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What is Sobriety?

So, what is sobriety? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) [1], the definition of sobriety is simply not being intoxicated. Similarly, DSM 5 explains that sobriety is more about the absence of drinking problems, not about abstinence.

Sobriety is usually referred to as the greatest goal in an alcohol or drug addiction treatmentーbut what is sobriety really? As often as it’s used in addiction treatment jargon, there’s a possibility that it doesn’t actually mean what most people think. So yes, that means that the way it’s used by recovery culture, 12 step groups, and society as a whole, is different from the actual definition.

This distinction between abstinence and abuse is important in the field of addiction treatment. It implies that sobriety is a continuous effort to overcome the problems connected with drinking. This goes beyond a simple self-mandate to stop drinking. Individuals can manage addiction’s chronic disease and maintain sobriety through treatment and therapy. 

Mere abstinence doesn’t get at the root causes of alcohol abuse and addiction, its triggers, and people’s often unhealthy coping mechanisms. Most substance abuse treatment centers offer a wide range of treatment programs for substance use disorder. Whether someone is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, a medically assisted detox and therapeutic approach can help establish a lasting recovery.

what is sobriety
What is sobriety and makes it different from recovery? Recovery is the journey of staying sober and achieving the long-lasting sobriety the person deserves.
Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

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What is Sobriety vs Recovery?

As it is common knowledge by now, addiction is a mental issue that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) [2] defines as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped taking drugs.”

Those functional changes to the brain and its long-lasting nature, even after the person quit using, distinguish the difference between recovery and sobriety. The state of sobriety is passive and momentary in a way, while recovery is the active process of staying sober. One that requires diligence, constant attention to the person’s state of mind, situational awareness, and ongoing work on addressing the underlying cause of the initial substance use disorder.

Ways to How to Achieve Sobriety

The best way to further answer the question “what is sobriety” is to identify the ways on how to achieve it. Given that sobriety takes commitment and effort, there are options in how to achieve it.

First things first, deciding you want to change your life and drop the addiction that controls it is quite frankly life-changing. You’ll look back at admitting the need and want to live a life that you’re in command of as a climactic moment in your life.

That’s when the voyage towards sobriety starts. To accomplish it in the literal sense, you’ll need to undergo a detox which is your body’s natural process of freeing itself of the chemicals you’ve been putting, be it drugs or alcohol.

It’s advised to do this at a treatment center as detoxification can lead to potentially severe withdrawal symptoms – your mind and body have grown accustomed to performing with alcohol or drugs, stop taking them, and it throws your system out of whack – and 24/7 attention and care guarantees you get through them as comfortable and safe as possible.

At that stage, by answering the question of what is sobriety, you are sober. Since you haven’t worked through the root issues that led you to take substances, your sobriety is quite fragile, and any problem or inconvenience that surfaces which you’re not ready for, small or big, can trigger a relapse.

That’s where the dynamic work of recovery comes in to support and sustain your newly won sobriety. Depending on your addiction and how serious it was, it’s highly recommended that you enroll in some type of substance abuse treatment since medically-assisted detox isn’t a solution by itself.

For heavier alcohol and drug addictions, polydrug abuse, and co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues, inpatient care is likely to be more effective. Rest assured, though, no matter which rehab facility you choose, each person is assessed on an individual basis, and recommendations are made according to that.

what is sobriety
What is sobriety? Sobriety means finding peace with yourself, with life and its ups and downs, developing the discipline to remain sober, and abstinence.

With addiction rehab, you truly unearth the causes of your addiction and develop new, healthy coping mechanisms to use in place of substances, with substance abuse treatment centered on talk group therapy in both individual and group environments that serve as a foundation for sobriety.

The distinction between inpatient and outpatient care is that with inpatient care you live at the facility and thus it’s more disciplined and controlled, that is why it’s recommended for those with more severe addictions.

Once you finish rehab, participating in aftercare is how you preserve that sobriety you’ve worked so hard to attain. That can include support groups like AA, NA, alumni recovery groups, sober living homes, and more.

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What Is Emotional Sobriety?

One of the building blocks of alcoholism recovery is emotional sobriety. The concept is that alcoholics and other addicts hoping to stay sober over the long haul must learn to control and handle the negative feelings that can lead to craving, discomfort, and—ultimately—relapse. Doing so is a lifelong undertaking and needs developing a whole new way of thinking about life’s toils.

One crucial but often overlooked part of the healing and recovery journey is the need for emotional sobriety. Since it’s common for individuals with substance use disorders to turn to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate their emotional pain, learning to process emotions healthily is essential in preventing relapse.

Since no two individuals are alike, everyone experiences recovery a bit differently. However, emotional sobriety generally means:

  • Accepting the present as it is
  • Building a healthy, emotionally balanced life
  • Seeing struggle and grief as natural parts of life that offer an opportunity for personal growth
  • Not letting other people’s limited perceptions or expectations define your self-esteem or negatively impact your behavior
  • Refusing to dwell on the past

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Top 10 Tips to Help You Stay Sober

  1. Stay Out of Risky Situations

This can only mean that you don’t spend time with individuals you used to use drugs with or go someplace you used to drink. You might take a new way home from work, for instance, to keep from going past your favorite old hangout.

2. Build a Support Network

Rely on close friends and family members for support, even if your relationships aren’t what they used to be. Think about going to family therapy or counseling to deal with family and other personal issues.

You can ask a few sober friends as your plus-one to a social event like a party or wedding. And stay in touch with your sponsor and call them if you’re feeling uncomfortable or anxious.

3. Find a Peer Support Group

Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are other ways to create a support network. You can try different meetings for the different groups to find one that’s right for you.

4. Manage Your Cravings

While most last only 15 to 30 minutes, it can be challenging to fight them off. You might try a replacement, like a personal mantra: “I am stronger than this, and it will pass” or chewing gum.

What is Sobrierty
It is important for our clients to adopt habits that will ensure continuing sobriety. This involves engaging in behaviors such as taking part in 12-step groups, having time for prayers and meditation, and being attentive to self-care.

Making yourself busy is also an excellent way to distract yourself. And some individuals find it helpful to keep a journal. Write down the things that bring you joy and things you’re grateful for, then go back and read it during tough times.

5. Find an Activity That Means Something to You

You may want to start an exercise routine. Exercise releases brain chemicals called endorphins, which can make you feel good. Or you might rather spend time volunteering for a good cause, like a children’s hospital or an animal shelter. Whatever it is, new activities can lead to new friends with interests like yours.

6. Learn to Manage Stress

At some point in your recovery, you’ll feel stressed out, whether it’s major stress (like losing a job) or minor stress (like running late for an appointment). When events like this happen, find a sober loved one or friend you can talk to for support and comfort. Also, keep your schedule loose enough to have time for group meetings and other things that can assist you through hard times.

Maintaining a healthy body will help your mind stay positive and healthy during recovery. So make time for exercise, eat a balanced diet, and get a healthy amount of sleep.

7. Learn to Relax

When you’re tense, you tend to do what’s familiar. When you’re relaxed, you’re more open to new things. Different strategies work for different people. You might try:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • A nature walk
  • A massage
  • A bath
  • Music
  • Breathing exercises

8. Manage Physical Pain

If you recently had an injury or surgery, your doctor will be careful with the pain medication they give you, because some of those drugs can make you more likely to relapse. Instead, ask your doctor about non-medical ways to manage your pain, like acupuncture or massage.

9. Prepare Your Story

Decide what you’ll say if someone asks why you’re sober. You can try to avoid the conversation, but it’s better to have a response ready if that’s not possible. If the question comes from people you know well, you may want to say that alcohol or drugs became an issue for you, so you’re staying away from them. If you don’t know the person well, simply saying you have to get up early the next morning or you quit for health reasons should be enough.

10. Be the Designated Driver

This will always give you a quick and easy explanation for why you aren’t drinking. It also offers you a sense of purpose to help you stay focused.

Bonus Tip: Try a Mocktail

In social events where people drink, you might feel more relaxed with a drink in your hand. And it can keep individuals from asking questions. A mocktail looks like a cocktail but doesn’t have any alcohol in it. Other people won’t be able to tell the difference just by looking at your glass.

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Find Long-term Solutions to Staying Sober at We Level Up NJ

If you are planning to start your journey to recovery, it is only fitting to search for the answer to the question, “what is sobriety?” and why not do it in a place where your sobriety will be supported and there is also quick access to medical professionals. If you’re looking for long-term solutions to staying sober, the alcohol rehab treatment at We Level Up NJ may be able to help. Accredited detox and rehab facilities might actually be the safest place for someone with a substance use disorder right now. Get started at our national treatment destination to get sober and stay that way. Contact We Level Up NJ today.

what is sobriety
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[1] DSM 5 –

[2] NIDA –

[3] We Level UpCauses of Addiction