Yes, some alcoholics can eventually “drink socially” – consume alcohol within self-imposed limits without enduring immediately disastrous consequences. I know its true because I’m one who has done it.
In my late teens and early twenties I had a drinking and drug problem that led to encounters with the criminal justice system, multiple unintended pregnancies, liver damage, destitution and the brink of homelessness. Rehab didn’t help; I relapsed repeatedly for a year and a half afterwards; but rehab did introduce me to 12-Step groups. With the help of NA, AA, and CA I became abstinent, followed the programs’ guidelines, and eventually my life settled down. That was 25 years ago.
Today I’m married with three kids, have a responsible job with a solvent financial institution, and generally am enjoying life more than ever. I’ve self-educated my way from an entry-level computer tech to a management-level systems consultant position, my relationship with my wife is better than ever (Honest! I just called her and she said I could truthfully put that in), my wife is getting her Master’s Degree, the kids are “A” students and join all the extracurricular music and forsensics and art stuff in school. We go on great vacations, I’ve learned to fly airplanes, once in a while I sing in clubs on open mike nights. Given the chance, Norman Rockwell might have painted us.
Among the certainties in my recovery, chief was that none of this would be possible once I took that first drink. But I did take that first drink five or six years ago, and still take one or two (but not more!) drinks occasionally, plus a few tokes of pot now and then. How often is “now and then”? Highly irregular, and I don’t keep track. Months go by when I don’t have anything, then sometimes there will be a few weekends where things come up and I’ll have something. I don’t get drunk, don’t drink and drive, have never had a hangover. When it’s pot, four or five tokes and I’m immobile for the night – no tolerance anymore!
There is plenty non-Rockwellian, however. I depend on antidepressants through the winter. I’m badly overweight, gaining sixty pounds in the last 10 years. We’ve turned our house from a pretty Arts-and-Crafts bungalow into an ugly fixer-upper. My 401k has almost zero equity after 12 years on the job due to borrowing to pay off credit card debt. My 12-year-old daughter can’t sleep and is starting psychotherapy on Monday, and after a year of speech therapy my 10-year-old son’s halting vocalizations sometimes make him impossible to understand.
In sum, I’d say yes, there are circumstances in which it is possible to regain control of one’s drinking after establishing a history of abuse. It takes a lengthy abstinence, probably some psychotherapy, and lots of caution. Does it make sense to try, given the risks? Is it more beneficial than continous abstinence? I’m sure I can’t answer that for anyone else. Given the chiaroscuro that is my life today, I can’t even really answer that for myself.