What Does Sobriety Mean? Expectations for Recovery


Key Takeaways

  • Sobriety means being free from intoxication and achieving mental clarity.
  • True sobriety involves addressing underlying issues like depression and emotional well-being.
  • Sobriety leads to improved health, productivity, relationships, and self-esteem.
  • Achieving sobriety requires detox, therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes.

The textbook medical definition of sobriety is achieving the state of being sober at one point instead of being intoxicated.

It’s the bodily and mental state of being unaffected by an intoxicating substance or behavior at a certain point in time.

That said, sobriety extends beyond a mere definition or even a state of mind or body, and the path to it is dynamic and ever-changing.

It’s also challenging and full of hurdles, but the fruit it reaps is certainly sweet. It can be exciting as well as life-saving.

The Mainstream Definition of Sobriety

Sobriety is commonly described as quitting alcohol and substance use completely and indefinitely. However, this is actually what abstinence means.

The terms sobriety, recovery, and abstinence are being used interchangeably for several reasons.

The first is that, in the nineteenth century, alcohol and substance abuse were seen as a moral failure.

People afflicted with those diseases were being punished instead of treated.

This was before the hijacked brain theory was established, which then led to the creation of the brain disease model of addiction (BMDA).

The BMDA provides a scientific framework to understand addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder.

In the immediate aftermath, Alcoholics Anonymous was created.

One of the core principles of AA is abstinence, which led to the belief that recovery equals abstinence.

Decades later, that belief is still widely held due to the wide success achieved by AA.

Sobriety Beyond Abstinence

The current intense focus on abstinence as the be-all and end-all has served as a distraction from what it means to be truly recovered.

It is crucial; however, it’s only the first step to maintaining recovery and preventing relapse.

Dealing with factors that have caused you to lose the ability to drink in moderation or to resort to drugs, such as depression or other forms of mental illness, is a cornerstone to bettering the quality of your life and diminishing the influence of drugs of abuse on you.

A person is recovered when they can maintain sobriety, achieve mental clarity when dealing with various circumstances, have emotional and physical well-being, and flourish in all aspects.

Rewards of Sobriety And Recovery

Addiction treatment takes commitment but you can expect plenty of positive outcomes from sustained sobriety and recovery:

  • Improved physical health: Sobriety diminishes the risk of various health conditions, including liver cirrhosis, heart conditions, and mental disorders.
  • Increased productivity: Improved physical health provides higher energy levels. The mental clarity that is associated with being free of addiction helps the individual become focused, efficient, and successful in their personal and professional life.
  • Better relationships: Sobriety assists you in mending broken relationships with family and within society and establishing new, healthier relationships and patterns of interpersonal connections.
  • Greater self-esteem and emotional fulfillment: Succeeding in career and connections gives a much greater sense of self-respect and a better life quality. Being free from the impact of mind-altering substances and behaviors allows you to experience a bigger spectrum of genuine emotions.

Paths to Achieving Sobriety

Sobriety is not a one-size-fits-all type of journey; it encompasses a whole-person approach to craft a recovery plan.

The first step in addiction treatment starts with detox and achieving a sober state. That might require rehab or outpatient services.

For you to stay sober instead of sobriety being a temporary state, the root causes that lead to drug addiction have to be addressed.

This can be done through:

  • Recognizing the signs and symptoms that the individual has a substance use or behavioral problem.
  • Seeking help from a trusted treatment provider either in person or through telehealth.
  • Detox to put an immediate stop to substance/alcohol abuse or addictive behaviors such as gambling or excessive gaming and to achieve mental clarity. This can require rehab or can be done through an outpatient clinic.
  • Behavioral health interventions such as counseling with an addiction therapist to address the root cause and develop useful coping skills to deal with stress and triggers.
  • Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, similar 12-step or non-12-step peer-to-peer programs, and others that host and help individuals with drug and alcohol problems.
  • Lifestyle changes and self-care. Addiction treatment can be a gateway to starting a whole new life.  
  • Relapse prevention ensures healing and that you stay sober.

Lastly, passing the sobriety test can be an event marked on your calendar as an achievement.

That said, sobriety is a journey and should be taken one day at a time.

Contact Medical Professionals From the Comfort of Your Home

If you or a loved one need guidance and support in managing substance use disorders, book an appointment today to start your recovery journey.


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