What is Sobriety?

Sobriety is a term used when discussing recovery from addiction. While there is debate as to what sobriety means, generally it’s referred to as the quality of being sober while achieving a positive level of mental health.
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Some people claim that giving up an addiction means that a person is sober. However, sobriety is most often used to describe individuals who maintain a certain level of stability away from addiction. In this case, not everyone who is abstinent is sober.

Another way of defining sobriety is to say that it is the natural state of a human being. This means that a person’s behavior and thoughts are not governed or influenced by intoxicants, like drugs or alcohol. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes sobriety as the quality of being sober. In 12-step programs, the term sobriety represents individuals who have achieved and maintained a positive level of mental health.

Generally, sobriety is viewed as the achievement of enjoying a successful life in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, rather than the avoidance of intoxicants. Sobriety involves positive mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

What is The Definition of Emotional Sobriety?

Emotional sobriety refers to the ability to deal and process feelings positively.

While emotionally sober people may not always feel happy, they are no longer a victim of their feelings and emotions. Emotional sobriety can be defined as the capability of embracing feelings.

An emotionally sober person no longer feels inclined to escape their emotions by turning to drug or alcohol use. Those who are emotionally sober can deal with challenging situations and emotions because they have developed a deep inner strength. 

Emotional sobriety can be described as closely linked to serenity. This is an inner peace that many people claim they find in sobriety.

How Do I Become Sober?

There are various addiction treatments available to help people achieve and maintain sobriety.

1. Go to a rehab facility 

Rehab is a common addiction recovery treatment for sobriety. There are different types of rehab recovery programs available, depending on the patients’ individual needs.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehabs provide structured treatment programs to address all areas of a person’s alcohol or drug addiction. During inpatient rehab, patients live in substance-free treatment facilities. They receive 24-hour medical care and therapeutic support.

These types of rehab programs are ideal for patients struggling with chronic alcohol and substance use problems. Inpatient rehab is also suitable for those experiencing a co-occurring mental illness or behavioral disorder.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehabs are another type of comprehensive addiction recovery. These addiction treatment programs offer many of the same types of treatments and therapies as inpatient rehabs. However, outpatient treatments allow patients to live at home during the process of becoming sober. Residing at home during treatment enables patients to continue working and caring for family members while attending rehab.

It’s essential to know that outpatient rehab attendees are at greater risk of experiencing triggers that challenge their recovery. Because of this, outpatient rehabs are more suitable for people with mild forms of addiction. 

Outpatient rehabs are also a great ‘step-down’ option following successful inpatient treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

Partial hospitalization programs are otherwise known as PHPs or day treatment programs. PHPs provide a high level of care, but patients can return home each night after treatment. Programs are usually around four to six hours a day for at least five days a week.

In many cases, people may either ‘step-up’ or ‘step-down’ to a partial hospitalization program, depending on their needs. Many patients transfer to a partial hospitalization program from a less intensive outpatient program. In some cases, patients may enroll in a partial hospitalization program as their first entry into sobriety treatment.

2. Medical detoxification

Medical detoxification can help to safely manage the acute physical symptoms of alcohol and drug withdrawal. For some, it’s an excellent first step towards successful long-term addiction recovery.

However, medical detox alone isn’t usually sufficient to help addicted people achieve long-term sobriety. Detoxification does little to change long-term drug or alcohol abuse on its own. Patients should likely continue addiction treatment following detox.

3. Aftercare programs for addiction recovery

There are various aftercare programs available to help patients maintain sobriety following initial addiction treatment. 

Facility-Based Programs

Many rehab treatment facilities provide aftercare programs. These types of aftercare programs vary significantly. Some facility-based programs offer sober-living arrangements, follow-up therapy sessions, medical evaluations, and support groups.

Most rehab treatment centers discuss and recommend aftercare services following initial addiction treatment. However, patients may prefer to contact treatment facilities to learn more.

Sober Living Homes

A sober living home is a residential facility for patients recovering from alcohol and substance use disorders. Some sober living homes are part of wider rehab facilities and government centers. However, many are independent organizations. 

These types of residential facilities are found across the United States. However, most are on the West Coast, particularly California.

Residing in sober living homes increases the likelihood that recovering alcohol and substance abusers remain sober. While most sober living homes are for short-term stays of less than a year, some provide longer-term options.

How Do I Stay Sober?

There are many ways to maintain sobriety following addiction treatment.

1. Identify personal triggers

A significant part of preventing relapse from addiction is understanding your triggers. Common addiction triggers include:

  • People, places, and situations that induce thoughts or cravings associated with your addictions
  • Feelings, thoughts, or emotions associated with your addictions
  • Stress
  • Emotional distress
  • Job or financial troubles
  • Relationship issues

Once you understand your biggest triggers, you can learn how to face or avoid them. 

2. Find a support program

Support groups are essential in helping people maintain sobriety. Common addiction support groups include 12-step programs like alcoholics anonymous. 

Self-management and recovery training (SMART) is a popular alternative to 12 step programs. The group is based on research-proven methods for recovery and sobriety. It teaches patients how to take control of their addictions.

3. Attend AA or NA meeting

Attending an alcohol alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous group can help people struggling with substance addictions. Connecting with other people who are experiencing the same challenges as you can be comforting and helpful.

4. Surround yourself with sober friends

Spending time and building friendships with other sober people is an excellent way to maintain sobriety. Interacting with like-minded people going through similar situations can be valuable for people battling addictions. 

Why is Sobriety a Lifelong Commitment?

Many people who experience a journey of recovery from addiction consistently learn more about themselves. People develop positive habits. They learn how to cope with stress and discover what is most important in their lives.

Seeking addiction treatments, like counseling or therapy, can help people develop healthy coping mechanisms. However, developing healthy coping skills and techniques can take a long time. Often it is ongoing. Maintaining sobriety is a lifelong commitment and process.


Ready to Make a Change?

Resources

Recovery and recovery support, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2020, https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/recovery

Can addiction be treated successfully?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

Handling urges to drink, Rethinking Drinking, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/Tools/Interactive-worksheets-and-more/Stay-in-control/Coping-With-Urges-To-Drink.aspx 

Principles of effective treatment, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

Types of treatment program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs

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Updated on: September 24, 2020
Author
Ellie Swain
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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