When Alcohol Stops Working ………..

One of the benefits of going to meetings while getting sober is that people hear stories that help them understand their own alcoholism, even if they don’t fully understand it at the time.

One of the most helpful times in people’s stories is the moment when they start talking about how alcohol stopped working for them.

Alcoholics’ stories vary widely, but they often share a common theme, that alcoholism is a progressive illness.

Some people start drinking socially or normally, meaning they can take it or leave it. At some point, however, they start drinking alcoholically, losing control over their drinking and developing an uncontrollable compulsion to drink.

Others start drinking alcoholically from the very beginning, at different ages and in different situations, but regardless of how they start, their drinking is alcoholic from the first time they get drunk.

People often have difficulty putting into words exactly what alcohol does for them, but generally speaking, they feel that it “works.”

Alcoholics sometimes describe how alcohol changes the way they feel. While this is true, it’s also a huge understatement of what alcohol does for most alcoholics.


This subconscious sense that alcohol works for them is a crucial element in understanding the nature of alcoholism and why alcoholics love alcohol and will go to almost any lengths to defend it.

It’s also the root of most people’s denial of their alcoholism.

To non-alcoholics, this denial often seems irrational. But to alcoholics, it feels like a need to protect alcohol and what it does for them from people who either want them to stop drinking, or want to take alcohol away from them.

This denial is a protective mechanism that can be triggered by any consequence, no matter how small or large, or how insane it may seem.


Whenever someone starts drinking alcoholically, there will almost always come a point where alcohol stops working for them.

For most people, this means that alcohol stops giving them the effect, the feeling, they associate with their drinking, no matter how much they drink or what type of drink they have.

For most people, this is a type of bereavement, a sense of loss, and one that many will desperately try to recapture, either by drinking more, changing their drinks, or changing something else in their life.

Many alcoholics believe or come to believe that alcohol is the only thing that is holding their life together, and losing its effectiveness can seem devastating.

Turning Point

However, this can also be the thing that proves crucial in someone seeking to get sober or come into recovery. It may take some time and there may be a lot of pain along the way.

Once alcohol has stopped working for someone, recapturing that effect never seems to happen.

The search for it normally leads the alcoholic into a fairly desperate situation, where hopefully they will eventually seek help in AA, through a rehab, or in some other way.

One of the things they will hopefully hear, normally at an AA meeting, is someone talking about their drinking, particularly about how there came a point where it stopped working for them.

This not only gives a newcomer a sense of identification, which is crucial, but it also lays the foundation for helping them understand that they have a progressive illness, and that alcohol stopping working for them is a part of that illness, and is often the thing that makes them seek help.

AA’s experience is that recovery is possible, although people’s journeys are different and reflect their own struggles with their drinking and their sobriety.

However, the understanding that alcoholism is a progressive illness, and acceptance of that, helps lay the foundation for people to rebuild their lives in a sober and meaningful way.