What Is Sobriety?

man walking down path

Each person follows their own path and utilizes their own methods when learning how to stay sober. While you may have heard definitions for terms like “emotional sobriety,” there’s not a set definition that fully encompasses the complexity of what sobriety entails.

Since creating a healthy relationship with alcohol is a personal experience, the better question is: what does sobriety mean to you? The truth is sobriety changes depending on the person and where they are in their journey. While the textbook definition of sobriety is to be in a condition where you are free of any measurable levels of drugs, alcohol, or intoxicants, you may find that sobriety means something different to you at various stages in life.

Ultimately, true sobriety is rooted in finding fulfillment and allowing yourself to live an authentic life.

Not Drinking

There are various ways sobriety can be interpreted, but what is sobriety at its core? The clinical definition of sobriety means not drinking.

As outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), questions about sobriety focus specifically on a year of consistent abstinence from alcohol. However, the DSM also implies sobriety is defined by ongoing behavioral patterns and changes.

For example, physicians and therapists using DSM criteria to assess means of support may ask questions, such as: 

  • In the past year, have you ended up drinking more or longer than originally intended? 
  • Have you wanted a drink so badly that it was difficult to think about anything else? 
  • Have you found drinking has interfered with taking care of your family or home? 

These kinds of questions get at the role alcohol plays in our life, not just the alcohol consumption itself. Because of this, overly simplified definitions like “complete abstinence from alcohol” cannot speak to the nuanced meaning of what sobriety is from a more personal perspective.

Because sobriety can mean different things at different times, and different things to different people, what proves to be an effective sobriety toolkit for one person may not be effective for another. It’s about receiving support tailored to your unique needs and goals. To fully explore what sobriety means to you, and how to get there, it takes self-reflection, self-compassion, and the desire to change your relationship with alcohol.

man in reflective glass

Allowing Time for Introspection 

Achieving sobriety involves allowing yourself time for introspection and learning how to feel and work through your emotions in a healthy manner. This may first take sitting with things you’d normally avoid or use alcohol to escape.

As you take a moment for self-reflection, keep in mind, sobriety is a journey, not a destination. You’ll want to consider: is quitting alcohol cold turkey safe and appropriate for you? Or is learning how to drink in moderation a more fitting first step toward  building a healthy relationship with alcohol? Some people begin with goals for moderation with the ultimate goal for long term sobriety, while others jump right into a life without alcohol. You can work with a physician and therapist at Monument to decide what approach is best for you. 

Regardless of your path, remember that this is often a non-linear journey, which means setbacks do not define our progress, and we can adjust our goals to re-align with our aspirations. 

Practicing Healthy Habits 

Sobriety is the ultimate act of self-care, and often entails building healthier habits and routines. At Monument, you can work with a therapist to guide you through that process. Therapy can help you build new coping mechanisms, establish supportive, enriching relationships, find your inner motivation to make a change, and so much more.

Building a sobriety toolkit complete with evidence-based therapy, a supportive community network, and physician-prescribed medication is a powerful way to replace old habits and build new routines. 

Building self-esteem while changing your relationship with alcohol

Starting your journey toward sobriety or moderation can bring on a wave of different emotions, including what could feel like an identity-crisis. This is normal. Join a discussion on how to not only navigate but how to cultivate confidence.
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Additionally, having access to moderated alcohol support groups and an online community forum can help you practice accountability and navigate challenges as they arise. Forming meaningful connections can provide encouragement and the relief that comes with knowing you are not alone. This combination of support looks different for everyone. At the end of the day, the purpose is to make sure online alcohol treatment is personalized to you.

Women putting her arms up with pride

Practicing Holistic Wellness

In addition to seeking treatment, it’s important to be aware of the amount of exercise, sleep, and balanced nutrition you receive every day. Making small changes in these areas can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health. A daily walk, restful sleep, and a balanced diet can help you feel better and put you in a clearer headspace to reduce the role alcohol plays in your life.

Interested in learning about how alcohol affects sleep, and how to build better sleep hygiene in sobriety? Watch our Monument Live about alcohol and sleep

Staying sober doesn’t always follow a linear path. As you build and practice new habits, allow yourself grace and space to grow.

Mindfulness of Past Coping Mechanisms

Another benefit of sobriety is that it allows you to uncover what may be holding you back, which you may have been ignoring or escaping from with alcohol. It’s common for people to turn to alcohol as a way to avoid emotions, especially stress and anxiety. However, the more these are bottled up without resolution, the greater possibility of them leading to setbacks in your treatment goals and overall fulfillment.

Learning to live without alcohol or drink in moderation may involve addressing some of the answers to the following questions:

  • What does alcohol do for me? Why do I drink?
  • What do I want out of life? 
  • How do I want to feel?

By answering these questions, you can better understand your drinking habits, and get a clearer picture of your ideal self. If these questions are intimidating, you are not alone. You can discuss them with a therapist or support group to get greater clarity and formulate a plan for reducing your alcohol dependence. 

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Connecting With a Therapist

Talking through emotions both in a group setting and with a therapist is incredibly valuable. You can begin to uncover why you’re feeling the way you do. This allows you to embrace your emotions fully and not let them fester, which can be harmful to your mental health. With Monument’s supportive community, you have people available to you anytime, anywhere. They can talk through struggles with you and provide support when you need it most.

Another benefit of online alcohol therapy is that you’re able to seek treatment in the comfort of your home (no in-person rehab or waiting room required). Wherever you are in your alcohol recovery timeline, a licensed therapist will help provide guidance and accountability – showing up for you as you show up for yourself, so that you’re able to reach your goals for long term sobriety or moderation.

Depending on your comfort level, you have the option of remaining anonymous and participating as much or as little as you wish. The idea is to make it as comfortable for you as possible and provide relief from the negative feelings you may have been avoiding.

Two women smiling together by a campfire

Recognizing What You Really Want in Life

When defining sobriety, ask yourself, what do you want to gain by changing your relationship with alcohol? For example, are you seeking deeper, more authentic connections with your  loved ones? Would you like to build a sustainable pathway for a healthier lifestyle? 

A collaborative study conducted by the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. and the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery assessed the effects of long-term recovery versus short-term treatment gains. It identified factors that helped participants find long-term success, which included personal support and participating in an alcohol treatment program.

One-third of study participants referenced the support of family, friends, and peers as a key motivation in sticking with their treatment journey. In addition to community support, the guidance of a professional therapist that specializes in treating substance use disorders (like alcohol use disorder) can provide insight and inspiration to build upon your personal relationships. 

Seeking Connection 

So, what does sobriety look like when it comes to connecting with others? It’s a way to share your experiences, feelings, and setbacks openly and honestly. Removing unhealthy alcohol consumption from social interactions creates space for more authentic connection, discovery, and intimacy. While many people fear relationships will change in sobriety, in reality, you will be able to more clearly identify which relationships serve you, get to know yourself and others on a deeper level, and have more present and fulfilling interactions. Whether you’re navigating sober dating, self-love, or your relationship with your partner, changing your relationship with alcohol often means changing your interpersonal relationships for the better.  And remember, love languages can change in sobriety, and that’s 100% okay. 

Holistic Support

Many traditional recovery programs set a sobriety date and put life on pause temporarily, which doesn’t work for a lot of people. Plus, treatment programs may be expensive and unaffordable for many. The more flexible and holistic approach to care at Monument empowers you to work towards sobriety on your own terms, and own time. It also gives you the power to define your relationship with alcohol without having to set a sobriety date or identify as a sober person if that’s not what you want. Plus, we don’t use the word ‘alcoholic,’ because drinking is something you do, not who you are. And it’s something you can change. No matter your goal, we’re here to support you.

At Monument, we make customized treatment available online on your own time. We use evidence-based methods, including alcohol therapy and physician-prescribed medication to help people change their drinking habits for good. Being able to connect with physicians, therapists, and a community of support at any time, from anywhere, gives people the support they need when they need it. 

Long-term sobriety is about finding what it takes to support a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. Some may require more support than others at various stages of life when learning how to stay sober or change their relationship with alcohol. Finding the right online alcohol treatment and support to meet you where you are is important.

man sitting by water and sunset

Finding Your Own Meaning of Sobriety

Introspection, practicing healthy habits, and mindfulness are often key components of the sobriety journey. However, these practices look different for everyone. What do they mean to you? Choosing sobriety means being gracious with yourself and knowing that your journey is unique and valid. The path to sobriety is often non-linear, and complete with ups and downs. It’s important to prioritize progress over perfection, and know that growth happens in those uncomfortable moments.

No matter what point of the recovery journey you’re on, you’re not alone. You deserve a healthy relationship with alcohol, whatever that looks like to you.

And at Monument, we’re here to meet you where you are and provide you with support from all angles. 

If you’re wondering how to stop drinking or want to change your relationship with alcohol, reach out to us today.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1852519/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/

About the Author

Team MonumentMonument is an online platform for those looking to change their relationship with alcohol. We connect members to a free anonymous community, therapist-moderated groups, and a collection of resources to provide the support and information they deserve. Members seeking medical treatment are introduced to a licensed physician and a specialized therapist to develop a personalized treatment plan specific to their goals. Monument is affordable, accessible, and research-based, so a healthy relationship with alcohol is attainable and celebrated by all.