ERG: Get the facts about rehab
For people with drug & alcohol problems

Can I still be a casual drinker after recovering from alcoholism?

casual drinker alcoholic

Can Alcoholics Ever Go Back to Casual Drinking? 

When it comes to alcoholism, the truth isn’t always easy to hear, but it is simple.

Alcoholism is defined by a negative relationship with alcohol, which forms into an addiction where you cannot cope without it. You are quite simply dependent on drinking to get through the day.

If you are recovering from alcoholism, and have left a residential rehab programme you will know very well that your co-occurring issue, whether it’s depression, anxiety or PTSD will always want to drive you to drink, use drugs or find any solution to escape.

However, there will always be a temptation to think that you’ve ‘recovered’ and can now go back to a life of sensible, controlled drinking in social settings. But that’s simply the addiction talking.

After a period of sobriety, your body does not fully re-set to a clean bill of health and the consequences of relapse are significant, with an increased risk of serious health complications such as:

  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression

If you are sober but suffering from the temptation to drink again, contact us to discuss further treatment to keep you on track.

The desire to drink again after going through recovery can be fuelled by several different factors, from nostalgia for a pre-dependency social life to temptation brought on by continued chemical addiction.

So, to prevent you from relapsing and turning back to your life of dependency, let’s explore the reasons why you might consider returning to casual, social drinking after recovery and how it can impact your life, relationships, and health.

The Key Takeaway Points:

  • Very few alcoholics manage to successfully control their casual, social drinking permanently after going through recovery.
  • It can be impossible to know what ‘moderation’ means when you have lost control of drinking in your past.
  • Relapse can have catastrophic consequences for your general health
  • Sobriety is often hard-earned through extensive rehab and can be lost easily, even if your intention is only to drink socially
  • ‘Alcohol-free’ beers often contain small amounts of alcohol and total abstinence is usually easier
  • Get back in touch with us to discuss further treatment if you are worried about relapse

I still like the idea of going to the pub with my friends

Drink is, in some ways, the ultimate social lubricant and it helps facilitate our friendships and wider social life.

However, your innocent trips to the pub may have been the beginning point of your spiral into dependency.

Returning to an environment where alcohol is so prevalent is not good for you if you aim to lead a new, healthy life free from drink.

The process of recovery is an ongoing one and it is best to avoid temptation, even if you believe that you can ‘handle’ it.

Remember, the pub is not the beginning and end of your social life. We recommend actively exploring new social avenues where you can make friends and enjoy yourself in an environment that doesn’t revolve around alcohol.

You might try:

  • Taking an exercise class or going to the gym
  • Going for a drive in the country
  • Volunteering at an animal or homeless shelter

I still feel the need to drink

mental health and addiction during the pandemic

When you are alcohol dependent, your body has a chemical need to consume drink, and that chemical requirement does not simply go away when you become sober.

The most common risk of relapse when you leave rehab comes from a feeling that you physically need to drink to feel normal, rather than social peer pressure.

In this case, you will not be drinking because you want to, but because you feel you need to. There is no situation in this case where casual or social drinking at the pub with friends is a good course of action.

If you are worried that you will relapse because you have a physical urge to consume alcohol, get in touch with the medical experts at Castle Craig, any time, 24-hours a day.

Short of going back into rehab, you could go to reunions and meet-ups with other people in recovery, or sign up for an aftercare program.

Life was more interesting when I drank

We all know that alcohol helps lower inhibitions and can lead to you acting in a more adventurous and gregarious way than you might do while sober.

However, if you want to drink socially for any of these reasons, you are putting yourself in danger of having a major relapse and returning to drink heavily:

  • To stop being shy or anxious
  • To fit in with my more adventurous friends
  • To re-live the fun of the times I drank before

I worked hard to stop being dependent and I want to enjoy myself sensibly

Becoming sober through rehab will often feel like a great achievement, and it is certainly something you can take pride in.

However, rewarding yourself for your hard work with permission to drink socially again is simply you returning to the same system of rationalising and rewarding yourself with alcohol that may have got you into serious dependency trouble before.

I love the taste of beer so I will just drink alcohol-free brands

You should be very wary about seeking out ‘alcohol-free’ beers as a substitute for the real thing.

Most no-alcohol brands actually contain a small amount of alcohol and can act as a gateway for you to return to drinking heavier beverages.

What can I do to ensure I don’t fall back into casual or heavy drinking?

  • After rehab, aim to live with a sober mindset, whereby not drinking is normal and any deviation from that is unusual and unwanted.
  • Accept that you are chemically dependent and that your ideas of moderation will not be easily defined or in line with wider society.
  • Avoid any complications of confusion by staying away from ‘alcohol’ free’ beers
  • Seek out new activities where the social interaction doesn’t revolve around the pub
  • Be prepared to seek help again if you are worried about temptation or relapse.

A life of recovery is just that, a life, and we know that treatment doesn’t stop when you leave rehab. At Executive Rehab Guide, we are ready and willing to take your call to discuss further treatment to ensure you can stay healthy, sober, and happy.

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About the Author

  • Janet has worked within recovery for over 9 years and is an intrinsic part of ERG. She specialises in family therapy connecting the addict back with the family of origin.