If you’ve made it through rehab and beaten drug addiction, you may be wondering if it’s ok to have a drink in recovery or sobriety.
First of all, congratulations! You’re now living a sober life, free of substances. But with this success comes new questions and unknowns about managing your recovery over the following months and even years.
In terms of whether it’s okay to drink alcohol during this time, the answer isn’t simply yes or no. However, there are general guidelines to follow so as to avoid unnecessary substance use. For instance, if you were to drink in sobriety frequently, it wouldn’t be called “sobriety” anymore.
Play It Safe When Considering a Drink While in Recovery
For obvious reasons, people who struggle with alcoholism often give up alcohol entirely, fearing that even one sip could tip them back into those old feelings of addiction.
On the other hand, it may seem strange to avoid drinking if your past addictions had nothing to do with alcohol. Remember, alcohol is just another mind-altering substance in beverage form instead of pills or injectables. When you’ve previously struggled with substances, one habit can simply replace another.
One drink could turn into two or four. Social drinking could turn into drinking alone to relax or feel better after a hard day. Before you realize it, you’re heading down another path of relying on substances.
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Having a social drink in recovery is especially dangerous if you tend to drink with friends you used to party with because it can conjure up feelings from the past and make you reminisce about what it was like when you used to use drugs. Additionally, peer pressure from these friends could lead you to drink more than you planned or even sample some other drugs they offer you.
Addiction is an illness that can have lifelong effects on your brain and neurochemistry. Even if the stimulus is slightly different—alcohol instead of drugs—it can have a similar triggering impact for your brain.
What if You Have a New Circle of Friends and Healthier Habits?
People who have made it several years into recovery and no longer feel their old temptations as strongly as they did before often feel “in control,” like drinking in moderation is possible without heading too far down that path. Especially if you have a supportive network of friends and family members who can watch out for you and help steer you back toward safe territory, if they notice that you may be slipping, you may feel like it’s safe to have a drink once in a while.
If you are correct in those assumptions, it may indeed be possible for you to enjoy a social drink from time to time. However, there are often unexpected triggers that pop up and sabotage even the most careful people. Do your best to check in with yourself, be honest about whether you truly feel in control, and exercise your good judgment that you have worked so hard to develop.
If any red flags worry you, it’s best to put the drink down, say “no thank you,” and leave the room for a while until you regain your sense of control. Remember, you have worked for years to get to this point of sobriety. Don’t let one get-together with friends or one night out undermine all of your hard work and sacrifice. Nobody has ever woken up the following day thinking, “I wish I’d had an extra drink last night.” It’s always the other way around.
What are Some Red Flags to Warn You Away From Taking a Drink?
If you check in with yourself and notice you’re having any of the following feelings, it’s best to steer clear of alcohol:
- You’re worried you won’t just stop at one
- You feel like you “need” that drink to relax or loosen up
- It feels like alcohol is a “safer” substitute for drugs
- You feel wary about whether or not this is a good idea
- You suspect your social group will be using more than just alcohol
- You’re starting to reminisce or have feelings about your past drug use
- It’s harder to say no to that drink than it should be
Any of the above should count as a signal to yourself that perhaps you’re not ready to drink in moderation yet. When in doubt, reach out to a professional before you do anything you’re unsure about.
Still Feeling Tempted to Drink in Recovery?
Struggling with these feelings is expected, to an extent. But if the urge to drink in recovery persists, it’s an indication that you may need help to maintain your sobriety. Contact us online with any questions about ways to stay sober and avoid relapses during long-term recovery.