While “sobriety” is a commonly used word, its definition and what it truly means to “be sober” can be incredibly enigmatic.
Knowing what sobriety is, what it means to “be sober,” and some common challenges can empower you or a loved one to begin your sobriety journey with the right expectations.
At its core, sobriety is avoiding the use of addictive substances or behaviors altogether.
Not only does this mean that you will avoid the use of drugs or alcohol, but it can also mean an avoidance of the lifestyles that enable substance abuse.
Drug addiction and alcohol abuse can affect anyone at any time, and sobriety looks different for everyone who experiences it. However, there are some techniques and coping mechanisms that have been proven to reach results.
There is never one path to sobriety, nor is there one strategy guaranteed to work for everybody.
Working with professionals is essential to overcoming substance use disorder (SUD). Engagement with evidence-based addiction treatment and exposure to many therapeutic opportunities and approaches can help you create an educated approach to your developing sober lives.
Sobriety is a time of change – mentally, physically, and even spiritually.
Addiction can fundamentally affect your brain chemistry and perceptions, and being sober prompts a “rewiring” of many of these neural pathways.
There is nothing easy about navigating sobriety.
Expecting long-term recovery to be easy can cause you to set unrealistic expectations or be ill-prepared to cope with the continued effects of substance use disorder in daily life.
Finding the right fit in a treatment program to overcome substance use disorder is vital to your recovery.
Support programs can also provide you with new friendships and communities that can make sobriety less difficult to navigate.
Pursuing a life of sobriety should be celebrated, and each person will have their reasons for committing to a drug and alcohol-free life.
There are infinite reasons why pursuing long-term recovery and sobriety can be the best choice for someone struggling with drug or alcohol use.
Some of these reasons could include:
The fear of failing in recovery is a significant barrier to treatment, and many may not pursue a professional treatment program because of this fear.
The fear of failure throughout addiction recovery is common. However, working with professionals and peers can be necessary to overcome these fears while navigating short-term and long-term recovery.
The four D’s of sobriety are delay, distraction, deep breaths, and de-catastrophize.
Delay: Urges and cravings are common in addiction recovery. Delaying acting on these feelings can empower those in recovery to make more educated decisions on their continued sobriety rather than act on otherwise dangerous impulses.
Distract: Being able to distract oneself in sobriety can also be an effective relapse prevention strategy. Getting the body and mind occupied by other activities can ensure that you can deflect prevalent urges and cravings more effectively.
Deep Breaths: Taking a few deep breaths can be paramount for reclaiming a feeling of control in recovery. The 3-3-3 technique, which involves inhaling for three seconds, holding for three seconds, and exhaling for three seconds, can help calm the body and mind.
De-catastrophize: Urges and cravings are intense, and managing each person’s sobriety is difficult. While there may be moments where recovery feels impossible, strategies for de-catastrophizing and contextualizing each person’s experiences and success are paramount.
Even those successfully living a sober life and overcoming drug or alcohol dependence can still be met with new struggles.
Some common struggles of newly sober individuals include:
Sobriety is a constant journey of change, which can feel overwhelming at times.
While an individual may have a certain end date with sober living or inpatient treatment programs at a treatment center, the journey to a sober lifestyle never truly ends.
Pursuing a sober lifestyle is a positive thing. However, that doesn’t mean an individual can’t have reservations about their journey to overcoming drug or alcohol use disorder.
While sobriety has many positive benefits, an individual will also have to make some concessions and changes that can be difficult.
Some of these challenges include:
Sobriety is stressful, with struggles that must be addressed and overcome. However, experiencing these challenges does not mean you have “failed” in sobriety.
Relapse and recovery are a normal part of the healing process. The most important thing is to have the right resources to pull yourself back up and build up your resilience to triggers, cravings, and stressful situations.
Some common struggles in sobriety include:
Despite any doubts or reservations, sobriety has many benefits for your physical and mental health.
Healthcare professionals have found that choosing sobriety can lengthen your life, improve your relationships, and increase your energy.
A sober life has many benefits, and exploring each can empower you to choose a sober lifestyle.
It’s important to find benefits that motivate you personally and match your individual goals.
Understanding how sobriety can help you feel better is a powerful first step, but finding the specific benefits that resonate with you can help you feel committed to your recovery, even when your circumstances are challenging.
Some of the most important benefits of a sober lifestyle include:
After three weeks without drinking, the body has already started to heal.
While you may experience withdrawal symptoms, you can also start to notice positive changes in your mind and body.
You may experience:
Sobriety has many continued benefits for the body and for each person’s overall well-being.
Some other long-term benefits of a sober lifestyle include:
Avoiding alcohol has been shown to lead to an increase in overall happiness despite the challenges of sobriety.
Non-drinkers may experience a healthier and happier emotional state compared to binge drinking.
Those committed to a sober lifestyle have improved physical and mental health.
Not only can avoiding alcohol or drug use improve cardiovascular, liver, and gastrointestinal health and dietary habits, but it can also help a person overcome mental health challenges.
Sobriety can also empower individuals to engage in other healthy activities, such as physically healthy self-care outlets like walking, hiking, sports, or other hobbies, to build on positive physical and mental health strategies.
Sobriety isn’t accomplished all at once, and reaching new checkpoints, setting new goals, and seeing success in motion are all part of the transformative process.
The journey to sobriety is filled with accomplishments and milestones, each of which should be celebrated for the effort and dedication it took to reach them.
Setting goals is an important skill in overcoming drug or alcohol dependence. Recognizing milestones is part of this process.
The major milestones in sobriety include:
Each individual will have their journey with addiction and sobriety, but typically, the first six months of sobriety are considered the most difficult.
There are a lot of changes that occur during the first six months. Social groups change, habits are rewritten, and your brain and body are rewiring old coping mechanisms.
Finding ways to take care of yourself is essential, but it might not be something you’re used to doing every day. This can lead to relapsing and other challenges.
A sobriety date is the very first 24 hours you go without alcohol or drug use and is used to determine how long you have maintained your sobriety.
Sobriety fatigue is the exhaustion that often accompanies the beginning of your sober journey with the amount of focus, effort, and stress that comes with this time of change.
Sobriety fatigue can vary from person to person but typically lasts around a month before newfound energy levels, routines, and therapeutic practices are in place.
Non-alcoholic beer can be a misleading name, as there are still trace amounts of alcohol in these drinks.
Drinking non-alcoholic beer can not only break sobriety, but it can also open an individual up to other dangers such as peer pressure and cravings.
The six steps of sobriety are:
The three pillars of sobriety include education, support, and treatment.
Education: Learning about the disease of substance use disorder, its symptoms and effects, and its continued impact can help you to find the right solutions for your circumstances.
Support: Sobriety is not a journey you have to take alone. Engaging with effective support through professionals in a treatment program, peer support, and family members can provide the best approach to a sustainable sobriety and effective support network.
Treatment: Professionals are an invaluable resource in addiction recovery. Dedicated treatment programs and committing yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally to effective treatment will make sure that your sobriety lasts.
The goal of sobriety is maintaining abstinence from alcohol or drug use while creating a fulfilling and transformed life.
Success in sobriety is a personal journey. However, there are various goals you can set for yourself to measure your success.
These goals cover:
Sobriety cannot be traditionally measured or given a numerical value. However, working with treatment professionals to personalize treatment programs can help you to find a longer lasting and more well-adjusted sober lifestyle.
Some additional strategies include:
Recovery is a journey; staying committed is paramount for effective relapse prevention and a healthy, sober life.
Committing to recovery takes many forms. For some, setting small goals can help keep an individual progressing by allowing them to feel the weight of each step.
Maintaining sobriety is difficult, but continued engagement in outpatient treatment programs, self-care outlets, and support groups (such as alcoholics anonymous or other twelve-step programs) can help you maintain your hard-earned sobriety.
Staying on track and focused throughout continued sobriety is a learned skill, and developing dedicated skills and structures can help.
For some, having a written calendar of goals can help in better prioritizing goals.
Remember to set achievable goals that can help you build confidence in your ability to overcome your addiction. Feelings of failure and shame can act as triggers for substance use.
Having a consistent daily routine and regular structure that tends to both obligations and prioritizes time for self-care can empower individuals to stay consistent and set healthy expectations each day.
Sobriety is about finding a healthy and sustainable lifestyle where you feel more like yourself, have more energy, and feel capable of reaching your goals.
Being sober empowers you to take control of your relationships, physical and mental health, and ambitions.
Community helps deconstruct stigmas and barriers to sober living and treatment. It also creates new feelings of acceptance, understanding, and sympathy.
Overcoming addiction is more than just graduating from detox – it is a continued journey with no traditional “end date.”
While unfortunate, relapse is a possibility for anyone attempting a sober life.
It’s important to remember that relapsing does not mean you are broken or weak; it is just a sign that you need some more support.
Some reasons an individual may struggle to stay sober include:
Working with professionals in outpatient care and continued therapy can help challenge feelings of shame and add new strategies for healthy sobriety.
Addiction is a disease for which there is no “cure.”
Sobriety is a commitment to a new lifestyle and something that should be celebrated for years to come.
Celebrating sobriety means not just championing how long they have been without engaging with addictive substances but also the personal goals accomplished along the way.
Celebrating someone’s sobriety can take many forms, depending on the relationship with the individual and where they are in their recovery journey.
Acknowledging sober accomplishments in another can go a long way in promoting long-term sobriety in addiction recovery.
Providing specific examples of things an individual is proud of, such as a specific goal like starting a job, a grade on a test, or starting a new hobby, can make these moments more personal and meaningful.
Some good sobriety gifts can include:
Tattoos are always a personal choice, and no single tattoo is universal for those living their best sober lifestyle.
However, the Alcoholics Anonymous “AA Triangle” is one of the most common and recognizable tattoos to represent sobriety.
Tattoos that directly depict drugs or alcohol should generally be avoided as they can trigger past feelings.
Our goal is to provide the most helpful information. Please reach out to us if you have any additional questions. We are here to help in any way we can.
Being sober is the complete abstinence from addictive substances. Even those overcoming drug use should avoid alcohol to prevent replacement addiction or to further relapse prevention skills and instead focus on the development of their sober lifestyle.
Yes, you can.
However, keep in mind that saying no to a field sobriety test can have consequences. You might face penalties like losing your driver’s license or other legal issues, depending on local laws and regulations.
A sobriety date typically reflects a person’s first full day of sobriety.
Yes. It is the avoidance of drugs alcohol, and the development of an entirely new lifestyle, social group, perspective, mentality, and even spirituality.
The goal of truly transformative and effective treatment in sobriety is to be life-changing.
Healing from substance use, no matter how long you’ve used, can be really difficult. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Here at Sandstone Care, we know what it’s like to go through the healing process and come out on the other side. We’re here to help you every step of the way.