What Is the Difference Between Sobriety and Recovery?

Sobriety and Recovery are two words that are bantered about a lot these days regarding people who no longer using drugs or alcohol. What is the difference between the two words? Well, like any form of definitions, there are many possibilities. Just check any dictionary, a lot depends on context, who is speaking or writing, and who they are speaking or writing to.

sobriety and recovery

For this article, I will define the context. I am an addictions counsellor, I help people who are suffering from the seemly hopeless state of mind and body that alcohol, nicotine or other drugs wreck upon a person. I have been involved with the 12 Step Community since 1997, addiction recovery is both vital to my career, and vital to my personal life. My audience, defined for this article, is someone who is looking into the possibilities of getting sober, someone who loves an alcoholic or addict, and those who are working on staying clean, one day at a time.

One of the first messages that the newcomer to AA hears is “Don’t drink, and go to meetings”. One old-timer in the 12 step rooms I know uses this phrase every time he shares. “I was told, ‘Don’t drink, and go to meetings’, and that was 35 years ago. To this day, I don’t drink, and go to meetings!” An excellent piece of experience, strength and hope. Another slogan along these lines is, “Breathe in, breathe out, and don’t drink in-between.” These are amazing tools for the newcomer to start off the kit of tools needed for recovery. They may sound simple, but many newcomers are fascinated to hear “If you don’t drink, you won’t get drunk”. For the first days and weeks and maybe even months of a person’s voyage into 12 step recovery, maintaining sobriety must of course, come before anything else. Just getting through a day, an hour, a minute, without picking up can be a monumental feat. And if a person is going a number of days, back to back, without drinking or using other drugs, it is safe to say that person is sober. They have sobriety.