My last relapse was around two years ago, when my wife was out of town for the weekend visiting her sister. While things were going well and I made some real progress in my recovery, a part of me was wondering when I can start drinking “normally” again.
The answer was never. Once you abuse alcohol, thereís no turning back because booze will inevitably trigger the cravings and you wonít be able to stop. Even though you reached the point when you know youíre strong enough to handle a couple of drinks, if you were truly honest with yourself then you would realize you canít touch alcohol ever again.
No, you canít even drink in a social context
After attending various rehab programs and seeing a therapist, many recovering alcoholics will build up a bit of self-esteem and self-confidence. This goes double for those who have managed to stay clean and sober for years. However, once you had a sip of alcohol everything you worked for all those years ago goes down the drain and youíre back to square one.
By definition, alcoholics are people who donít know how to drink in moderation and alcohol addiction has a physical component. The physical addiction can manifest during the recovery process, meaning that our brain works pretty well with positive reinforcements. To be more precise, if you have a glass to drink, then thereís a high chance your brain will remind you of the good old times associated with alcohol.
The aforementioned mechanism doesnít account for social context. Regardless of whether youíre having one beer with your friends at the pub or one glass of champagne at a formal reception, the consequences are the same.
Itís true, in early recovery you have to let go of what used to be your social life. I wonít deny the fact that it can get pretty lonely to stay away from all those bars and pubs where you know all your friends are during the evening hours. However, donít forget that recovery is a time of change. If those friends donít want to meet up with you outside the pub or donít respect your decision of quitting alcohol, perhaps they werenít your friends after all.
Why I stopped thinking about drinking normally
As any recovering alcoholic who is attending regular support group meetings can confirm, all stories end up in the same way for alcoholics attempting to drink moderately: irrespective of whether you are sober for 2 months, 2 years or 20 years, itís never safe to drink again. Not only will all your efforts until that point have been in vain, but your motivation to start recovery all over again will be close to nil.
Whenever the opportunity arises and I feel tempted to have a drink because I donít see any harm in it, I start to analyze my current status. The conclusion I typically come to is that Iím a recovering alcoholic, a term that should not be confused with former alcoholic. Recovering implies an ongoing process, whereas former has more of a final nuance. Since Iím recovering, it means that alcohol still has some power over me. Therefore, even if Iím confident, I see no point in taking this risk and finding out if drinking “normally” again can become a reality!