Recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is an open-ended journey with each individual capable of setting their own goals and forming their own path, all while under the guidance and support of professionals and loved ones. Remaining abstinent from the use of addictive substances is the cornerstone of one’s progress in recovery, especially during the infancy of one’s journey. 

However, while abstinence and sobriety may seem like interchangeable terms, the two are not complete synonyms, and a few crucial differences separate them. Learning the difference between abstinence and sobriety helps each individual continue to gauge their progress toward their sober goals and helps to reshape their attitude toward recovery and their developing lifestyle. 

What Does Abstinence Mean in Recovery? 

Abstinence is the ability to avoid using addictive substances of any kind. For those suffering from an addiction to cocaine, being able to keep a safe distance from the drug, or even saying “no” if offered, is crucial in keeping the addictive substance out of their body. 

For many, abstinence starts in detox as an individual processes and removes the traces of these substances from their body and learns effective grounding strategies to employ that allow them to maintain this kind of sobriety — a body devoid of the toxins of addictive substances. However, there are aspects of addiction that abstinence from these substances does not address.

Throughout recovery, it is common that an individual may make personal compromises or develop unhealthy or dishonest tendencies. Lying about one’s use of an addictive substance can be common, as can avoiding conversations and social environments or eschewing responsibilities or obligations. While remaining abstinent from the use of drugs or alcohol is undoubtedly important, one’s abstinence from addictive substances doesn’t necessarily reflect one’s commitment to a transformed future in these other aspects of life.

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The World of Sobriety

Sobriety carries many qualities over from one’s practices in abstinence, still rewarding and prioritizing a sober body and mind while also building toward a new future. However, sobriety is more than the ability to remain free from the use of drugs and alcohol. It includes coping strategies for dealing with the continued effects of addiction — such as cravings and urges — and focuses on the transformation of an individual into the person they want to be in their daily lives. 

Sobriety takes on new practices that develop life skills and responsibility and is a constant exercise in finding new ways to approach personal and professional goals. Taking on a truly sober mind is a complex matter. Balancing one’s ability to remain abstinent from addictive substances while embracing new perspectives, personal goals, and spiritual beliefs and practices creates a sense of transformation that can further distance an individual from any previous destructive lifestyles. 

Repairing relationships, balancing jobs and responsibilities, and embracing one’s new identity are all essential parts of true sobriety, all scaffolded in a safe and supportive environment both inside and outside of any center for alcohol and drug treatment. A sober mind, body, and spirit do not begin in any one location and rather represent the whole of one’s journey into a new person outside of the influence of addictive substances. 

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Taking the First Step on Your Journey

Embracing a truly sober approach to one’s future involves a lot of work and effort. Commonly, an individual may not honestly know the person they want to be, the professions and hobbies they wish to pursue, or the traits they want to embody at the beginning of their journey. Typically, an individual’s focus will be primarily on coping with the urge to reengage with addictive substances. However, being aware of the key differences between abstinence and sobriety during one’s journey can add a new degree of perspective to build off of at any stage of recovery. 

Transformation is difficult and uncomfortable. However, recovery and embracing sobriety means learning to brave through these discomforts to determine the kind of person one wants to be while being open to any number of new experiences, practices, and people. Activities like art therapy or music therapy may feel uncomfortable, but giving such practices a try is essential in helping each individual determine who they want to be on their journey. 

Abstinence from addictive substances is crucial and championed throughout all stages of recovery. However, remaining abstinent isn’t the end of one’s journey toward sobriety. Instead, it is the base on which one’s further growth, personal development, and identity are allowed to be birthed and tended toward a future not only devoid of drugs and alcohol but built toward ones’ personal life goals. 

Abstinence and sobriety can feel like interchangeable terms, but the core difference between the two lies in one’s dedication to a whole transformation for the better. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we strive to help you remain abstinent from these destructive, addictive substances and pride your ability to strive for a truly sober future. At our center for alcohol and drug treatment, we help you build a framework of life skills, coping strategies, accountability, and more to help you reach your unique, personal goals. Your time with us can be personalized based on your needs and goals, all backed by an understanding and supportive community of peers and professionals. Individual and group therapy, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and an extensive program of cultural and experiential therapies are all available to build upon in your journey. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member, call us today at (866) 390-5070.

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If you or a loved one need help, call Hawaii Island Recovery toll-free right now.