Early Sobriety: What Are The Rules?

Friday, April 6, 2018 | By JP Emerald Coast

two men smiling in opiate rehab

The time has come. You’re leaving treatment and you’re ready to tackle the world. You plan to go to meetings, see a therapist, and do everything you can to take care of you. At this point, you may find yourself pondering other “rules” of sobriety in your head, the kind you won’t find in your treatment journal notes or AA handbook. These thoughts usually come in the form of a question, such as- “Am I allowed to have food cooked with alcohol?” Let’s break down the three most common questions of this nature you may ask yourself in early sobriety.

If I accidentally take a sip of someone else’s alcoholic drink at some point, is that relapsing? No, this does not qualify as relapsing. It’s not your fault if you’re at a party or restaurant and you mistakenly pick up another person’s drink you genuinely thought was your own non-alcoholic beverage. This is something that happens at least a couple times in life to all alcoholics, so rest easy. It is, however, important to pay close attention to your own feelings and thought process when this happens. Did the taste bring back painful memories for you? Were you craving more alcohol in the moment? Did it make you feel sick? If any of these things occur, take action immediately. Call your sponsor and/or get to a meeting if need be.

Am I allowed to have food cooked in or with alcohol? Should I start checking? There’s been much debate over this, and the truth is that it’s really within your own discretion. There are no official AA or recovery rules when it comes to food. However, the first question to ask is this- do you trust your own discretion? How long have you been in recovery? Many people in early sobriety are mindful of complete abstinence and ask the person preparing their food how it’s being cooked (whether a friend or restaurant). Every situation is different, whether it’s an entrée served in a wine sauce or a dessert cooked with a rum-based sauce. There’s a popular myth out there that alcohol can be “cooked out” of food if it’s cooked in a certain way. Studies have shown this usually is not the case.

What if I need a potentially life-saving medication one day? This question comes up often because most of us will require pain medication of some kind throughout our lives. While Alcoholics Anonymous has no official stance on the subject, some guidelines were created by a group of physicians in AA for people in sobriety requiring such medications. Here are the major highlights:

  •  No A.A. member should “play doctor”; all treatment should come from a qualified physician.
  •  Active participation in the A.A. program is a major safeguard against alcoholic relapse.
  •  Explain to your doctor that you no longer drink alcohol and you are trying a new way of life.
  •  Let your doctor know quickly if you have a desire to take more medicine or if you have side effects that make you feel worse.
  •  Be sensitive to warnings about changes in your behavior when you start a new medication or when your dose is changed.
  •  If you feel that your doctor does not understand your problems, consider making an appointment with a physician who has experience in the treatment of alcoholism.
  •  Be completely honest with your doctor and yourself about the way you take your medicine. Let your doctor know if you skip doses or take more medicine than prescribed.

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