Sobriety vs. Recovery

so·bri·e·ty:  Moderation in or abstinence from consumption of alcoholic liquor or use of drugs

re·cov·er·y:  A return to a normal condition

Interesting distinction, isn’t it?

I spoke with a woman today who told me a horror story that is her daily personal life… in the midst of divorce for over a year, still living in the same house with this abusive man, and young child caught in the middle.  I listened attentively, and gave support the best I could.  Towards the end of the story, she says, “I have been sober for 8 years now, I know that’s not a long time, but…” honestly, I don’t remember the end of the sentence, because when she told me she has 8 years of abstaining from alcohol, and yet her life is still as stormy as she is describing, I was stunned.  I responded by praising her length of time, and telling her I don’t even have 8 months, much less 8 years.  She thanked me for listening, and then told me to keep coming around, because, “it really does get better!”

This conversation disturbed me a little at the outset.  Seriously, if my life is that chaotic after 8 years of sobriety, I’m not sure what I would do.   Obviously, everyone is different, and we all have ups and downs, but the 12 steps guarantee a life of peace and serenity beyond our wildest dreams.  Trust me, peace and serenity are two words this woman does not seem to know.

So, I’m sitting in the meeting, and, I kid you not, the next person who raises his hand to share says, “people thinks it’s painful to do the steps, but it’s not doing the steps that keeps you in pain.”

I believe I heard that for two reasons:

1.  To reinforce the importance of step work

2.  To show me that abstaining from drugs and alcohol is not the same thing as being in recovery

Putting down the drink or drug is really just the first part of recovery.  An essential part, to be sure, but to really have a meaningful change in your life it is critical to keep working on yourself, to keep searching, and to keep doing the next right thing.  Otherwise you are simply a sober version of your same crazy self, and who wants that?


Posted on September 6, 2012, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. All that comes to mind for me is “some are sicker than others.” Some people simply have a higher threshold for that kind of madness and can live mired in it (miserable, no doubt) for years on end. I think its their ‘normal.’

    I am not one of those people. Hang on the The Promises. They will come true.


  2. Maybe her “before” was much worse? Life will still deal us pain, some worse than others, apparently. Once I heard a man say that sobriety only guarantees we won’t have to suffer from our own drinking. I believe it’s good to be prepared that life will be hard at times, but this too shall pass.


  3. I love this post. The length of sobriety is not necessarily the quality of sobriety. The 12 steps are the AA program. The AA program is not just going to meetings. Whatever your choice for recovery do what is suggested. That is your best chance for success. If you start keeping and eliminating what you do and don’t prefer you are treading on thin ice. Your best thinking got you in your current position. Finding a new trusted resource is paramount to success no matter what the venture. And as a general rule, those of us in recovery are a “mixed lot” .. 🙂 That’s why we say “principles before personalities.” Great post xox Me


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