Can Alcoholics Ever Drink Again? Exploring the Risks and Realities

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Alcoholism is a disease that hijacks the mind and enslaves the body. It can have a profound effect on the brain and body. There may be times in an alcoholic’s life when they can abstain from drinking. Taking a broad view of an alcoholic’s drinking history reveals two common traits that are present in all cases.

  • Firstly, alcoholics tend to consume alcohol in excess beyond their original intentions. 
  • Secondly, after alcoholics have stopped drinking, they will eventually start drinking again.

Alcohol is a prison for all alcoholics, and they hold the key. This is why alcoholism becomes a chronic disease known as alcohol use disorder. It influences millions of people around the globe. 

One of the most debated topics in alcoholism recovery is “Can alcoholics ever drink again?” It is characterized by loss of control over drinking, compulsive alcohol use, and damaging consequences when not drinking.

There is no single source of alcoholism. A combination of environmental, social, and genetic factors can enhance a person’s chances of experiencing alcohol abuse. The influence of alcoholism can be devastating to alcoholics, their families, and society as a whole. 

  • Physical effects can include heart disease, liver damage, and brain damage.
  • Mental health effects can include depression, anxiety, and an increased risk of suicide.
  • Social consequences can include strained relationships, financial problems, and legal issues.

This article will explore the risks and realities of whether alcoholics can ever drink again. We will also examine the concept of abstinence and the potential risks of relapse.

turning away drink

Understanding Alcoholics

An alcoholic is a person who has developed a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. They continue to drink alcohol despite the negative consequences it has on their life. Alcoholics often struggle to control or stop their drinking, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.

Signs & Symptoms Of Alcoholics

Alcoholism is a complex disease that can have a wide array of physical, psychological, and social symptoms. Some of the general signs of alcoholism are given below.

  1. Drinking more than intended: This can indicate that alcoholics are losing control over their drinking habits.
  2. Cravings for alcohol: A person with alcoholism may have strong urges to drink, even if they are trying to quit or reduce their alcohol intake.
  3. Difficulty controlling drinking: A person with alcoholism may find it hard to stop drinking once they start, even if they have other commitments or responsibilities.
  4. Developing a tolerance to alcohol: A person with alcoholism may need to drink more and more alcohol to feel the same effects they used to feel with less.
  5. Prioritizing drinking over responsibilities: A person with alcoholism may neglect other areas of their life to drink, such as work, family, or hobbies.
  6. Continuing to drink despite negative consequences: This can include problems with work, relationships, or legal issues, yet the person continues to drink.
  7. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking: Withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking, and nausea can occur when a person with alcoholism stops drinking.

Causes & Risk Factors Of Alcoholics 

There are several causes and risk factors that contribute to the development of alcoholism, including:

  1. Genetics: A family history of alcoholism is a major source of a person’s chances of developing alcohol addiction.
  2. Gender: One factor is that men drink more than women on average, both in frequency and quantity.
  3. Age of first drink: Starting to drink at an early age, such as in the teenage years, can increase a person’s risk of developing alcoholism.
  4. Trauma or stress: Traumatic experiences or ongoing stress can lead to alcohol abuse and addiction as a way to cope with negative emotions.
  5. Mental health issues: Conditions such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar diseases can increase a person’s risk of growing alcohol addiction.
  6. Social environment: Growing up where alcohol use is tolerated can enhance a person’s risk of growing alcoholism.
  7. Availability of alcohol: Easy access to alcohol can increase a person’s chances of developing alcohol addiction.
alcoholic binge drinking

Affects On An Alcoholics’ Body

When a recovering alcoholic resumes drinking, what happens to the body? 

Alcoholism can have a significant impact on the human body. The sooner a person seeks help for alcoholism, the better their chances of recovering and avoiding long-term damage. Here are some ways in which alcoholism affects alcoholics.

  1. Heart: Alcoholism can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Heavy drinking can also cause an irregular heartbeat. It is known as atrial fibrillation, which can raise the risk of blood clots and stroke.
  2. Brain: Alcoholism can lead to changes in brain chemistry and function. It can impact a person’s mood, behavior, and cognitive abilities. Chronic alcohol use can damage the brain’s structure and operations. It can lead to memory problems, difficulty with decision-making, and impaired coordination and balance.
  3. Immune system: Alcoholism can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to infections and diseases. Heavy drinking can also boost the risk of certain types of cancers, such as breast, throat, and liver cancer.
  4. Liver: The liver is responsible for processing alcohol in the body. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to liver damage, inflammation, and scarring. This can lead to a condition called cirrhosis, which can be life-threatening.
  5. Pancreas: Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreas is a gland that has digestive enzymes and hormones that regulate blood sugar. This can cause a condition called pancreatitis. It can be harrowing and may require hospitalization.
Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to liver damage.

Concept Of Abstinence

Abstinence refers to the complete avoidance of alcohol consumption. It also refers to the practice of alcoholics refraining from all addictive substances. This is widely assumed to be the most effective approach to alcoholism recovery. It allows the body to heal from the effects of alcohol. It also gives the brain a chance to:

  • Rewire itself
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Reduce the risk of relapse

Types Of Abstinence

There are different types of abstinence. These are:

  • Long-term abstinence: It refers to the permanent avoidance of alcohol.
  • Short-term abstinence: It may be used as a temporary measure to break the cycle of addiction and allow the body to detoxify.

Challenges & Benefits of Abstinence

Abstinence can be challenging, especially in the early stages of recovery when cravings for alcohol are most decisive. However, abstinence has many benefits, including improved physical and mental health, better relationships, and greater self-esteem. With the proper support and treatment, many people can achieve long-term abstinence and maintain their sobriety over time.

Risk of Relapse

Relapse refers to a return to alcohol use after a period of abstinence. It is a common occurrence in alcoholism recovery. A variety of factors can trigger it. These triggers can be internal or external.

Internal Triggers:

  • Stress
  • Negative emotions
  • Cravings for drinking alcohol

External Triggers:

  • Social situations
  • Exposure to alcohol advertising or media
  • Places or people associated with past drinking

Environmental factors can also play a significant role in relapse. Social support and a stable home environment can help individuals in recovery avoid relapse. On the other hand, stress, financial problems, and lack of support can increase the risk of relapse.

Impact Of Relapse On Recovery

Relapse is a thief that steals an alcoholic’s health, relationships, and future.

Relapse can have a significant impact on recovery, both physically and emotionally. It can set back progress made in recovery. It may also lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and hopelessness. However, it is essential to remember that relapse is a standard part of the sobriety process. It does not mean that treatment has failed. With the proper support and treatment, individuals can learn from their relapse. They can use it as a learning experience to strengthen their recovery.

controlled drinking

Controlled Drinking For Alcoholics

Controlled drinking refers to the idea that alcoholics can learn to manage alcohol consumption rather than completely abstaining from it. This approach involves setting limits on the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption. It also includes understanding coping mechanisms to prevent excessive drinking.

The fact is that complete abstinence may not be a realistic goal for alcoholics. Some alcoholics may be able to learn to control their drinking behavior. This approach acknowledges that alcohol use is a complex issue. Various factors contribute to an individual’s relationship with alcohol.

Risks Of Controlled Drinking

The potential risks of controlled drinking include the following:

  • The risk of relapse
  • The risk of underestimating the severity of alcoholism 

Supporters of controlled drinking argue that it can be a more flexible and sustainable approach for some individuals. And this will allow them to maintain social relationships and enjoy certain aspects of life without completely cutting out alcohol.

Benefits Of Controlled Drinking

For alcoholics, drinking is a one-way ticket to oblivion. The potential benefits of controlled drinking include the following:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved quality of life
  • Reduced feelings of guilt or shame associated with abstinence-only approaches.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue controlled drinking as a recovery approach should be made in consultation with a qualified healthcare professional.

If you’re asking, “why do addicts relapse when things are good,” we have you covered. Click here to know the reasons.

Alcohol Rehab In Los Angeles, California

Launch Centers is an alcohol rehab center in Los Angeles, California. It offers comprehensive treatment programs for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction. Our team of experienced professionals can treat alcoholics and their mental health issues.

Launch Centers is an excellent choice if you or your loved one is seeking help. At Launch Centers, our clients receive personalized treatment plans tailored to their unique needs. We propose inpatient and outpatient programs based on the severity of the addiction.

  • Our inpatient programs provide a safe and supportive environment where you can focus entirely on your recovery.
  • Our outpatient programs allow you to receive treatment while maintaining your daily responsibilities.

We also offer ongoing support and aftercare planning to maintain and achieve long-term sobriety. Don’t wait to get the help you need – take the first step today.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

staff member drug alcohol treatment los angeles

Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

treatment team los angeles ca

Eric Chaghouri, MD


chloe kruskol los angeles rehab team

Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Joey

    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.

  • Ben

    This treatment facility has changed my life. I have always struggled with my mental health and this young adult program provided me with the necessary skills to launch to adulthood. I commend anyone who struggles with mental health or substance use (which was not me) to try this program out. It will change your life.

  • Conner

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me. I am very grateful that I was able to have such a wonderful experience with Launch.

  • Adam

    In no uncertain terms Launch Centers changed my life. The staff at Launch are professional, knowledgable and relatable. They keep the format diverse and interesting which kept me engaged in the process. The greatest thing we can do in life is seek to improve ourselves. Launch gave me a skill set I consider to be invaluable in the journey of becoming the best version of myself. I would implore anybody considering Launch to step outside their comfort zone and go, you will not regret it.


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