Being Sober vs. Being in Recovery

Being Sober vs. Being in Recovery | Transcend Recovery Community

There is a significant difference between being sober and being in recovery. Although to some those two phrases might sound the same, they are vastly different. Being sober is the regular practice of abstaining from alcohol and drugs. However, being in recovery means taking action and participating in a whole new lifestyle that promotes healing and well being.

Being sober doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is working to change their thinking and behavioral patterns that likely once contributed to the addiction. Even when a person is no longer drinking patterns of thought that might have led to the drinking in the first place are often still in full swing. It’s the reason for the Alcoholics Anonymous term – the dry drunk. The phrase refers to someone who still has the harmful and negative personality traits and mental patterns that tend to make up an addict. Another AA term to describe a person who does not have the proper recovery support is white-knuckling their sobriety. For instance, the types of patterns that are common among dry drunks are:

  • Failure to put oneself first before others.
  • Dishonesty about the addiction, life problems, and dysfunctional relationships.
  • Unrealistic expectations of others and of themselves.
  • Tendency to blame others or external circumstances when they are accountable.
  • Easily triggered by others’ comments and the tendency to take things personally.
  • A failure to live up to one’s promises and commitments.
  • The inability to deal constructively with challenges.
  • Lacking maturity.
  • The inability to fulfill obligations.

On the other hand, someone who is in recovery is participating in a recovery program, medication management, therapy, and a form of addiction treatment. Experts say that that recovery is not only the absence of engaging in self-destructive behavior. It is also the participation in productive and life-affirming behaviors. It is also the ability to have healthy relationships, including with oneself. Forming healthy relationships with oneself and with others requires healing, transformation, and self-understanding.

Yet, it’s not only the willingness to participate in these recovery-oriented activities, a person must be willing to accept that there are facets to himself that require change. This may be hard to do for some people, particularly if they got sober later in their life. If a person has developed certain personality traits, the choice to get sober might not inspire them to change their entire perspective on life.

In fact, there are some people who get sober without any help and who do not go through the life changing experience that recovery offers. For these people, the illness of addiction was likely not present and instead they may have been heavy or problem drinkers. Yet, those who were suffering from the illness of addiction and who find a way to abstain for a period of time are likely to return to drinking if they do not have the proper support.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, contact a mental health provider in order to get the proper support for a full recovery.


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