Addiction is a complicated disorder and recovery is not always a straight path. When some people are recovering from a drug addiction they may think that drinking alcohol is no big deal. However, drinking and drug use often go hand-in-hand and alcohol use may lead to a drug relapse.
The Link Between Drinking and Drug Use
Addiction is a whole-person disorder that affects the brain and body. When a person uses drugs the reward center of the brain is activated, releasing dopamine — a “feel good” neurotransmitter. Over time, the brain becomes increasingly dependent on the drug for the dopamine release, eventually leading from use to tolerance to addiction.
While in recovery from drug addiction, withdrawal symptoms and cravings are not uncommon. Some individuals may try ease these symptoms by drinking, assuming it is not as bad as using drugs. However, alcohol use causes similar reactions in the brain as other drugs, resulting in co-occurring addictions — or trading one addiction for another. Additionally, there is some evidence that certain risk factors increase the likelihood of abusing alcohol during recovery:
- Family history of alcohol abuse
- Victims of childhood trauma (e.g., sex abuse)
- Emotional trauma, such as divorce or the death of a loved one
- Mental issues coexisting with substance misuse
- Alcohol abuse previous to drug dependency
- History of concurrent alcohol and drug use
Alcohol Use Can Lead to Relapse
After detox, you may suffer acute or prolonged withdrawal when you’re in the midst of recovery. Alcohol can activate the same chemical reward system as drugs, which can make it especially tempting to use to manage withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol consumption has been linked to a significantly increased risk of future substance use disorder or dual substance drinking and drug use.
It is important to know that recovery is not always a straight path and that relapsing is not uncommon. If you have started drinking to cope with withdrawal symptoms or if you have started using drugs again, getting back into treatment will get you back on the road to recovery.
Get Honest About Why You Want to Drink
Wherever you are in your recovery journey it is important to consider why you feel like you want to drink. Getting honest about your motives can give you insight about areas that you may need to work on or give renewed focus. Some questions to consider:
- Does your peer group use alcohol in social settings or celebrations? Do you want to use alcohol to fit in or redirect focus away from your addiction?
If you feel pressured by your friends or family to drink, it may be necessary to put some distance between you and the people who may negatively impact your recovery. However, if the pressure to drink comes from your own desire to hide your addiction, being honest with your loved ones may open the door to provide the support you need to continue to stay sober.
- When was the last time that you went to a party or celebration and didn’t use drugs or alcohol?
It can take time to relearn how to live life sober — especially when you have never experienced celebrations without the use of drugs or alcohol. While you are learning to navigate your sober life, it may be helpful to take up a new hobby or find sober groups to plan outings with.
- Do you have healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stressful situations or feelings of anxiety? Have you used drugs or alcohol in the past to manage those feelings?
Taking the time to learn new coping skills, like meditation, yoga, or mindful breath work, can help you cope with day-to-day stressors. Making sure to reach out to your peer support group or counselor when stronger or more complicated feelings or situations arise is especially important.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Donegal, PA
If you are recovering from drug addiction and considering drinking, or if you have already begun drinking and find yourself spiraling out of control, DreamLife can help. At our Donegal, PA, treatment centers, we provide specialized treatment programs for anyone struggling with addiction. Our therapies provide you with peer support for long-term sobriety success. Our facilities also offer a caring and supportive environment where you can overcome addiction and move forward in your sobriety. Please get in touch with us today for more information about the recovery treatment programs we offer.