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Can a Recovered Alcoholic Ever Drink Again?

Alcoholism can wreak havoc on your life and of those around you. Alcohol addiction can rule your life until you get the treatment you need to put it behind you. Doing the hard work of detox and rehab–as well as in recovery afterward–can be exhausting, but living a healthy, sober lifestyle is well worth the effort.

Many people in recovery from alcoholism wonder if they’ll ever be able to drink again. When recovering from alcohol dependency, is abstinence the only option–or is it possible to cure alcoholism and learn how to drink without issues?

This question is common among people in recovery from alcoholism. Many people desire to have a healthy relationship with alcohol so that they can include it in their lives. After all, people mark many social gatherings, celebrations, and everyday occasions by raising a glass. The desire to drink can be understandable and expected.

But wanting to explore drinking again may also be a sign of an imminent relapse. It’s essential to scrutinize this desire and talk to your doctor, mental health specialist, or addiction counselor before taking action.

This article will explore the potential problems that could arise when a recovered alcoholic begins drinking again. If you are in recovery from alcoholism and you want to explore social or moderate drinking, reach out to the specialists at the Mandala Healing Center. Our treatment teams and admissions counselors can help you find the holistic treatment and support you need at any stage of recovery.

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism–also known as an alcohol use disorder (AUD)–is a pattern of alcohol use involving a lack of control over your drinking. People with alcoholism think about alcohol, spend a lot of time and energy drinking and being hungover, need to drink a lot of alcohol to feel its effects and experience withdrawal symptoms if they don’t drink.

Alcoholism is a disease that affects every part of a person’s life. No one chooses to develop alcohol dependence. This condition can develop slowly over long periods of heavy drinking as the body develops a physical dependency on alcohol. People with alcoholism cannot simply choose to stop drinking–they must drink for their body to function.

Can a Recovered Alcoholic Ever Drink Again?

Recovery from alcoholism isn’t a final destination–it’s a lifelong journey. Some people in recovery from alcohol addiction may wonder if it would be possible for them to try drinking again. Some people may feel confident that they can use the skills they’ve learned in rehab and counseling to drink in moderation and recognize the signs of a drinking problem sooner.

However, most addiction experts advise against trying to drink socially. Addiction isn’t a moral failing or character flaw or even a decision. Instead, it is a disease that changes the way a person’s brain and body function, making it challenging to control alcohol consumption once it begins.

People living with alcoholism often struggle with impulsivity and lack of control around alcohol, even when it causes them great physical, mental, and social harm. While a small percentage of alcoholics in recovery could drink moderately without trouble, many addiction specialists believe the risk or relapse is not worth it and advise clients not to drink at all.

Recognizing the Stages of a Relapse

Relapse typically occurs in progressive stages. It’s rare for an alcoholic in recovery to wake up one day and simply decide to drink again–instead, there are several signs and symptoms of a relapse that happen before they break out the bottle.

Many factors can lead to an alcohol relapse, including:

  • Overwhelming stress
  • Boredom
  • Challenging emotions, such as anger, grief, sadness, or anxiety
  • Persistent or intense cravings
  • Peer or environmental pressure
  • Denial of the harm drinking has done or can do

Recognizing the signs of a relapse can help you identify it sooner and seek the treatment and support you need to stop it in its tracks. Here is a breakdown of what can happen during each stage of a relapse.

Emotional relapse

People may experience negative, overwhelming emotions or stress that challenge their coping abilities. They may isolate themselves or engage in other destructive behaviors, such as:

  • Skipping meals, binge eating, or eating a poor diet
  • Not sleeping enough or sleeping irregularly
  • Neglecting hygiene, work, and other responsibilities
  • Missing meetings, therapy appointments, and other recovery-related activities

Without intervention, an emotional relapse may progress to the next stage.

Mental relapse

During a mental relapse, people may think realistically about what it might be like to start drinking again. They may rationalize their curiosity and attempt to justify why they are able to drink again, saying or thinking things like:

  • “I’ve quit once, so I could do it again.”
  • “I will only drink on my birthday/vacation/special occasions.”
  • “I deserve a break from sobriety because I’ve done so well.”

A mental relapse often occurs just before a physical relapse. Without support or using the tools they’ve learned in rehab and therapy, a mental relapse can easily slide toward a physical relapse.

Physical relapse

A physical relapse includes drinking and all the activities that led up to it, such as driving to the bar or liquor store.

A relapse doesn’t have to be the end of your recovery journey, but it can be a discouraging setback. Recognizing the stages of a relapse can help you identify potentially harmful thoughts and behaviors and find the help you need to get back on track.

Find Help Now

If you are in recovery from alcoholism and are wondering if you may be able to drink again, you must seek support to process these feelings and make the best decisions for your recovery. Reach out to the caring specialists at the Mandala Healing Center now to learn about our supportive alcoholism treatment programs or find support at any stage of your recovery journey.