One of the most common questions people have about alcohol addition, also known as Alcohol Use Disorder, is, “Can you ever recover from being an alcoholic?”
To answer that question, you need to start by understanding what recovery from alcohol addiction is, and is not.
Recovery vs. Cured – What’s the Difference?
Alcoholism is a complex disease that’s characterized by physiological and physcological dependence on alcohol. People who are addicted to alcohol experience a number of changes in their brain that can impact memory, speech and decision-making.
Prolonged alcohol consumption, even in relatively moderate amounts, can also cause cardiovascular issues, lead to inflammation of the liver, overwhelm the pancreas and weaken the immune system. Recently, a number of cancers have also been linked to alcohol use, such as breast, colorectal and liver cancer.
Physical Effects of Alcoholism Can Be Limited or Reversed
When a person with alcohol use disorder detoxes and refrains from alcohol, a stage known as recovery, many of the physiological effects triggered by their alcohol use can be either limited, or reversed altogether.
In this sense, many of the co-occurring medical issues caused by alcohol addiction can be ‘cured’. For example, someone who suffered from alcohol-induced high blood pressure, hypertension, may no longer have hypertension once they’ve abstained from alcohol consumption for a period of time.
Alcoholism Is a Chronic Disease
Unfortunately, while it’s possible to recover from many of the physiological effects of being an alcoholic, alcoholism itself is a chronic disease.
As with any chronic disease, one can never be ‘cured’ of alcoholism — that means they can never consume alcohol again, a condition known as ‘relapsing’, without facing a serious risk of re-activating their alcoholism.
This is what sets alcohol use disorder apart from many other diseases. Recovery from alcoholism involves addressing the various complex factors that led to the development of the disease. It also means learning safe, effective ways to deal with the thoughts, feelings and circumstances that contributed to the development of the alcohol addiction.
What Is Recovery?
Once an individual develops alcohol use disorder they can, however, enjoy a healthy, productive life by staying in recovery. This means abstaining from alcohol altogether, and in most cases, participating in a ongoing program to help them maintain their sobriety.
When an alcoholic says they’re in recovery, they’re actively working on healing the mental, emotional and physical damage caused by their addiction. They’re not just avoiding alcohol; they’re engaging in a lifelong journey.
But regardless of how long a person has been sober, they’ll always be an alcoholic.
So while it’s not possible to recover from being an alcoholic, with the right support, recovery from the negative impacts of alcoholism is entirely possible.
To learn more about alcoholism, recovery and addictions treatment, contact one of our compassionate, experienced addictions specialists today here at Hickory Treatment Centers.