Many people in recovery, as well as friends or loved ones, ask the question of whether or not a recovered addict can go on to have a normal drinking habit. They may have heard of instances where a person has overcome an addiction to drugs and been able to drink socially. While it is true that there are people who can do this, it is very rare and a risky behavior to engage in.
If you've ever heard the phrase Once an Addict, always an addict, then you may already have an idea of how addiction works when it comes to lifelong sobriety. It may sound quite pessimistic, but the truth is anyone who has been addicted to a substance will always carry the risk of addiction.
They can become addicted to something else, or relapse at some point in the future. This is because addiction is a lifelong condition that has biological and environmental roots. Decades of addiction can actually change the chemical structure and functioning of the brain. While it is possible to stop an addiction, it can never be fully cured.
This means that there is always a risk of it reappearing in some form or another. This disease model of addiction is widely accepted in the recovery community, and supports the idea that complete sobriety is necessary.
Having an addictive personality is another thing to consider. There is a set of characteristics common to addicts that make them more vulnerable to addiction that other individuals. Some of these characteristics include:
-A low sense of self esteem or self worth
-A tendency toward impulsive behavior or decisions.
-A general feeling of alienation from others.
-Symptoms of depression or anxiety.
-Generally feeling uncertain or insecure about their lives.
-A difficulty delaying feelings of gratification.
-Feeling that they have stressful lives.
-A higher tolerance for deviant behavior.
-Valuing nonconformity more than others.
It is strongly recommended that a recovered addict avoid alcohol and other addictive substances for the rest of their lives. This is because they have already developed psychological and physical dependencies on drugs that are difficult to completely eradicate. Having a relationship with any drug or alcohol that involves moderate usage is very difficult to accomplish.
It's also important to take the risk of relapse into consideration. In the first few weeks and months of sobriety, this risk is at its strongest. One would assume that the longer someone remains in recovery, the less likely they are to fall into relapse.
While the risk does weaken over time, it never completely disappears. Experiencing stress, depression, trauma, or facing triggers over the course of one's life will present challenging moments that increase the risk of a relapse. This makes it important to always stay engaged in the process of recovery. It can be easy for those with long term sobriety to grow comfortable and begin taking a passive role.
There are many people who prefer to shed the label of an addict once they feel they have moved past their addiction. This approach is also acceptable, as long as the person continues to work on themselves in other ways. Moving past addiction involves so much more than just getting sober.
For both people who prefer to call themselves lifelong addicts, and those who wish to move beyond their past, the following can help keep them going in the right direction toward growth and self improvement:
Working on specific character flaws that were at the root of their addiction.
-Achieving and maintaining emotional sobriety.
-Making gratitude a part of their daily routine.
-Staying to connected to their past in some way, to remind themselves of why they wanted to quit drugs or alcohol in the first place.