A widely misunderstood notion that is common amongst newcomers to sobriety is that they can drink responsibly after they have left treatment. The ignorance surrounding this notion has led many an addict to relapse not only on alcohol, but to relapse using their preferred drug of choice. There are many ways we can try and rationalize drinking after treatment; it is often mistakenly believed that if you were addicted to opiates, cocaine, or benzodiazepines, then your problem of addiction was relegated to those substances, and only those substances. This rationale is easy to profess, especially if we are convinced that addiction is merely a physiological problem. As anyone who has ever gotten sober knows, however, the removal of one’s physical dependency is simply the beginning of the process of effectively treating addiction. It is often said that addiction is a disease of the body and an obsession of the mind. This is a fairly accurate representation in the sense that it illustrates the fact that our bodies become physically addicted but also recognizes that the lack of physical addiction does not equate to a cessation of the obsession.
To put it as straightforward and directly as possible, using any substance, alcohol included, is really just a strategy addicts have figured out that delivers them, momentarily, from the suffering intrinsic to life in general. Alcohol, heroin, Xanax, and methamphetamine all worked very different in terms of how they affect our biochemistry; from the standpoint of a mechanism that allows us temporary relief from anger, frustration, envy, resentment, and depression, they are, for all intents and purposes, the exact same. The process of ascending from an addicted state to a state where we can foster new perspectives and behaviors in order to supplant our desire to alleviate suffering is no easy task. If an individual leaves treatment and their first instinct is to return to a substance to fill the void they have within themselves, they have not been proper educated about the severe nature of addiction’s ruthless insidiousness. One of the primary goals in sobriety is understanding that we are going to be uncomfortable, anxious, and that this suffering is part of life. What we begin to understand is that the way past suffering is not circumvent the process and experience of it, but rather to face suffering, in whatever form that it manifests, with courage, honesty, and patience. When we are truly able to see healing from this perspective, we will no longer need to make rationalizations for drinking, as we will see it for what it is; a fast track back to hell.