One of the biggest questions that recovering alcoholics have for our team at The River Source is this: “Will I ever be able to have a drink again?”
You can imagine that for millions of Americans struggling with alcohol addiction, this is a very real question that deserves attention. After all, much of our society is centered around events where there is plenty of alcohol, such as sports games, holiday parties, weddings, concerts, vacations, wine tastings and dinners out. It’s only natural that people want to celebrate with a glass of wine or go out for a few beers after work. To most people, it doesn’t matter if alcohol is around; they simply have a few drinks and the party stops there. But for recovered alcoholics who want to gain a sense of normalcy back, they wonder if they’ll be able to join in on those few drinks without relapsing.
Varying Opinions on Abstinance
Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to this, as medical experts have varying opinions. Over the years, it has been understood that once an individual recovered from alcohol, they could never go back. And there is good reason for this. Addiction is a disease of the brain and not something that is based on the character or strength of the individual. Once the person heals the brain, it’s critical that the brain isn’t returned back to the way it was. Since alcohol has a way of fooling us into believing that everything is okay, it’s easy for a recovering alcoholic to accept one drink and not know when to stop.
In recent years, there has been some speculation that banning recovering addicts from alcohol isn’t necessarily the best approach. First, it scares people off from seeking help in the first place because they fear they won’t be able to unwind with a drink ever again. Second, there are many people who simply abuse alcohol or binge drink, but are able to learn how to drink in moderation without letting the alcohol control their lives. These individuals are labeled problem drinkers as opposed to true alcoholics. Finally, alcohol may not be so tempting when you let yourself have a drink or two.
The bottom line is this: Some former alcoholics can drink responsibly again and others cannot. How do you know which type of person you’ll be? Well, that depends on your therapy, the type of environment you live in and your individual personality. It will be up to you to determine whether or not you want to risk your progress by taking a drink at some point in your life. Some recovered alcoholics know that they don’t want to go down that path again, and when they start craving a drink, they reach out to their sponsor or use one of their coping mechanisms. Other people are more curious and experiment with an occasional drink to see if they can handle a small amount of alcohol.
Both Outcomes Can be Effective for Recovered Alcoholics
At The River Source, our team looks at each case individually, so it’s difficult to generalize and say that we believe in only one outcome. For many of our recovering alcoholics, we do believe that abstinence is best, and that is why we set our patients up with solid aftercare plans. This way, these recovered alcoholics will always have a support team standing behind them. On the other hand, we have also worked with individuals who we believe could go on to drink responsibly in the future. They may have had problems that we were able to resolve in therapy, and they may have a strong support network in place that will encourage them not to relapse. Each situation is unique, so there is no “one right way” to handle the future.
What we do advise for recovered alcoholics who want to drink responsibly in the future is the following:
Monitor drinking. The more often you drink, the more often you’ll want it. Instead, limit drinking to special occasions, such as Fourth of July or a wedding.
Pace drinking. If you are to have more than one drink, pace yourself by drinking water and having a bite to eat in between.
Set limits. It’s best to stop at ONE drink. This gives you a buzz and satisfies the need to have that drink with friends.
Know what you’re drinking. A glass of beer is fine; a shot of hard alcohol is another story. Our point: know what’s in your glass.
Know how to say no. This takes practice, but having the confidence to say no shows yourself and others that you understand your limits.