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Can an Alcoholic Ever Drink Again

Can an Alcoholic Ever Drink Again?

by Eduardo Reyes

Assessing the Choice to Attempt Drinking After Getting Sober

Have you ever had the thought that, even if you struggled with addiction in the past, you’d be able to drink in moderation? Alternatively, have you ever wondered, “Can alcoholics ever drink again?”

Whether you’re someone with a self-defined problem or have been to treatment, it isn’t uncommon for people who have had an issue with alcohol in the past to grapple with the thought, “Would it be so bad if I had a drink again?” or “What about social drinking only?”

Today, we’re going to answer the question, “Can an alcoholic ever drink again?” We’ll also discuss the stages of relapse and how understanding them can prevent relapse when to get help for alcohol abuse, and go over signs and symptoms that can help you determine if you have a problem with alcohol.

Can an Alcoholic Ever Drink Again?

It’s true that addiction recovery is not one-size-fits-all. Alcohol addiction is different for everyone. A recovering alcoholic with a very specific background and perspective might choose a “controlled drinking” approach at some point post-addiction that allows them to have a drink from time to time.

However, if asked, “Can an alcoholic ever drink again?” Most providers and recovering addicts will say “No.” In short, having a drink isn’t worth the risk.

It’s best to avoid moderate drinking or “controlled drinking” if you’ve ever had a problem with alcohol. Not only is it very easy to fall back into alcohol addiction, abuse, or unhealthy drinking behaviors again, but there’s no reason to try drinking again.

Even for those who have never faced alcohol dependence, alcohol can have negative effects on mental and physical health.

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The Stages of Relapse: What to Know

Understanding the stages of relapse can help you prevent returning to the stage of active alcohol abuse or addiction. Many people assume that you only relapse when you drink alcohol or use drugs again, but this isn’t the case: Emotional and mental relapses occur first.

If you can identify emotional or mental relapse before you drink, it can help you avoid a backslide that could come with severe negative consequences. Here are the three stages of relapse and how to identify each.

The Emotional Relapse Stage

During the emotional relapse stage, you might not have conscious thoughts about drinking or using a substance. Instead, the emotional relapse stage refers to a time when you experience an uptick in mental health symptoms like sadness, depression, anxiety, loneliness, or restlessness, often paired with a lack of self-care regarding these feelings.

Since you aren’t using appropriate coping skills, even if you think, “There’s no way I’d drink alcohol again,” this can actually set you up for physical relapse later on. It’s a precursor, and learning to notice it matters.

That’s why the addiction treatment programs at Catalina Behavioral Health focus on learning to identify and tend to feelings like anger, nervousness, sadness, loneliness, or guilt, as well as addressing any co-occurring mental health conditions or life circumstances that impact your experiences and how you feel day-to-day.

The Mental Relapse Stage

Mental Relapse Stage

Mental relapse is when you start to notice cravings to drink or other urges to use drugs. If you’ve started feeling tempted to drink again, this could be what’s going on. You might also identify the mental relapse stage through one of the following signs:

  • Minimizing past experiences with alcohol abuse (e.g., “it wasn’t that bad.”)
  • Glamorizing past alcohol or drug use. For example, you might think about how you miss drinking alcohol during this stage.
  • Keeping thoughts about drinking or using again to yourself instead of telling someone (e.g., a therapist, sponsor, or loved one).
  • Planning “how” you’ll use again (e.g., “I’ll only drink on Fridays and Saturdays”) or thinking about how you’ll acquire alcohol or drugs.

It’s essential to seek support if you notice the signs above. These thoughts are very common in anyone recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of; open up about them instead, even if you believe it’ll be okay.

The Physical Relapse Stage

The physical relapse stage is potentially self-explanatory. Physical relapse is when you drink or use again. This could refer to a “lapse” (drinking again once) or a full-blown relapse, where you start drinking regularly again.

Although relapse doesn’t have to be part of recovery for everyone, many people in alcohol recovery experience a relapse. Resources like addiction treatment, support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, or therapy, can help.

When to Get Help for Alcohol Abuse

If any of the three stages of relapse resonate with you, it’s a sign to ask for help. If you have ever had a problem with substance abuse, here are some additional signs that it’s time to talk to someone.

Depending on the situation, you might talk with a therapist, a sponsor, or to look for another form of support, like alcohol treatment or alcohol support groups.

  • You feel tempted to start drinking again, especially repeatedly or alongside other mental health symptoms.
  • In general, you’re experiencing new or worsened signs of a mental health condition or are going through a significant life transition and may benefit from mental health therapy.
  • You experience signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD) or score high on an AUD screener.

When alcoholics drink again, the downsides outweigh any potential benefits by far. It’s never too soon or too late to ask for help. Catalina Behavioral Health offers substance abuse, dual diagnosis, and mental health services that can support you in what you’re going through.

An Example of the Screening for Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder

Knowing the signs of alcohol use disorder or alcohol abuse can be validating for someone in the emotional, mental, or physical stage of relapse. Review the following questions and tally your score: 2-3 symptoms indicate mild AUD, 4-5 indicate moderate AUD, and 6+ indicate severe AUD.

In the last year, have you:

  • Drank despite problems tending to responsibilities at work, school, or in your home or family life caused by alcohol or overcoming the effects of alcohol?
  • Gotten into a dangerous or risky situation more than once while drinking or already drunk (e.g., driving, unsafe sex, operating heavy machinery)?
  • Spent a significant portion of time thinking about drinking alcohol, getting sick from alcohol, or getting over the effects of alcohol?
  • Given up or given less time to activities that you typically enjoy or consider important so you could drink?
  • Noticed an increased tolerance for alcohol (needed to drink more to achieve desired effects)?
  • Experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms upon quitting alcohol or decreasing alcohol intake?
  • Hard times where you’ve drank more or for longer than you wanted or intended to?
  • Drank despite alcohol causing problems with friends, family members, or other loved ones?
  • Wanted to quit drinking or reduce the amount you drink but couldn’t?
  • Wanted to drink so badly that you couldn’t think about other things?

Whether you notice symptoms like these in yourself now or before you quit drinking, it’s a good sign that it’s best to avoid alcohol for your physical or mental health. If you have a drinking problem, there is hope. We’re here to help.

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How Substance Abuse Treatment Helps with Alcohol Abuse

Substance abuse treatment helps people who abuse alcohol and other drugs address the underlying causes of addiction. In alcohol rehab at Catalina Behavioral Health, you’ll create new routines, and build a strong set of coping skills. You’ll also learn to identify triggers and relapse warning signs, work on healthy relationships or communication skills, and more.

Our treatment facility offers inpatient rehab and various levels of outpatient treatment. Whether you have a “mild” drinking problem or a severe one, our team of mental health and medical professionals will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan with goals unique to you.

Problematic drinking behaviors and addiction aren’t something to take a chance with. Whether you’re dealing with urges, mental health symptoms, problems in personal relationships, or active alcohol use disorder, getting to a better place and maintaining a successful long-term recovery is possible.

Call Catalina Behavioral Health for Help Getting Sober

Call Catalina Behavioral Health for Help

Regardless of whether you’re in recovery and are experiencing challenges along the way or are actively using alcohol, Catalina is here for you. We offer multiple care levels, from inpatient rehab to outpatient programming, which allows us to treat all levels of addiction.

Catalina Behavioral Health is also equipped to address mental health and dual diagnosis concerns. Call our admissions line, available 24/7, to seek help for yourself or a loved one today.

All calls are confidential, and we are here to support sobriety, so please reach out now!

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FAQs Regarding Alcohol Addiction

What happens to your body day by day when you quit drinking?

When you first stop drinking, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include alcohol cravings, headaches, shaking or tremors, insomnia, clammy skin, and nausea.

Withdrawal symptoms like these usually start within about one day of your last drink and start to peak at around the 2-3 day mark. They may start to subside or lessen within about 3-7 days. At the two-week mark, acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms should be over.

Do recovered alcoholics live longer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), excessive alcohol consumption can shorten your life by 26 years. However, research suggests that alcoholics who stop drinking can have an average life span.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/pdfs/about/cdc_alcohol_aboutus-508-h.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441882/
  3. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder

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