Defining Sobriety

The question in the Saturday morning meeting was this; how do you define sobriety? Most everyone in the room had an answer that differed because sobriety does mean something different to nearly every person in recovery. The answer varied mostly to the attendees length of time sober. Without any doubt, the newbies answers ring out more life to my ears. Us “older” to recovery often go deep, trying to hit the big one out of the park, sending the entire group reeling…but too often we don’t make it out of the infield.

Sobriety to me is change of purpose. Sobriety encompasses the total me, body, soul, and spirit. Sobriety is vision. In truth, all of these are unattainable without God’s help, those he places in our path to help us,  or for us to help.

Sobriety’s meaning goes far beyond the definition in any dictionary. It isn’t just about not picking up a bottle or taking a drug, but I can throw those ideas in its definition too. I like to say that living sober is a loss of my insisting ego that I need to be first. It is these descriptions, and my desire to conform to Christ’s image that makes the definition complete. Well, there is one other add-on. That is being like that new person, keeping sobriety’s benefits fresh in my thoughts and being grateful each day.

How would you define sobriety?

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all

21 thoughts on “Defining Sobriety

  1. To be truly sober is to be aware, not easily swayed. It is no longer to be under the influence of (or influenced by) X. This is more than white-knuckle abstinence. It means X no longer dominates my thoughts or behavior. It is, I think, an impossibly high standard–without Christ. “Whom the son of man sets free is free indeed.” John 8:36

  2. “I like to say that living sober is a loss of my insisting ego that I need to be first. It is these descriptions, and my desire to conform to Christ’s image that makes the definition complete.”
    I agree with you. A sober mind will not be quick to Ease God Out. An established spiritual relationship with Christ Jesus, Lord and Savior, maintains a sober mind through daily spiritual renewal. Check out for current info on the Conqueror Lifestyle.

  3. Keith, your definition of sobriety runs in perfect alignment with the Bible’s definition. When the Bible speaks of being “sober” it is referring to submitting the entire person to the control of Christ. Lord bless you!

  4. Sobriety: freedom, freedom to worship Christ. No longer chained to drink. Finally free to walk in the Light that God has given me. I am not a recovering alcoholic, never was. Through the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and His mercies, I am RECOVERED. FREE

      • Amen! to that, Ronald. It always bothered me that AA, NA, or fill in the blank A participants always started with, “Hi my name is Keith, and I’m an alcoholic,” etc. In my opinion that speaks power into the illness and undernines my identity. My identity is in Jesus Christ! In Celebrate Recovery I introduced myself with,”Hi, my name is Keith. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and I can celebrate VICTORY over drugs and alcohol, but I still struggle withanger.” My identity is not in the illness.

    • I had a major issue early in recovery, knowing I was a new creation in Christ but saying I was an alcoholic. Even worse, step seven we ask God to remove these defects of character, yet we still say we are alcoholic. To me, that was double-minded. But I still attend AA, and introduce myself as an alcoholic, or as a recovered alcoholic. Why? I want to say I do not want to appear arrogant to the hearers, and bring reproach on Christ. Like Paul, I have become all things to all men to be able to rescue some. In Celebrate Recovery, I can say delivered and people get it because we are like-minded.
      That can really be a stumbling block to others in AA, but in CR, we applaud what God has done. However, I feel it vitally important to attend AA and NA to give back, to remind myself of God’s power to deliver from the guttermost to the uttermost.

      • l get that, Keith, and you make some good points. I don’t judge someone’s coming to a different conclusion. AA started out much more biblical but has become increasingly secular (it was once known as the James Gang, because many of it’s principals came from the book of James).

        Arrogance and ego are perennial issues in recovery, and I may have created a false impression earlier when I mentioned undermining the identity. What I should have written is that saying you are an alcoholic speaks power to the illness AND PLACES YOUR IDENTITY IN IT rather than in Christ. It’s not ego then, if your identity is in Christ instead of alcohol. You can deal with this and your testimony one-on-one or as a sponsor if you choose. Remember that I wrote earlier that being truly sober means being beyond the influence of X. I’m not sure anyone gets past white-knuckle abstinence and into freedom without knowing his higher power’s name, using it, and relying on Him.

        Romans 10:13 NLT
        For “Everyone who calls on the name of the lord will be saved.”

      • Keith and Keith … grace and peace to you in your sobriety, and to the other readers as well.
        I am writing for two reasons. First, to concur with the discussions that ‘self’ cannot be a part of true recovery. True, lasting recovery can only happen through a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. ‘Self’ and our selfish desires must be crucified daily, moment-by-moment (Luke 9:23). ‘Self’ must also bow at the the feet / throne of Jesus. It’s all about surrender and submission—my will to His. So, that’s the first reason for which I write.
        The second is to add to the discussion. And it has to do with the word ‘recovery’ itself. Please know that I use this word as well. But, I’m thinking, is it really the proper term for us to describe what we have achieved or that which we really want. To be true, do I really want to go back to the person I used to be? (The implied ‘sober’ person.) I don’t. I want to be freed from that person because it is that former person who led me to the the state of destruction.
        No, I want to be redeemed (2 Corinthians 5:17). And have been, praise Jesus! I am a new person who is passionate about finding the person whom God of the Bible created me to be.
        Introducing ourselves as “a redeemed addict”, “a redeemed alcoholic” prevents the disruptive ‘in your face’ influence you say you want to avoid at the AA / NA meetings. This ‘new’ vocabulary gently separates us from the ‘unredeemed’, but, more importantly, it plants a seed of curiosity in the hearts and minds of those who are ‘seeking recovery’ and some will ask what the heck you are talking about. It is that curiosity that provides us with the open door to share about the One who has redeemed us and who desires for all to be redeemed (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 3:9)

        Your comments / encouragements, please.

      • Great point Bruce. Sorry for the slow response, work has been hectic. I think here is a important issue not to be avoided. There comes a point at some place in recovery that we all have to force ourselves to say…”I’m alcoholic.” And I refer to followers of Christ in recovery. But we continue to say we are alcoholic. Does that cause us to lose our identity in Jesus? No. Does it open a door? Sometimes, sometimes not because so many in AA/NA only want enough of God to keep them sober…totally half-committed.
        I believe the presence of God within us opens the door wherever we are if we are committed to sharing Jesus, the Holy Spirit draws them to us.
        Saying I am a alcoholic in a meeting is no different than saying I’m a fallen human saved by grace. I know who I am in Christ, no one can change that thank God.
        I do understand that everyone is in a different place in their experience in Christ and will not say they are an alcoholic. Others keep their past to themselves. I try to live and let live.
        Thanks Bruce.

      • Thanks, Keith. Your points are well made. And that’s where the word ‘redeemed’ comes in. Please comment also on using the term ‘redeemed’ versus ‘recovery’.

        Recovery implies returning to that which was former and I absolutely do not want to do that. I am a new creation redeemed by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus. I am charting new territory and am on a journey toward discovering who really I was created to be. It is so cool. To view myself as ‘recovered’ to something prior is to cheat myself (and God) out of what is my true potential (for Him).

      • I think it’s fine to say redeemed, or recovery. I like your reasoning for using the term. Over time I have changed how I introduce myself in meetings. I like to say I am ———————- by the grace of God, filling in the blank as I feel led to. Your introduction should reflect your faith in a group you are familiar with. In a unfamiliar group, I stick with what the expected intro is so I don’t seem arrogant or conceited in any way and bring reproach on Christ, as I said earlier.
        Augustine said, “Always preach the Gospel, and when necessary use words.” Thanks Bruce!

  5. I have to take issue with the Betty Ford Center definition of sobriety/recovery (as proffered by Glenn R) notwithstanding all their great work. I find their definition tedious, and more important, spiritless.

  6. Every person is unique. I have recollections of when I was young and had no intention of ever getting intoxicated often, let alone excessively. Sobriety as a woman in her 40s mainly still just means that instead of making myself feel different by using some substance which makes me feel good but tends to also make me less coherent, I endure the kinds of feelings that I used to get rid of by getting high and while it is not always fun I can say my favorite qualities of sobriety are being more coherent at random times, drastic decline of “fear of the law”, I think it gives my kid more of the message that I meant to give when I am not openly nor in a closeted hypocritical way living as a nightitme stoner.

    • Thanks for your comments and sorry for not responding sooner. Good thoughts, good reasoning. In time our definitions change bcause our life changes for good, the longer we stay clean and sober. Fear of the law is regularly heard in AA and NA meetings. I really like the idea that your kid is watching you succeed. Your showing not just telling. Blessings!

  7. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to
    a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

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