Why should I avoid alcohol if I’m in recovery from drug abuse?

Churches Role

As you settle into your recovery from substance use disorder and start socializing more, you may wonder if it is OK to have a casual drink with friends or partake in an after-work beer. After all, you were in treatment for drug abuse, not alcohol, right? There is a difference, you tell yourself, and one little drink won’t hurt, will it?

It is a scenario many in recovery are confronted with, and while opinions may differ on how alcohol consumption affects those who haven’t been classified as having an alcohol use disorder, there is a consensus among most recovery groups that one should abstain from both drugs and alcohol to be successful in their sobriety.  

So, why should you avoid alcohol if you are recovering from illicit drug abuse? Consider the following: 

Alcohol is an inhibitor

Alcohol, like illicit drugs, is a mind-altering substance that affects your judgment, mood, and actions. Groups like Narcotics Anonymous consider alcohol a drug and welcome those in need of both alcohol abuse and drug abuse treatment into their program.  

When our judgment is affected, we may struggle with making good decisions or fall into harmful behaviors. One cannot typically become sober on willpower alone and adding a mind-altering substance to the mix can make sticking to your drug abuse treatment and recovery much more challenging.  

Studies have indicated those who consume alcohol while in recovery from drug abuse are at risk of experiencing an alcohol-induced relapse, meaning the inhibitions they experience while drinking, even in perceived moderation, could trigger a desire to return to their drug of choice. 

Alcohol is a persistent disease

Numerous factors contribute to the development of a person’s substance use disorder and many people in drug abuse treatment and recovery showcase addictive behaviors early on in their lives. These addictive behaviors can manifest in many forms, from drug use to overindulgence in food, exercise, or spending money.  

A person who exhibits addictive behaviors is compelled to continue those behaviors, even if they experience negative outcomes. Sometimes these behaviors can be difficult to acknowledge and are therefore not addressed appropriately. 

While you may have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder and not an alcohol use disorder, attempting to consume alcohol, even in moderation, could unlock those addictive behaviors and manifest as an alcohol addiction.  

Addiction to more than one substance is a very real occurrence for many. More than a third of people in addiction recovery treatment struggle with both alcohol and illicit substance use, and many in recovery report their addictions started with alcohol consumption, even if it was drug abuse that led them to treatment.  

Drinking could impact your sober relationships

In our addiction treatment and recovery, growing a sober support system is important to our success and helping us maintain sobriety. We strive to establish healthy relationships with those who will support us in our sobriety, and, in turn, we can support others. By consuming alcohol while in recovery, you are likely to alienate your sober peers who are dedicated to abstaining from both drugs and alcohol. This can be damaging to both parties as it negatively influences the other person working to stay sober and isolates you from your support system. This isolation could lead you to drink more or trigger a desire to cope with your isolation through drug abuse.  

When it comes down to it, there may be many reasons you desire to drink during your recovery from drug abuse. You may think it will help you feel normal and better socialize with others, or it will relieve some of the stress you experience during your adjustment to sobriety. But what you must understand is that addiction treatment and recovery are designed to equip you with the skills to do those things on your own, without the perceived “aid” of a mind-altering substance like alcohol.  

The potential negative outcomes of drinking during your recovery far out way the positive feelings you may experience at the moment of a drink. Even if you know someone else who seems to have made drinking in their recovery work, you have come too far in your healing journey from addiction to risk falling back into its grasp. 

Remember the common adage shared in recovery, “One is too many and a thousand is never enough.” Do not take away from the progress you have made in your recovery by letting “one drink” set you back.

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