At the most superficial level, being sober means not being under the influence of alcohol. “I have not been drinking, therefore, I am sober.”
While “sober” in the original sense translates literally to “not drunk,” it has also acquired the broader meaning of being level-headed, not prone to whimsy or excitement, clear-sighted, and temperate.
When we talk about addiction and why sobriety matters, it is perhaps too easy to focus on what you give up, alcohol, and not what you get, sobriety. It’s true that “sober” means “not drunk” but sobriety is a virtue in itself. Moderation was among the highest virtues of the ancient Greeks, although some have said that the Greeks valued moderation so highly because it was so rare. Wisdom meant moderation in all things.
It is entirely possible to not be drunk, and yet not be sober. Even if you haven’t had a drink in months, if you remain fixated on alcohol, can you be level-headed and clear-sighted? It’s difficult to imagine.
Not drinking is an important and necessary first step, but it’s not the end goal. If all you wanted was to stop drinking, you could have yourself tied to the mast, like Odysseus. The real goals of sobriety are clarity and self control.
A sober person is not ruled by her desires. A sober person’s priorities are not distorted by craving. It is obvious to any sober person that alcohol is not more important than one’s family or career.
It isn’t hard to see why we mistake absence of alcohol for sobriety. Drinking is an observable act, while sobriety is not. We can see when someone’s drinking leads to destructive behavior but empowering behavior–sober behavior–is less dramatic. The real work of managing your emotions is even less visible from the outside.
It’s an important distinction–sobriety is not losing the comfort of alcohol; sobriety is gaining the power that comes from clarity and self-control. Choosing a treatment program that provides the best possible treatment to build the most solid foundation of sobriety possible is critical for a lifetime of recovery.
New Vista Behavioral Health is providing a family of nationwide treatment centers offering distinctive care for mental health and substance use disorders. Pursue your New Vistas in life by attending one of our treatment centers. Call us today to get started: 855-534-1760