The big debate the past two weeks on Celebrity Rehab has been whether an addict can have a beer—even a nonalcoholic one—and still maintain their sobriety. I’ve seen a lot of comments on the show’s message boards about this, and a lot of misunderstanding about why abstinence from all drugs and alcohol really is important in recovery.
If you’re a recovering heroin addict, why does it matter if you drink a beer? And if you’re a recovering alcoholic, why does it matter if the beer is nonalcoholic?
There are several answers. The first is that addiction has a genetic component. So heroin addicts, for example, are saddled with a gene that makes them more likely to be addicted to anything. Everything has the potential to be a gateway to relapse.
But what about nonalcoholic beer? The problem is that it’s not just the alcohol—it’s the whole lifestyle of drinking that becomes a trigger. If you sit around in the bar with the same old friends drinking a beverage that tastes a lot like the beer you used to get drunk on, you’re right back in your old life. You haven’t created a new life for yourself with new habits and new friends. You’re tempting fate, tempting relapse.
And finally, addicts and alcoholics need to learn how to live their lives sober. They need to learn to be uncomfortable and unhappy and not try to numb those feelings away, and they need to learn how to be happy and not try to celebrate by getting high. They need to just feel whatever they feel and not try to change it. And that means no drinking, no smoking a little marijuana, nothing. It means just living with the highs and lows of life as they come.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Life and Recovery Coach on Celebrity Rehab on VH1 and is the author of “The Law of Sobriety“. Contact Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about her coaching programs, teleseminars, audio, up-coming workshops, book signings, and speaking engagements. Go to http://thelawofsobriety.com/ to purchase “The Law of Sobriety” or sign up for her upcoming teleseminar or to purchase her new audio.