Sobriety is a term used to describe several different outcomes for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD). Many people who are sober and in recovery have opposing viewpoints on what is considered “being sober.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, sober is defined as “abstaining from drinking alcohol or taking intoxicating drugs: refraining from the use of addictive substances.” Many individuals in recovery have different ideas of what it means to be in recovery and achieve sobriety. Meanwhile, West Coast Recovery Centers uses evidence-based methods to help clients establish achievable goals for long-term sobriety.
What Does It Mean to Be Sober and In Recovery?
Traditionally, being sober means abstaining from any mind-altering substances. However, some people with SUD have co-occurring conditions requiring prescription medications – some of which may have mind-altering effects or potential for dependency. Other individuals in recovery view taking any substance, including prescription pain relief or other medications, as not abstaining from drug use. To those individuals, being sober means taking no mind-altering substances, regardless of whether they are being taken as directed. Other people may only view sobriety as avoiding any significant misuse of alcohol or drugs. A small percentage of individuals believe drinking socially does not impact their sober status if they are recovering from misusing other substances.
Everyone has their own opinion and beliefs about what constitutes sobriety and recovery. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Recovery is built on the multiple capacities, strengths, talents, coping abilities, resources, and inherent value of each individual.” The form recovery takes is highly personalized and depends on an individual’s beliefs, culture, history, and goals. West Coast Recovery Centers ensures all clients have access to the tools and resources they need to build a healthy foundation for long-term sobriety regardless of their personal beliefs.
The Different Views on Sobriety
A person’s history determines how they view sobriety and recovery. The varying experiences of people in treatment make it impossible to pinpoint one “right” way to think about sobriety and recovery. Instead, clinicians work with clients to help them better understand their condition and find healthy ways to relate to their recovery.
Below are some of the common beliefs people have about what it means to remain sober and in recovery:
- Only using mind-altering substances at the direction of a medical professional
- Avoiding all substances affecting behavior, mood, or cognition
- Socially drinking within the recommended limits and avoiding all illicit substances
Some people also feel relapsing or misusing substances infrequently doesn’t affect sobriety as long as they are not chronically misusing the substance. However, trading one dependency for another endangers mental health and sobriety. Treatment programs encourage clients to abstain entirely from any addictive substances or behaviors. Individuals with SUD have a higher risk of developing addictive behaviors affecting mental health, even if they don’t involve addictive substances. Avoiding all maladaptive behaviors reduces the risk of relapse and supports long-term recovery.
Accepting Alternative Viewpoints on Being Sober During Recovery
West Coast Recovery Centers helps clients find healthy ways to accept their recovery and the idea of long-term sobriety. Clients are encouraged to practice grace and empathy when discussing what their sobriety means to them while interacting with peers in treatment.
Everyone has a unique experience during treatment. Accepting alternative viewpoints about recovery and sobriety does the following:
- Reduces internalized stigmas
- Increases social skills, including conflict resolution
- Encourages clients to engage with the recovery community
Some people find it easier to identify as sober after completing detox and starting residential or outpatient treatment. All levels of care at West Coast Recovery Centers require clients to abstain from illicit and addictive substances, including drugs and alcohol. Clients are educated about the definition of sobriety and how abstaining protects their mental and physical well-being.
How Does West Coast Recovery Centers Support Clients Who Are Sober and in Recovery?
Recovery starts when a person decides to become sober. Sobriety begins after they successfully detox from addictive substances. During treatment, clients sometimes use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) or other prescription medications to assist their recovery. Clients in treatment may have different ideas of what sobriety means. The care team works with each person and considers their personal, cultural, and religious beliefs and preferences.
Clients who are sober and in recovery receive the following forms of support:
- Case management
- Access to a trained medical team
- Aftercare planning
- Alumni services
Some people may wonder what it means if relapsing during or after treatment affects their sober status. West Coast Recovery Centers believes relapse is a symptom of the disease. An instance of relapse does not stop someone from being in recovery or achieving sobriety. The clinical team provides the resources and support clients need to determine for themselves what labels to put on their recovery.
Recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) looks different for everyone. Some people feel they have successfully achieved sobriety because they no longer misuse illicit substances, even if they still drink socially or use prescription medications as instructed. However, other people may believe sobriety requires them to avoid all mind-altering substances, including prescription or over-the-counter medications. Clients in treatment learn through psychoeducation and therapy what it means to be sober and in long-term recovery. West Coast Recovery Centers encourages clients to work with their care team to identify recovery goals, including what it means for them to be sober. To learn more about the programs and services we have to offer, call us today at (760) 492-6509.