such as mocktails. However, even if mocktails are labeled as such, they may contain a small amount of alcohol, triggering cravings or even relapse.
As you progress through alcohol recovery, you may suddenly be met with an abundance of time that was once filled with drinking alcohol. Instead of spending time trying to obtain alcohol and drinking excessively, you might want to consider partaking in new hobbies and activities.
After a successful recovery, you will begin to notice that your life improves immensely, and you may find that you cannot imagine drinking again, even in moderation.
So, Can Alcoholics Ever Drink Again?
Although having one drink, such as a beer, may seem innocent, it could spiral into unhealthy alcohol intake. The central aspect to the answer to this question is you and your drinking problem.
If you are in recovery and are thinking of having one drink or drinking in moderation, it is important to weigh up options and risks, such as relapse, with doctors, therapists, and family members. When in recovery, abstinence may be the only option. Drinking in moderation may work for some and not others, so it is essential to remember each journey is different.
Should you find yourself worried that your alcohol use is impairing your life, seeking treatment is in your best interest.