Is a person still an alcoholic even after they’ve stopped drinking?

John Risby
by John Risby
Published: March 11, 2017 Last updated: November 30, 2023
The words Who Are We?
Is a person still an alcoholic even after they've stopped drinking?
I’d say yes, but the terminology used is up to each person.
I flip between ‘alcoholic’ (rare these days) and mostly between ‘recovering alcoholic’ and ‘recovered alcoholic’.
The reasons why:
Alcoholic – suggests to most people I still drink, when it’ll have been 14 years in a couple of months and I don’t think about it like I used to.
I just don’t drink. Like I don’t go to Samba classes.
I don’t dwell on that, or go around telling people I don’t Samba dance, I just don’t do it.
In the same way, I just don’t drink.
Recovering alcoholic – similar reason.
A lot of people think you are still struggling and that’s not how I feel
But, equally, I know if I have a drink, I’ll be back to being pissed every day in no time, so it’s not a bad description – it’s just misunderstood by a lot of people.
Recovered alcoholic – suggests I am ‘cured’ and there is no cure.
But it also stops people with limited or no understanding thinking the negatives of the above descriptions.
In my line of work – running my own business – it’s not so important, people can take me or leave me for whatever reason.
But I know it can be more of a problem for people in regular employment.
I tend to use recovering or recovered most of the time but I also tend to then say ‘or …’ and use the one I have said and ‘whichever…’
It’s not easy being an alcoholic/recovering alcoholic/recovered alcoholic!

About This Q&A

Over the years I’ve replied to quite a lot of questions asked on Quora. I thought I’d post some of them here. I’ll post the reply I gave at the time and I won’t edit the original answer unless they are very embarrassing 😉 or to fix typos, but I may add an update or correction as a reply if needed. Please feel free to add/disagree etc in the comments section! This answer was originally posted on Quora on 11th March 2017.

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John Risby

About The Author

John Risby
Co-Founder of The Alcohol-Free Shop and John is a recovering alcoholic who stopped drinking in June 2004. Born and raised in Manchester, he now lives in Malaga with his wife and young daughter. He came to terms with being an alcoholic many years ago, but still finds the concept his daughter is Spanish very strange.