What is the Meaning of ‘Sobriety?’
What do you think about when you hear the term sober? Sometimes you may think Sobriety Meaning is about a person who displays sound judgment or one whose mind isn’t altered by alcohol or drugs at a specific moment.
Maybe you go further and include someone who doesn’t drink alcohol at all or use any type of drug.
For the average person, any or all of these definitions may be true depending on the situation. However, if you have a problem with controlling your drug or alcohol use, many professionals believe that you need to be absolutely clear in your mind about what sobriety is and how you can maintain it.
Since sobriety is the ultimate goal of people who seek treatment for addiction, it’s important that you understand what getting and staying sober really means.
For many people, sobriety is simply not drinking. However, if you’re in recovery, the word has much more depth and scope.
It’s about a lot more than simply not drinking and the meaning may change depending on where you are in your recovery journey and what motivates you.
Sobriety is complex but in addition to not drinking or using drugs, it requires you to be at peace with yourself and to find peace with the vagaries of life. Through it all, you must strive to remain disciplined and balanced.
Sobriety Meaning: AA Sobriety vs. Dictionary vs. California Sober
If you Google “sobriety meaning,” you’ll get lots of different results. Merriam Webster dictionary defines sobriety as “the quality or state of being sober”. What is being sober? The dictionary defines this as:
- Not intoxicated
- Abstaining from drinking alcohol or taking intoxicating drugs or refraining from the use of addictive substances
- Marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor
These are just some of the definitions so it’s immediately clear that sobriety means different things in different contexts. However, the above definitions raise the question “does sobriety mean abstinence?”.
These two words have become synonymous for many and some people attribute this to the popularity of Alcoholics Anonymous.
And, some experts argue that the definition of sobriety in AA reduces it to merely abstinence from alcohol even though there’s a lot more involved.
Why Abstinence and Sobriety Are Seen as the Same
In the 1800s, intoxication and drug use were viewed as moral wrongs. Individuals with substance use problems were not treated. Instead, they were thrown into prison or otherwise punished.
This continued until the early 1900s. However, as awareness grew about how these substances affected the mind and body, people started to see addiction as a medical problem.
This thinking eventually led to the disease model of addiction which posited that individuals lose agency when they become addicted to drugs or alcohol. AA was created shortly after this based on a philosophy that:
- Some people have a predisposition for alcohol that can’t be controlled
- When these people drink, they lose all ability to stop and they can’t resist cravings
- Addiction can’t be reversed and individuals can only manage it by abstaining for life
Many of the principles of AA are almost identical to how many people view sobriety today.
Sobriety vs. Dry Drunkenness
That being said, it should be noted that AA differentiates between people who are sober and those who are “dry drunk”. In AA, it is possible for an individual to not drink alcohol and still not be considered sober.
These are people who behave in the same way they did while in the grips of addiction even though they are no longer drinking.
These people are said to be suffering from what is known as ‘dry drunk syndrome.’ They have not yet developed positive coping mechanisms for dealing with the challenges of life and they have not yet found peace or happiness.
People who are dry drunk are usually resentful and their families may find it as difficult to be with them now as it was when they were drinking.
Essentially, these individuals are not drinking but they’re not happy about living without alcohol. Some relapse but others don’t.
Also of note is that in 12-Step programs, the word sobriety doesn’t just mean no drugs or alcohol. Rather, the word is used to describe individuals who have achieved a good degree of mental health.
What’s California Sober?
You may have come across the term California Sober since the competition seems to be getting more popular. The term doesn’t appear in any medical literature but people use it to describe a person who generally abstains from drugs and alcohol but makes a few exceptions.
Because there is no single definition for California Sober, it means different things to different people.
Some people abstain from everything but cannabis. However, others use LSD, ayahuasca or psilocybin. Some people even drink but say they do so in moderation.
There is lots of debate in the recovery community about whether or not a person who is California Sober is really sober. Some people say complete sobriety is the only way and that the meaning of sobriety isn’t something each person can decide for themselves.
Now that we have these definitions out of the way let’s look at what sobriety really entails.
You Abstain from Drinking
Abstinence is a part of sobriety. In fact, it is the starting point of your journey towards recovery. After all, you can’t recover from an addiction to alcohol if you’re still drinking.
Similarly, you can’t get clean from drugs if you’re using them. However, even if you want to abstain, you will face temptations especially in the early stages of your journey.
You may still have alcohol or drugs in your home or close friends who drink or use drugs.
Going certain places may cause you to crave the substance to which you were addicted. Someone may tell you it’s possible to have one drink without setting your sobriety back.
If you experience challenges at home or in the office, you may get the urge to drink again. All these triggers can lead to cravings.
This is why many people relapse during the first few weeks or months of abstaining from alcohol or drugs. To remain abstinent, you will need to reduce temptation as much as possible.
Refraining from drinking is not enough to maintain your sobriety. You also need to work to love and respect yourself and eventually, you’ll also share your experience and help others in their own sobriety journeys.
By enrolling in treatment, you can also learn how to remain resolute even in the face of temptation and triggers. You will learn how to replace harmful coping mechanisms with positive healthy options.
You Feel Motivated to Live Meaningfully
People enter rehab for different reasons. Some people don’t like being called negative names. Others want to be seen differently by the people they love.
You may even go to rehab because you believe you’ve hurt yourself, your family, your reputation, or your career. Your life may generally be in turmoil and peace may be a distant memory.
However, there are other reasons why you should seek out treatment and stay in it for as long as you can. For example, addressing your drug or alcohol addiction could help you to achieve your goals.
Maybe you wanted to get a degree or you had a dream job in mind but alcohol or drugs derailed your progress. Whether you want to revisit an old goal or set a new one, you need to find motivation and use it to help you achieve and maintain your sobriety.
Without goals, you may not have a reason to quit drinking or get to the bottom of your substance abuse problems. However, when you’re actually working towards a goal, you have something to drive you.
Once your health has started to stabilize, you need to look at your plans for the future. Think about what you couldn’t do while you were drinking because addiction turned you into someone you didn’t want to be.
If you don’t realize that addiction changes who you are, you may find it difficult to cope with the challenges that occur during recovery.
You’re True to Yourself
It’s important that you develop personal integrity and learn to respect yourself. Achieving sobriety is often a challenge and unless you have a strong sense of self and you’re aware of how much addiction changed you, you may not be able to free yourself from it.
Staying true to yourself means taking responsibility for your actions, living honestly, and recognizing that the decisions you make need to be for your own good.
You’re Developing Inner Peace
You may not feel at peace in the early stages of your recovery. This is not unusual. Many people who stop drinking or using drugs find that they still need to define what inner peace means to them and then seek it out.
This can be difficult since society often associates addiction with worthlessness, hopelessness, or a lack of willpower.
People will judge you even though addiction is now seen as a disease rather than a moral failing. As a result, you may have low self-esteem or even experience self-hatred.
If you feel that you’re not worth much, it’ll be incredibly hard to stay sober.
Therefore, if you don’t find inner peace, you won’t feel strong or motivated to maintain your sobriety. In contrast, when you know who you are and love yourself, you’ll feel more content and be more willing to take care of yourself.
Your long-term recovery will depend on your ability to come to terms with your mistakes, love yourself as you are, and build your self- worth.
You’ll need to remind yourself that you’re not your past, you can do better, and you have the strength to change your behavior.
You Feel Your Feelings and Don’t Numb Them
One of the most important aspects of finding and maintaining sobriety is learning how to feel. Many people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol start using the substances because they are stressed out or finding it difficult to cope with their emotions.
They use drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate or numb their feelings instead of seeking professional help.
When you’re no longer using alcohol or drugs, you learn that you can’t run away from your feelings. You need to accept that you won’t always feel happy and that life comes with both good and bad.
Accepting this can be painful at first but it can also be satisfying since you’re more likely to cherish the good moments.
When you make up your mind to enjoy your life and take the good with the bad, you’ll experience a mindset shift. You’ll realize that you don’t need alcohol to cope with challenges.
You’ll learn lots of new ways to cope in therapy and you can practice them as you go through life.
You Admit Vulnerability
The journey to true sobriety is filled with tests. Even when you’re at your best, you’re still human. Therefore, you won’t always feel peaceful, confident, strong, or motivated.
Your state of mind will vary from time to time. You need to accept and admit this and seek help when necessary.
Keep in mind that your environment can influence you to return to old habits. Talk to your therapist and the people in your circle who can help you.
Build relationships with sober peers and avoid spending time with people who abuse substances or don’t support you on your journey. Stay active by exercising, dancing, or participating in sports.
Admitting vulnerability opens the door for you to seek out this type of support.
You’ll Learn How to Share Your Story with Others
As you progress along your recovery journey, stop to appreciate how far you’ve come. Once you’re stable, learn how to share your recovery story with people who are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction.
Doing so serves two purposes. Firstly, sharing bad experiences and how you turned things around will boost your confidence and advance your recovery. Secondly, sharing your wisdom can help somebody who is in the situation that you were once in.
You may want to start by talking to people who are very close to you. This will make it easier to speak to large audiences or just individuals who are virtual strangers.
The people you know and love may be less likely to criticize you or misunderstand your story. They may also be able to remind you about things you forgot to include.
Recognize That Sobriety is A Long Journey
Getting sober is difficult and maintaining sobriety is even harder for some people. One of the key things you need to remember is that there will be pitfalls along the way.
Many people slip up even after months or years of making healthy choices.
However, you should never give up. Living a life that is sober and meaningful is within your grasp but you will need to seek professional help and remain committed to the journey even when it gets difficult.
Abstaining from alcohol or drugs and getting your mindset right can be difficult especially in the beginning. Even when you stop drinking, you’ll have to continually work on your mental, physical, and emotional health.
You’ll need to make positive choices even in the face of stress and challenges. Even though every day won’t be great, you’ll have healthy ways to cope and you won’t need to turn to drugs or alcohol like you did in the past.
Many people fall into a trap where they feel invincible in early recovery. Because they’re no longer drinking, they think they have it all figured out. However, cravings can return even after months or years of not drinking or using drugs.
While you need to feel confident about your sobriety, you need to keep in mind that making progress doesn’t necessarily mean drug or alcohol-related problems are completely behind you.
Your recovery journey may not be linear. If you don’t learn how to bounce back when you make a mistake, your recovery may be compromised in terms of its potential, or in some cases even run the risk of relapsing.
Let Our Team of Experts Help You During Your Sobriety Journey
To achieve true sobriety, you need to get to the bottom of what caused your addiction in the first place. If you have unhealthy coping mechanisms, you need to identify them and learn more positive behaviors.
If you have an underlying mental illness, it needs to be diagnosed and treated. You also need to achieve physical and spiritual wellness. Otherwise, long-term abstinence and sobriety will be very difficult to achieve.
If you want to know more about substance abuse treatment and the meaning of sobriety, contact Circle of Hope. We treat drug and alcohol addiction using a variety of methodologies and our programs are customized to each client’s needs.
We offer a full continuum of care starting with medically supervised detox. Contact us today to discover more of what we offer and learn about how you can stay on track as you seek to maintain your sobriety.