Rehab clinics and organizations have different views on the label that should be applied to a person who has undergone therapy and managed to remain sober for an extended period of time. To put it simply, some programs refer to these individuals as recovered alcoholics, in the sense that they are no longer slaves to liquor, whereas other consider them recovering alcoholics, meaning that sobriety represents a constant fight against relapse triggers.
Emotional sobriety and dry drunkenness
There is also a finer line separating the two concepts, namely that the programs who perceive patients as recovering alcoholics emphasize on the idea of emotional sobriety. Emotional sobriety involves being able to cope with the overwhelming problems of day to day life in a mature, rational manner rather than seeking an escape means similar to alcohol abuse. It means taking the good with the bad heads on and emerging triumphant from the battle.
On the opposite pole, we have the dry drunkenness syndrome, which entails that the former alcoholic has not yet been able to develop the correct attitude and behavior after renouncing liquor and is approaching problems in the same manner as before rehab. Dry drunks are very susceptible to relapse triggers because the behavioral patterns that lead to alcoholism are still present.
A personal perspective
I tend to side with the factions that favor the recovering label, but that’s mainly due to my personal background and insight on the issue. Although I can currently say that I’ve developed a set of skills that would allow me to refrain from the temptations of alcohol, I didn’t get to where I am from the first attempt. In fact, my several relapses taught me very valuable things, such as not taking your sobriety for granted. Relapses are just around the corner, waiting to pounce you when you least expect it.
Even after five years of the straight and narrow path, I’m certain that I wouldn’t be able to start drinking casually anymore because I’d be heading right back into my previous unhealthy lifestyle. One sip of the magical elixir and I’d be hooked on that stuff once more. Therefore, my inability to drink in moderation leads me to believe that even after five years of a perfect sobriety record, I’m still not recovered, but recovering.
And don’t think I’m just hypothesizing here. I’ve tested the theory that I can start drinking moderately once. I started with a non alcoholic beer with a couple of friends, which turned into a few non alcoholic beers while watching the Super Bowl, which turned into a 5% alcohol beer after dinner and Bang!, it was back to hard liquor five times a day before I knew it. You see, although I was well adjusted in my alcohol free routine, it only took a slight reminder of the old days to fall off the wagon.
The silver lining of this story is that in spite of my relapse, I discovered my limitations and now I’m fully aware that drinking socially is no longer an option for me or for any other recovering alcoholic. Even if you think you can drink in moderation, I advise you to take my word for it and not test your willpower this way.