What is Sobriety? Defining & Navigating Lifelong Commitment
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It's hard to nail down a single definition of sobriety. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes the word sobriety as the quality or state of being sober. In 12-step programs, sobriety refers to people who have achieved and maintained a positive level of mental health.
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.
Some people claim that giving up an addiction means that a person is sober. However, sobriety is often used to describe people who maintain a certain level of stability in recovery. In this case, not everyone who practices abstinence is sober.
Generally, sobriety is viewed as the achievement of enjoying a successful life in recovery. Not just 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 with and process feelings positively.
While emotionally sober people may not always feel happy, they are no longer victims of their feelings and emotions. Emotional sobriety can be defined as the capability of embracing feelings.
An emotionally sober person no longer escapes their emotions with drugs or alcohol. They have taken time to develop a deep inner strength. This allows them to deal with challenging situations and emotions.
Emotional sobriety can be described as closely linked to serenity. This is an inner peace that many people claim they find in sobriety.
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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. It is an ongoing process. Maintaining sobriety is a lifelong commitment.
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How Do I Become Sober?
There are various addiction treatments available to help people achieve and maintain sobriety.
Rehab is a common addiction recovery treatment for sobriety. There are different types of rehab recovery programs available. The best treatment depends on the patients’ individual needs.
Inpatient rehabs provide intensive, structured treatment programs. It addresses 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.
Outpatient rehabs are another type of comprehensive addiction recovery treatment program. 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. This enables patients to continue working, going to school, or completing family responsibilities.
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 addictions. Patients should also have a high level of motivation to become sober.
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. Many patients transfer to a partial hospitalization program from a less intensive outpatient program. Others enroll in a partial hospitalization program as their first entry into sobriety treatment.
2. Medical detoxification
Medical detoxification helps to manage the physical symptoms of alcohol and drug withdrawal safely. Withdrawal is one of the most difficult steps in recovery.
Medical assistance is important to minimize adverse effects and ensure people make it through this stage. For most, it’s an excellent first step towards successful long-term addiction recovery.
However, medical detox alone usually isn't enough to 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
Aftercare programs to help patients maintain sobriety following initial addiction treatment include:
Many rehab treatment facilities provide aftercare programs. These types of aftercare programs vary significantly. They may offer:
- Sober-living arrangements
- Follow-up therapy sessions
- Medical evaluations
- 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
Sober living homes are residential facilities for patients recovering from 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?
In your journey toward recovery, you're going to experience a lot of ups and downs. During early sobriety, you will have signs and symptoms - some mild, others uncomfortable. The most common ones include fatigue, mood swings, and depression.
Sometimes, you'll be tempted to give up. But there are many ways to maintain sobriety following addiction treatment. Here are some of them:
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
- 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 set goals and take control of their condition.
3. Attend AA or NA meeting
Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous groups help people struggling with substance abuse and 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 people in similar situations is valuable for people battling addictions. There are many places you can meet sober friends, including AA or NA. You can also find meetups for special interests such as:
- Language learning
- Board games
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- "Recovery and recovery support," Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2020.
- "Can addiction be treated successfully?" National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
- "Handling urges to drink, Rethinking Drinking," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- "Principles of effective treatment," National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018.
- "Types of treatment program," National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018.
- Laudet, Alexandre et al. "Pathways to Long-Term Recovery, A Preliminary Investigation," Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 2002, 34: pp 305-311.