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Recovery vs. Sobriety: Is there a difference?

The words recovery and sobriety, while seeming to evoke similar ideas, have very distinct meanings. Nowhere is this more true than in the treatment of addiction.

According to one dictionary definition, sobriety means “temperance or moderation, especially in the use of alcoholic beverages.” As a synonym for abstinence, sobriety also means, “choosing not to engage in a certain behavior, or not giving in to a desire or appetite.” Recovery, on the other hand, is defined as, “a restoration or return to health from sickness.”

Put simply, being sober, or abstinent, simply means, “dry” or “being clean” – that is, free of drugs and alcohol in the body. Being in recovery means returning to mental, physical and spiritual health while sober. Here’s the difference, in a nutshell: You can be sober without being in recovery, but you can’t be in recovery without being sober.

Being in recovery means being in treatment for your addiction, either in a treatment center, outpatient clinic, cognitive therapy, participating in a 12-step program – or any combination of these. Recovery means working to address the root cause of your addiction, apart from the dependence upon the substance to which you are addicted. It means taking a hard look at the thoughts, emotions and behaviors that lead to substance abuse, and learning new, healthy ways to cope with life on life’s terms.

Someone who is merely sober, by contrast, is often described as a “dry drunk.” When we’re clean of our addictive substances, without being in recovery, we’re “white-knuckling” our sobriety. This is because we’ve only given up our substance of choice, without learning healthy new behaviors. For this reason, sober addicts frequently substitute one addiction for another: They may give up drugs and alcohol, only to begin compulsively eating, shopping, or gambling, for example. They may have stopped drinking or drugging, but they haven’t really changed. They still suffer from a mental obsession, only for a new addiction.

When we enter recovery, we enter remission from our disease. We begin to address our mental, physical and spiritual malady, and we start to understand that any compulsive behavior is unhealthy. Although we are never cured of our addictions, in recovery we begin to experience peace, serenity, and joy in our lives. We no longer suffer from obsession and craving. We are thus able to fill the emptiness in our lives that we previously tried to relieve with drugs and alcohol. We are free!

Your freedom starts today when you call for help. The Serenity Recovery Center offers comfortable clinical detox to give you the best in safety and supervision at the start of your journey. Call 866.294.9401 today for more information.