There is no cure for addiction. That is, medical detox, comprehensive treatment, complementary therapies, holistic care, aftercare, and support groups are all important parts of making the transition from active addiction to active recovery, but they do not remove addiction entirely.
For this reason, recovery must be an active and ongoing part of your life. There will be moments when someone who doesn’t know you well offers you a glass of wine and you think, “Maybe…” Or, there may be times when you are alone ordering at a restaurant or passing the beer and wine section of the grocery store and think, “I’ve been sober for a long time. One wouldn’t hurt.”
If you have had those thoughts and are considering follow through on them, think again. Having one absolutely can hurt. It can trigger cravings that may have been living dormant for years. Having just one in private can lead to two, three, or more. It can lead to binge drinking, heavy drinking, or a days-long binge that is hard to pull up from. What happens while you are under the influence can mean any number of potential hardships to you and to the people who love you and have come to depend on you.
Things You Can Say to Yourself When You Want to Drink
Whether you call it a mantra that you repeat to help you through a hard time, a reminder that you put on your phone to look at when you have moments of temptation, or just something you say to yourself in that moment when you are about to have a drink in your hand, it can help you do a 180 and get back on course.
- “I would have to tell _________.” Think about your partner, your closest friends, your parents, your sponsor, your therapist, potentially even your boss depending on what line of work you are in, or your parole officer if you have one. One of the consequences of drinking is the toll it takes on your relationships, and many who love you will be concerned about this choice.
- “Secrets will cause me to drink more.” Think you can hide it and no one will ever know? It’s true that you can choose not to tell anyone if you relapse and have a drink, but it’s also true that you will know, and that is arguably far more important. Keeping secrets is not good in recovery, and that in itself can be a trigger to drink more.
- “My body does not need more toxic exposure.” Alcohol is a toxin, and you worked hard in detox to flush out the remaining chemicals stored in your body. To drink now would reintroduce harmful chemicals. Especially if you have a focus on eating healthfully and/or working out, then drinking would undermine all that you’ve been working for on that front as well.
- “How will I feel when I wake up?” Whether or not you drink to the point that you have a hangover the next day, you will wake up the next day knowing you drank when you were trying to stay sober, and you will have to deal with that emotionally.
- “What happens next?” Now that you’ve had one drink, does that mean you are going to okay having one regularly? More than one? What does it mean for your use of other substances, including marijuana? When you open the door to “just one drink,” you are opening up the door to a wide range of paths that will take you off track and away from the lifestyle you are trying to create and maintain for yourself in recovery.
- “It’s not worth it.” If you find yourself coming up with responses to the statements and questions above with the goal of justifying your ability to drink “normally” (e.g., without consequences), simply remind yourself that there are no benefits, real or imagined, of drinking that will outweigh the very real and life-altering consequences of returning to active addiction.
In short, if it were possible for you to drink without experiencing any problems in your relationships, with your health, with the law, and/or at work, then you would have figured out a way to make it happen a long time ago. The fact is that you ended up in drug rehab for a reason, and when you implemented the coping skills and information you learned in your life, your life got better. Should you decide to drink – even just one – you put all that you have gained at risk and could end up as bad off or worse than you were when you entered treatment. It’s just not worth it.
What Do You Think About Relapse?
Do you believe it is possible to return to active drug and/or alcohol use after addiction? How many people do you know who have lost their lives as a result of relapse? Is it worth the risk to you?