Successful drinking after sobriety…

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Zach Rhoads
Posted on April 18th, 2023 - Last updated: November 20th, 2023
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.

Successful drinking after sobriety

Dear Stanton,

I am a 42-year-old woman who has struggled with alcoholism for most of my adult life. It all began after the tragic loss of my brother when I was in my early twenties, and I turned to alcohol as a means to numb the pain. My drinking quickly spiralled out of control and I began to lose everything – my job, relationships, and even my self-worth.

During the pandemic, I spent a lot of time assessing and evaluating my life priorities and with the help of some online resources and support from my sisters, I have finally managed to get my drinking under control. I have been completely sober now for almost 18 months and my life has improved tremendously. I am now ‘back on my feet’ with a stable job and a supportive network of friends and family.

Despite my progress, I am still haunted by the question: is it possible for me to enjoy an occasional drink without relapsing into my old habits? My friends and family often enjoy a glass of wine or a beer during social gatherings, and I can’t help but feel left out. I’ve heard stories of people who have successfully reintegrated alcohol into their lives after achieving sobriety, but I am unsure if this is the right path for me.

I’m torn between wanting to fit in and enjoy a casual drink with my loved ones, and the fear of risking my hard-earned sobriety. Stanton, can you please shed some light on this subject? Is successful drinking after sobriety achievable, or am I doomed to a life of total abstinence? I eagerly await your guidance.


Dear Svetlana,

I appreciate the good thinking and effort you put into restoring your life in relation to drinking.

Let me make three points from the outset.

  1. I don’t use the terms “sobriety” or “recovery” to mean “abstinence.” You properly define “recovery” quite well this way: “I am now ‘back on my feet’ with a stable job and a supportive network of friends and family.”
  2. If the question is “Do many people with drinking problems/alcoholism resume drinking at some level?” the answer is “Yes, probably a majority do over their lifetime’s
  3.  If the question is “Can/should I resume drinking in a non problematic way?” my answer is “I can’t answer that question for you.”

The way you begin to answer that question for yourself is to use the kind of good thinking and the efforts you have made to re-establish a strong rock foundation for your life. Again, well done. That is an effort that deserves admiration, especially self-admiration. That strong foundation is your recovery. It is something you have no desire to give up.

The next issue to consider (which you are already doing) is whether resuming drinking at some level will add value to your life by creating new opportunities for intimacy, support, sharing, self-discovery and other values you seek.

And those are your values, no one else’s.

I might suggest the following guidelines working within that framework.

  1. Experiment mindfully. Try drinking out and see how it works for you. You are a sensible person who knows how to make that judgment.
  2. You have family and friends you value — discuss your drinking with them and, if possible, gain their support in whatever efforts to drink that you make.
  3. Don’t panic. If the results are less good than you hoped, retrench — you already know how to quit drinking.
  4. This is a long-term project. You have already substantially reshaped your life. Drinking is a minor accoutrement in that ongoing, never-ending process.

You have succeeded at eliminating alcohol as the be-all, determining factor in your world. You have already accomplished that remarkable goal. Kudos!  You are now determining what place drinking may have within that larger reality.

As for anyone who tells you that you can’t or shouldn’t make such an effort, they seem not capable of imagining everything that you are or can be.

Their disapproval of your considering drinking is really a put down — a sign that they think you are less of a person than you have already shown yourself to be.

You are in control of that process of self-determination.

P.S – I recently talked about this very topic on our podcast, where we discuss how most people outgrow their addiction. Here is the video:


  • Jo Young says:

    I am so disheartened to read this article, it has shared a falsehood about an alcoholic being able to drink “successfully”.
    My alcoholic boyfriend came across this article and after reading it, his “alcoholic” brain was then triggered into a small sliver of hope that he could somehow, someway drink like a normal person.
    It started with getting a six pack, drinking two on a Tuesday evening, then two more on Wednesday evening , thinking he was on his way to drinking “normal”. He thought just because he could limit his intake to just a couple in a few days , he was ready to tell the world he could drink normal. Thursday, he was able to drink the last two beers, but come Friday… he was off to the bar to just have a couple beers like a “normal” guy.

    Well, that turned into a lot of beers and a few shots along the way …. hungover and in a foul mood on Saturday, he was progressing right back to the same old pattern. That was three weeks ago, and he’s full blown back into his disease, worse than before.

    He had 901 days of sobriety, then came across your website, it put a seed in his mind, his alcoholic mind, that he could once again enjoy the days of drinking in moderation, just having a couple of beers.

    ANY alcoholic will tell you, this is a lie – your website is a lie, a falsehood of extreme proportions.

    No alcoholic can EVER drink like a normal person, that is why alcoholism is a DISEASE – with no cure, you can only arrest the disease by abstaining from alcohol.

    I think it’s reckless to put this type of information out there, trying to make money off of people who, if they could, would do anything to drink like they “used” to – no alcoholic woke up one day and said, ” I think I want to be a drunk, I think I want to lose everything I have, my job, my family, all my relationships”. No, they found themselves in the throws of not being able to stop. This insidious disease is cunning and all it wants is to kill our loved one’s – and this article is just another way to invite that prospect.

    After I read this, I thought that maybe this is geared more for the “problem ” drinker, someone who is not diagnosed with the disease of alcoholism, but to someone who is just a poor drinker, maybe someone who is probably abusing alcohol. Someone who should probably NOT drink, and is not a full blown alcoholic, but maybe on their way – they realize they get into trouble when they drink, or maybe they’re trying to cut back.

    Maybe these types of drinkers could have a couple drinks at a wedding, or a glass of wine with dinner, but an alcoholic should never be told that by some miracle, by following your book, and your philosophy, they too can drink “normal”.

    I’m here to tell you and all of your subscribers that this is a falsehood, it’s plain and simply a lie.

    So here we sit, after he believed your article, trying to figure out a path to getting him sober again, looking at detox and treatment centers – I’m not crazy enough to think that your article alone caused his relapse after 901 days, because there are always other factors, but your article contributed.
    It gave him false hope, it gave him another reason to think he could successfully drink “normal”.

    So anyone reading this, please know if you’re an alcoholic, or someone who loves an alcoholic – this is not an answer, it is a lie. And this lie, may cause yourself or your loved one to die.

    And to think someone is making money off of telling someone that they can do this, they can have the life and career they want, incorporating alcohol back into their lives, speaking to their loved ones about their new choice, their new found freedom, it’s disgusting.

    And for your information, I don’t appreciate you writing that I am putting my loved one down, considering him “less of a person” and that he is in control of that “self-determination” – what a manipulation to your readers.

    You should be ashamed of yourself, making money off of this false hope, these lies.

    Shame on you.

    • Zach Rhoads says:

      Our best regards to you.

      Fortunately, data about real people’s life trajectories belies the idea that people with addictions (to alcohol or anything else) can never hope to drink or use substances again. Likewise, people with food addiction CAN eat sweets again and maintain a balanced diet. And people who have been in addictive love relationships CAN have healthy and loving relationships again.

      As far as the money goes . . . . We are not the droids you are looking for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *