Sobriety: Everything We Know

Sobriety: Everything We Know


Sobriety means a life free of drugs or alcohol use. Sobriety in Latin means 'not drunk', 'temperate', and 'sensible'.  While this definition of sobriety highlights the importance of abstinence from using addictive substances, it does not fully encompass the scope of sobriety.

Sobriety in the broader sense comes with finding peace and accepting oneself in all facets of life. It is a condition in which you gain insight and awareness about the motivation to remain sober and thus develop the necessary discipline to practice abstinence.

Table of Contents:

  • What does Sobriety Mean?
  • What is Emotional Sobriety?
  • What are the Ways to Start Working towards Sobriety?
  • What does Sobriety Mean?

    Sobriety refers to the act of not drinking or not using a substance. The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) popularized sobriety, which described it as the ultimate goal of its 12-step program. Sobriety signifies a higher spiritual condition where one is in contact with greater power. Thus through this spiritual communion, the urge to drink or use a substance has diminished, leading to total abstinence.

    The AA emphasis on total abstinence in achieving sobriety has garnered mixed responses from several sections of society. The fixation on abstinence actually gets in the way of recovery. Furthermore, by focusing their attention only on the absence of something –not drinking or using a substance, programs such as the 12-step miss the overall goal of addiction treatment.

    The quality of life and the care and connection that most recovering addicts never received are responsible for addictive patterns of behavior. The sense of severed belonging and insufficient nurture in childhood make us prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders. Hence, drinking and the use of substances become substitutes to cope with the vacuum left deep inside us.

    Abstinence is an important step towards achieving sobriety but in and of itself does not constitute sobriety. Sobriety implies self-discovery and finding motivation for a better quality of life. It comes with the understanding that resorting to behaviors such as drinking and substance use as substitutes cannot take away the sense of pain and trauma that lies at the heart of addiction.

    What is Emotional Sobriety?

    The sense of separation and the feeling of self inadequacy causes  addiction in the form of alcohol and substance use. The emotional pain, wound, and trauma caused by severed belonging and separation come to shape the way we view the world and become the template for addiction.

    Alcohol or substance use offers an escape from these painful experiences and helps deal with the stress and other negative emotions accompanying trauma. It provides a false sense of control and temporary relief from these disturbing states of mind underlying our being.

    Physical sobriety through abstinence can help one stay clean of using addictive substances. But without addressing the underlying negative emotions, chances of relapse become high. Emotional sobriety implies identifying this store of negative emotions and accepting them, whether angry, sad, confused, or anxious. It is an act of being present to all of your feelings without letting them define who you are.

    What are the Ways to Start Working towards Sobriety?

    Sobriety is essentially a realization that using drugs or alcohol is a forlorn attempt to cover up all of the disturbing emotions from past experiences. There are contingency programs that offer financial incentives to addicts to stay sober. Some other ways through which you can start working towards sobriety include:

    Being mindful

    Habits like substance abuse are false refuges that help people avoid painful and other disturbing experiences in the form of unmet needs for love and safety. Being mindful of the suffering that ensues from these experiences can help break the loop of chasing after substitutes for gratification.

    Mindfulness inquiry and practices can help identify the triggers and the layers of false beliefs that underlie addiction. Through mindfulness, you can begin to acknowledge that the relief and gratification substitutes and substances are already present within you.

    Having someone to talk to

    The importance of a group in achieving sobriety cannot be overstated. When people share their stories about some of their harmful habits, it helps relieve some of the tension and the sense of personal attachment associated with addiction. Just to hear other people go through the same kind of experience or, worse, lighten up things. 

    Confronting feelings

    Sobriety is a quality of grace that comes with deep attention and awareness about one's feelings. As you work towards sobriety, the sense of anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions can be uncomfortable and overwhelming. The more you try to escape your feelings, the more it comes back to haunt you.

    By being available to your feelings, you break the old pathways of addictive behavior. To confront your feelings is to feel your feelings and open yourself to the possibility of making fresh choices which for many recovering addicts just doesn't seem to exist.


    The word sobriety has many connotations and varies from one group to another. It typically refers to abstinence from using alcohol or controlled substances. However, abstinence is merely a means towards sobriety and not an end in itself. With drug testing becoming prevalent in all sectors, it is best to embrace sobriety that can help you in your career growth.

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