The Difference Between Sobriety & Abstinence

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Entering and growing in recovery or working on sobriety is much different than abstinence, simply stopping the use of drugs and alcohol. Becoming sober is a process, not an event. Some people enter treatment, complete it and believe they are done; that is no so.

Achieving sobriety and growing in recovery is a progressive, developmental process. There are phases of recovery which are moved through, each with its unique tasks, lessons and skills to be acquired. The first building block of sobriety, the cornerstone in fact, is achieving abstinence. Here is what is meant by abstinence:

Abstinence –

Becoming abstinent, stopping the use of all mood altering drugs, is the necessary first task that must be accomplished in working toward a life in recovery. However, it is not by itself sobriety. It is like paying the admission fee at the amusement park, not the attractions themselves. Abstinence is an all or nothing proposition, either you have quit absolutely, or not. To enter into sobriety requires total abstinence; the first building block of sobriety.

Sobriety –

Sobriety can be described as living a full, rewarding and meaningful life without the need for drugs and/or alcohol and without their use. There is movement from a life of dependence, destruction and being unfulfilled to one of emotional, physical and spiritual health. Sobriety can be described as a way of life that involves healthy relationships, communication, and personal growth.

Underlying fundamental beliefs of sobriety.

There are some fundamental principles that most would agree need to be identified, processed and accepted, in order to form a firm foundation in recovery. Here they are:

1. Sobriety is a process, not an event; in fact, it is a lifelong process that is not easy but definitely possible.

2. One is never at a standstill; you are either moving away from a drink or drug or closer, your actions determine your direction.

3. Complete abstinence + growth in recovery = sobriety

4. Sobriety is a pro-active program. A thought is just a thought, nothing happens unless you take action. Simple intellectual acceptance is not enough.

5. There are underlying principles of recovery that must be learned, the first is rigorous personal honesty and integrity.

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