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Can an alcoholic ever drink again?

If you are recovering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD), congratulations! Alcohol addictions can be challenging to overcome, so well done for achieving everything you have so far in your journey.

If you are considering quitting alcohol and opting for alcohol treatment, you may be questioning “Can an alcoholic ever drink again?”. You may also wonder if having one drink will be possible now and again or whether problem drinking will inevitably follow from social drinking.

Historically, abstinence has been the only option to follow for many addiction treatment programs and support groups. For many people, this is the safest option. However, due to more information and options, some people with mild AUDs are able to partake in controlled drinking.

Programs such as Moderation Management help people learn how to drink in moderation. However, it is important to speak to a therapist or doctor to determine the safest and best option for you. What works for one person may not always be suitable for another, so it is always advised that you seek expert guidance.

What is Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction?

In the United States, alcohol is a legal drug, and its use is incredibly widespread. This can often make it difficult to discern whether someone is involved in social drinking or has an alcohol addiction. Although this is true, it is estimated that 15.7 million people over the age of 12 in the United States align with the criteria for alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction come under the umbrella term alcohol use disorder. AUD is an illness split into mild, moderate, and severe divisions. At one end of the scale is a mild AUD. Mild AUDs generally arise when someone has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol but can stop drinking when they desire.

The difference between a mild and severe AUD is that those with a severe AUD cannot stop drinking due to physical and psychological dependence. Heavy drinkers will experience withdrawal symptoms without the presence of alcohol in their system, which can pose significant health risks.

It is incredibly dangerous for someone who is addicted to alcohol to quit on their own as alcohol is one of the riskiest substances to suddenly stop using. For this reason, if you are looking to recover from alcohol addiction, you should always undergo detox with the guidance of a medical professional who can design a personalized treatment plan to ensure you have the support you need for a successful recovery.

Can an Alcoholic Ever Drink Again While in Recovery? Abstinence vs. Harm Reduction

Abstinence from alcohol means stopping drinking entirely. It is the traditional recovery approach advocated by 12-step recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Many treatment facilities and programs also promote an abstinence-based philosophy.

Abstinence used to be seen as the only way to recover from alcohol abuse, and for many people, it is a successful approach. However, each individual is unique, so it makes sense that total abstinence in early recovery will not work for everyone. This is where harm reduction comes in.

Harm reduction treatment aims to reduce the harm caused to the individual and other people but does not require total abstinence. Harm reduction focuses on education and recognizes people’s situations are complex and that it is very difficult for some people to abstain from alcohol entirely.

Harm reduction widens access to care because some people are discouraged from seeking treatment due to the abstinence approach. In contrast, many people are prepared to adhere to a harm reduction approach for treatment. This ultimately enables more people to seek treatment and provides support structures for a wider community.

Can an Alcoholic Ever Drink Again? Why Can’t Alcoholics Have One Drink?

For some, it is recommended to never drink again. Brain chemistry alters when alcohol is abused, meaning the part of the brain responsible for controlled drinking can be affected. This damage means that controlled drinking is physically not possible for some. Furthermore, the intensity of someone’s addiction can correlate to whether or not they will be able to drink in moderation if abstinence is recommended.

However, for some people with a mild AUD, drinking in moderation is a possibility. Before you decide whether you should quit drinking entirely or take a controlled or moderate drinking approach, you must talk to a registered medical professional if you are recovering from AUD, as the risk of relapse is always present.

Moderate drinking is defined as one drink a day for healthy women and one or two drinks a day for healthy men. For some people, Moderation Management can help them uncover how to engage with alcohol consumption safely.

During a Moderation Management program, a participant is not allowed to drink for 30 days. During this time, they learn tips to identify triggers and find healthy behaviors to replace them, and come to understand past drinking patterns, so they know how to avoid these moving forward. The program also asks those in attendance to consider the reasons behind their drinking problem and why they want to start drinking in moderation.

For people who either have an alcohol addiction or are in recovery, drinking in moderation is not recommended, as even one drink can lead to relapse.

What Are Some Positives of Stopping Drinking?

Giving up drinking alcohol, seeking substance abuse treatment, and recovering from an alcohol use disorder have many health benefits. Reminding yourself of the positives of quitting alcohol can help you maintain your sobriety.

Some of the benefits can include:

  • Better sleep
  • Improved immune system
  • Enhanced mental health
  • Healthier weight
  • Better skin
  • Improved nutritional intake
  • Lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease
  • Better memory
  • Healthier personal relationships

In addition to the above, internal organs, such as the liver and heart, start recovering or regenerating when you quit drinking and maintain sobriety. This essentially improves your physical health and enables your body to recover from the physical side effects of alcohol use disorder.

What Are Some Ways for Me to Control My Urges?

In addition to seeking addiction treatment, there are a number of ways that you can control your urges. We have shared a few below.

  • Try to keep a list of the reasons for stopping drinking in the first place. If you have been sober for a while, it is easy to look back at drinking with rose-tinted glasses and forget all of the negative consequences that come with alcohol abuse.
  • Seek support from AA, a therapist, or a close friend. By talking to someone who can help you sustain your sobriety if you feel at risk of relapse, you can work through any issues and secure the support you need.
  • Fill your time with healthy alternatives. If you feel as though you want to drink again, try to take part in healthy alternatives. For example, starting a new hobby or completing an activity that you enjoy can help you feel part of a new community. Participating in activities will also offer you a sense of fulfillment. Doing yoga or getting out into nature can help focus your mind and feel calmer and in control.

Similarly, if you are concerned that you may be at risk of developing an AUD, there are measures you can implement. It can be helpful to track your alcohol intake to see how much alcohol you are drinking. You can also discuss treatment options with your doctor or contact a rehab center, such as our own.

Conclusion: Can an Alcoholic Ever Drink Again?

To conclude, if you are still wondering “Can an alcoholic ever drink again?”, know that it is generally best for those recovering from an AUD to avoid ever drinking alcohol. If you start to feel bored or experience cravings for alcohol, try to bear in mind the exhaustive list of adverse side effects and ensure that your reasons for wanting to drink outweigh the risks. Peer pressure might also tip you into drinking, so make sure you know how to refuse a drink and take care of yourself and your needs.

Although for a small number of people, Moderation Management programs are an option, abstinence presents the safest and best choice for most people. This may be disappointing news, but just remember that relapse is a real risk, and undoing all of your hard work is not worth it.

Always ask for support or help at any stage of your recovery journey if you are feeling conflicted and confused. A life of sobriety is entirely possible, and there are plenty of activities and hobbies you can do to feel fulfilled instead of drinking.

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    3651 Canton Road,
    Marietta, GA 30066

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