Can an Alcoholic Ever Drink Again?


Quitting drinking alcohol is a marathon, not a sprint. After weeks or months of sobriety, it may seem possible to return to social drinking. Having a beer or two with some friends may not seem like a problem, but in the case of alcoholism, it is. Even one drink can mean losing years of progress on maintaining a sober lifestyle.

Can alcoholics drink again after they have sobered up? No. The path to recovery from alcoholism is long and avoidance of drinking is the key to success. Even one drink can lead down a path to more and more drinks.

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It can be tempting when you see others able to drink in moderation. You might think, “Hey, I’ve shown I can stop myself from drinking, what harm can one drink do?” However, drinking in moderation isn’t a realistic option for alcoholics.

Can Recovering Alcoholics Still Drink After Treatment?

Many recovering alcoholics wonder why they’ve been advised to avoid alcohol. It’s not necessarily that one drink will hurt you. It’s that one drink could lead to another, and maybe another. Once you have fallen off the wagon already, it becomes easier to do it again. It negates all the hard work you have done to get sober. The risk simply isn’t worth it.

Studies have shown abstinence, or foregoing all alcohol, is the best way to avoid a relapse. While relapsing is nothing to be ashamed of — it happens to many people who have fought hard to get sober — it’s something you do want to avoid. If you don’t indulge in even one drink, then there’s no chance of suffering a relapse.

Should Recovering Alcoholics Still Drink?

There are some who argue recovering alcoholics should be permitted to drink.

They say the approach to avoid drinking altogether isn’t realistic, and it’s really a form of punishment for those who suffer from a disease. They also claim not being able to drink puts an unfair stigma on recovering alcoholics, because they stand out at parties or other social situations.

There is certainly a kernel of truth in that last claim. It can be hard to explain to others why you aren’t drinking at a party. However, when your sobriety is at stake, it is crucial to overcome that challenge.

What About Social Drinking?


Many people are able to drink in moderation. They can have a few drinks, and stop when they feel themselves becoming too intoxicated. They can drink in one social situation but not the next. So can alcoholics drink in moderation, too? No. Alcoholics are unable to become social drinkers. Unlike other drinkers, alcoholics shouldn’t drink socially. It can lean to a return in problem drinking, as one or two social drinks are likely to turn into eight or nine.

By the time you find out you are unable to moderate your drinking, unsafe drinking habits may have already returned. Your personal, social and work relationships may suffer again. You may again start experiencing negative health symptoms when you return to drinking. The path towards alcohol recovery will need to start again.

These negative repercussions can be avoided by dispelling the myth that alcoholics are able to drink in moderation. There are plenty of ways to enjoy social situations involving alcohol without drinking. There is no need to despair – it is just important to avoid that first drink.

Quitting drinking is a difficult process, but not an impossible one. However, it can be hard to make it back to sobriety once you start drinking again. Even if you have been sober for many years, having that first social drink again can open the door to old habits. So if you are wondering, can alcoholics drink, the answer is no. The best way to avoid relapse is to avoid the first drink. There are ways to avoid falling into the trap of thinking social drinking is OK.

Why Not Me?

The science behind alcoholism isn’t well understood yet. Like other diseases such as heart disease or cancer, some people are more susceptible to alcoholism than others. That means while some people can incorporate social drinking into their daily lives, others cannot. If you are an alcoholic, drinking in moderation is not a reality.

Alcoholism is a disease, like any other. In fact, alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. As such, it needs to be addressed like a real disease with real treatments. Some people view alcoholism as a moral or social problem instead of an illness that requires treatment. So you may be tempted to think, “If they can drink, why can’t I?”

This type of thinking can lead to problematic behavior. Instead, we need to think of alcoholism as an illness that requires treatment. If you are struggling with alcoholism, treatment is the first step to returning to a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle. Life without alcohol can still be fun and complete. Learning to live without drinking is the first step to making the most out of your life.

What is Alcoholism?

Not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. We all know people who drink socially and people who binge occasionally but don’t drink habitually. However, people who negatively affect their family or work responsibilities due to their drinking are people who abuse alcohol. People who become physically dependent on alcohol are alcoholics.

If you are struggling with alcoholism, you may feel the need to drink the same way you feel the need to eat. Your drinking may increase to the point you develop a tolerance to alcohol. When this happens, you need more drinks to reach the same feeling you once had with only a few. When you stop drinking, you experience physical withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include sweating, nausea, anxiety and even delirium. These are all symptoms you can move past, however, once you begin your path towards recovery.

As we mentioned previously, the causes of alcoholism are not well understood. Genetics, however, may be a key factor in determining whether you develop alcoholism.

People with alcoholic parents are
four times more likely to become an alcoholic
than those without alcoholic parents.

Environmental factors may also be a contributing factor. However, we do believe there is a genetic component.

Other causes may be physiological. If you are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, you may be more susceptible to alcoholism. Social factors can play a part too. Peer pressure and family and social environments can contribute to increased drinking and alcoholism.

If you are an alcoholic, you do not respond to alcohol the same way a nonalcoholic does. You won’t respond to the first drink of alcohol the same way. Instead of being able to stop at that first drink, you have the compulsion to continue into problematic drinking. Because of this, even someone who has lived a sober life for years and years should not attempt to drink again. There is not an amount of time after which an alcoholic can drink again. Can alcoholics drink again after they have demonstrated sobriety? Even one drink is not a good idea.

The First Drink

After a prolonged period of sobriety, it may seem OK to drink socially. After all, what harm will a glass of wine with dinner or a beer while watching the game do? If you are suffering from alcoholism, however, it is not the first drink that is the problem. That first drink may lead to a second and a third, and the problematic drinking behavior returns.

It may seem safe to try a drink, but this can take you back to square one. Many recovering alcoholics who have tried this find themselves back where they started. That first drink is the trigger to reignite the craving to drink in excess. Alcoholism is a mental obsession to drink. This obsession returns once you start drinking again. Attempting to drink socially or in moderation is not worth this risk.

It doesn’t matter what that first drink is. There is no one drink that is better than others. A glass of wine, a shot of liquor or a beer – these can all be triggers to start you down the path of drinking again. One is not safer than another to help maintain your sobriety. Any drink could reignite the compulsion to drink and restart old damaging habits.

The Compulsion to Drink

Can an alcoholic learn to drink in moderation? It may seem like that’s the case. It can be easy to say, “I’m different. I’ll be OK with one drink.” Is this a risk worth taking? That one drink can set you down a path to relapsing into alcoholism. Alcoholism is an illness that requires constant treatment. Just as you wouldn’t stop treatment that is curing your cancer or heart disease, you should not stop the treatment that is curing your alcoholism.

Temptations may be everywhere. They may come in the form of heavy-drinking friends or your lifestyle. You can help avoid relapsing by spending more time with nondrinking friends or avoiding situations where heavy drinking will occur. This will help you avoid returning to problematic drinking behaviors.

However, temptations to have that first drink can also come in more subtle ways, like a glass of champagne handed to you at a wedding or a beer given to you at a barbecue. What is the harm of drinking in these social situations? You may feel like a sip or a quick drink is harmless and will help avoid explanations or awkward social encounters. What’s the harm? You may think the answer to “can an alcoholic learn to drink in moderation?” is yes, but it’s not.

That first, seemingly harmless, drink is not itself the problem. It is instead the fact that this will reignite the compulsion to drink. If one drink was fine, why not two? For alcoholics, stopping at one drink is not a real option. Once you’ve had one drink, the compulsion to get drunk will return. The best way to avoid the compulsion to drink is complete abstinence.

If you do have that one drink, it can be difficult to stop yourself from continuing. Years of sobriety can be lost and the process towards sobriety will need to start again. If you have a compulsion to drink, you will not be able to drink in moderation. Avoiding the first drink is the key to success in sobriety.

How Can I Avoid Drinking?


The first step is to seek treatment to learn how to stop drinking. Entering a rehab program will allow you to learn mechanisms to avoid returning to drinking. It will teach you how to have fun every day without the aid of drugs or alcohol. Seeking help will not only help you stop drinking now, but will also help you maintain sobriety after you leave the rehab program.

Counselors understand the challenges associated with stopping drinking. In a treatment program, you will have expert counselors that understand the challenges associated with avoiding alcohol often because they also are recovered alcoholics. These experts have learned from training, but also from experience, that you do not have to let addiction define you.

As counselors, we understand the difficulties associated with not drinking. We understand the temptations in everyday life to keep drinking or to begin again. We understand how easy it is to say “it’s only one drink.” With treatment, you become equipped with all the mechanisms you need to avoid taking that first drink that will set you down the path towards alcoholism again. You will have the tools you need to life a happy and sober life.

Life Without Alcohol

dailyLife1If you make the decision to seek treatment for alcoholism, the benefits of a sober lifestyle will more than make up for drinking. Instead of wondering, “can a recovering alcoholic ever drink again,” think instead of the benefits of not drinking. Instead of wondering, “can alcoholics drink in moderation,” think about how you will enjoy an alcohol-free lifestyle. This sober lifestyle will not only help your physical health, but also your social and familial relationships. During and after rehab you can look forward to these benefits:

  • You won’t need alcohol to feel normal or to avoid withdrawal
  • You’ll be able to have fun without the aid of alcohol
  • You’ll save money when you aren’t spending it on alcohol and drugs
  • Your personal relationships will grow and you will earn the respect of the people you care about most
  • You will be able to live without the shame and guilt that usually come with an alcohol dependence

These are just a few of the benefits you will find in a life without alcohol. Once you enter a treatment program, you will be able to enjoy these benefits and many others not only during the rehab treatment but afterwards, as well. Your daily life will be enriched and improve every day that you go without drinking.


Going through rehab does not mean you will not have the temptation to have a drink after you leave the program. It does mean, however, that you will understand the negative repercussions of having even just one drink. Just as importantly, you will be able to turn down that first drink and move along.

How Can I Stop Drinking?

If you struggle with alcoholism, the time to get help is now. With help, you can start down the path to recovering from alcoholism. You can learn how to live a full, rewarding and fun life without alcohol. It starts with a phone call.

A rehab center will help you every step of the way. It will help you with the initial symptoms of withdrawal and detox. It will help you learn how to have fun again without drugs and alcohol. It will teach you how to live a sober lifestyle for many years to come.

Over time, you can stop wondering “can alcoholics drink again?”, because the benefits to sobriety will become clearer every day. There are temptations in a sober life, but you will learn how to avoid having a first drink that can lead to relapsing into alcoholism. Saying no to that first drink can mean avoiding relapsing on years of sobriety and recovery from alcoholism.

At 12 Keys Rehab, counselors are available 24/7 to take your phone calls. Just follow this link to contact a counselor today and start talking about how you can start changing your life. Addiction to alcohol does not need to define your life. It does not need to impact your friends, family and career. You can live a full life without alcohol starting right now by checking into rehab.

It can be difficult to imagine life without drinking. After reaching sobriety, you may hope to return to life as a social drinker. You may think you can learn to enjoy drinking in moderation because other people do. However, as discussed here, alcoholism is a disease that requires constant treatment, and part of that treatment is not having even one drink.

12 Keys offers the treatment to get you started on living the rest of your life. You can live a healthy and sober life without alcohol. Contact a counselor to see how you can improve your life. See how you can enjoy each of your days without alcohol.


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