Many veterans decide they want to quit drinking. For some, the reasons for quitting may be for their health, or they may simply not enjoy drinking alcohol. For others, however, quitting alcohol becomes a necessity. Specifically, people who find themselves suffering from an alcohol use disorder cannot control when and how much they drink. Left untreated, alcohol use disorder can lead to a host of health conditions such as liver disease and cancer.
That said, many people who recover from alcohol addiction are left wondering, “Can alcoholics ever drink again?” It is important to understand the basics to better understand this question and the risks associated with drinking alcohol after recovery. That starts with understanding what alcohol use disorder is and why drinking in moderation can be dangerous for those in recovery.
Alcohol Use Disorder vs Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and alcohol abuse are often used interchangeably, when, in fact, they are not the same thing. Understanding the difference between the two can be especially helpful when trying to spot alcohol addiction. While no level of alcohol abuse is healthy, not everyone who abuses alcohol has an alcohol use disorder.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, AUD is a “chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.” It is estimated that around 15 million people in the United States have AUD. And unfortunately, the presence of AUD is especially prominent among veterans. In fact, one study found that more than 40% of U.S military veterans have a lifetime history of alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol abuse, also called alcohol misuse, on the other hand, is described as a pattern of drinking too much or too often. This type of drinking interferes with your daily life. Often, someone who abuses alcohol will have difficulty controlling where or when they drink, such as drinking alone or on the job. Alcohol abuse can lead to physical dependency on alcohol, which can lead to alcoholism.
But what is the cause of alcoholism? The exact cause is still unknown, but we do know that alcohol triggers your brain to release dopamine, the chemical associated with positive feelings. This leads your brain to link alcohol with positive feelings, which makes you crave drinking more. While this association takes place in virtually everyone, not all alcohol users will develop an addiction. There are a few risk factors that are believed to be a cause of alcoholism, including family history, frequency of drinking, and exposure to alcohol at a young age.
Can I Drink in Moderation if I’m an Alcoholic?
Drinking in moderation means controlling the amount of alcohol you drink. And for many veterans, particularly those in early recovery, it’s tempting to ask, “Can alcoholics ever drink again?” But while many who struggle with alcohol abuse can exhibit some level of moderation, those with alcohol use disorders cannot.
Drinking in moderation is a common strategy used by many who are trying to deal with their drinking problem on their own. This is often done by trying to stay sober or cutting back on the amount they drink. Unfortunately, the majority of people who try to drink in moderation to curb their alcohol abuse fail. One study estimates that nearly 80% of people who attempt to stop drinking without treatment will relapse within one to three years.
This could be because people who worry about their alcohol consumption are often those who are realizing they have an addiction. Rarely does a healthy person ask themself if alcoholics can ever drink again, because they’re not worried about being an alcoholic. Put simply, normal, healthy drinkers don’t focus on their alcohol consumption. So if you find yourself trying to moderate your drinking, you may be struggling with alcoholism.
Can Alcoholics Ever Drink Again?
If you’re left wondering, “Can alcoholics ever drink again?” the unfortunate truth is that moderation hardly ever works for those who are worried about drinking too much. For people living with alcohol use disorders, turning back to alcohol can reopen the door to abuse and ultimately addiction. Stories of people who have recovered from their alcohol addiction and returned to moderate, social drinking can be tempting, but those cases are rare and may not always be truthful.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease, meaning it tends to worsen over time. People who try and quit drinking after a relapse often say it that controlling their drinking is much harder the second time around and only gets worse every time you try. For this reason, the current body of addiction research does not support moderate drinking for those with alcohol addictions, particularly veterans.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Veterans
Many veterans drink alcohol, but not all develop alcohol use disorder. Specifically, the risk for alcohol addiction increases in veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress or other invisible wounds of war. These wounds can be the result of things like combat exposure or military sexual trauma. Alcohol provides temporary relief from these wounds, but prolonged abuse can lead to addiction and serious health conditions down the road.
Common signs of alcohol abuse in veterans include:
- Trouble at work such as not showing up on time or missing deadlines
- Strains on personal relationships
- Drinking alone or in secrecy
- Irritability or mood swings
- Becoming isolated from family and friends
- Choosing to drink over other responsibilities or obligations
- Thoughts of suicide
Getting help for alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re asking yourself, “Can alcoholics ever drink again?” then chances are you’re ready to take your first steps towards recovery.
Veteran Alcohol Addiction Treatment in DeLand, Florida
If you or someone close to you is struggling with alcohol addiction, the time to get help is now. At Heroes’ Mile in DeLand, Florida, we specialize in helping veterans with substance use disorders and mental health issues. Our treatment facility, located just outside Daytona, is made for veterans and was created by veterans to provide the best care possible for those who have served.
Treatment at Heroes’ Mile begins with a full detox from alcohol, where we can help you safely cope with alcohol withdrawals under 24/7 medical supervision. This type of care keeps you safe and comfortable, while significantly reducing your risk of relapse.
After detoxing, you can transition to our residential rehab. Here, you’ll learn how to develop the blueprints for a healthy, successful recovery. During this process, you’ll have access to treatments such as group therapy, EMDR therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy, all of which can help you overcome your addiction alongside fellow veterans.
You may also elect to enroll in an outpatient program after leaving Heroes’ Mile. In this program, you can live at home while receiving treatment. This program can be either a partial hospitalization program or an intensive outpatient program, or both. These programs can help you bridge the gap between rehabilitation and long-term recovery.
If you’re still wondering, “Can alcoholics ever drink again?” or if you’d like more information about any of our treatment programs, call our admissions specialists at 888-838-6692. You may also contact us through our confidential contact form. Whatever you choose, our veteran staff members will be ready to help you on your path to a healthy, happy life, free from alcohol addiction.
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