The Difference Between Recovery and Sobriety

In light of National Recovery Month, we will focus on two crucial topics that are not commonly discussed about recovery: forgiveness and the difference between sobriety and recovery.

National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery”.

Our team at Quest2Recovery believes in celebrating recovery daily as addiction recovery is based on progress, not perfection. Each new day is one step forward in the right direction.

The terms “sobriety” and “recovery” are often used interchangeably however these two terms have very distinct meanings when it comes time to addiction. 

“Sobriety is a state whereas recovery is a process” 

The meaning of “sober”

Any individual who does not engage in drugs or alcohol is deemed “sober,” and although sobriety is part of recovery, sobriety often refers to a temporary state and fragile state. This state can change at any point in time with a sip of alcohol or the use of drugs to alter your mental state. You can go from sober, to inebriated to addicted in a matter of weeks. Individuals who identify as “sober” may be straying away from drugs and alcohol. Still, because they do not identify as being in recovery, they do not seek treatment for the underlying issues that initially lead them to drink or use. Sobriety can often be viewed as a day without using. Entering into sobriety without undergoing treatment and recovery can potentially have negative risks. Individuals who abstain from alcohol and drugs to become “sober” are more likely to relapse because they neglected to address the underlying issues driving their addiction. Additionally, entering into sobriety without any professional help can potentially lead to painful and even dangerous withdrawal side effects, especially when withdrawing from alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids. 

Many “sober” individuals who are not in “recovery” will experience a swap in addictions, formally known as cross-addiction. This occurs when someone trades alcohol or drugs for another addiction, such as shopping, sex, or food. By doing this, they are trying to fill a void that their old addiction once satisfied. They may be “sober,” but they are more likely still struggling with unhealthy emotions or mental health disorders. This new vice is another unhealthy coping mechanism. 

The true meaning of “recovery”

When an individual enters a treatment program and starts their recovery journey, they are not only making a choice to become “sober” but are also acknowledging the underlying issues that caused them to become addicted in the first place. Recovery is a lifelong commitment that works to treat the mental, spiritual and emotional aspects associated with the addiction. Individuals learn to fill “the empty void” with positive coping strategies, a healthy community, and behavioral solutions that they have learned through treatment. You gain sobriety and the tools and emotional stability to defend yourself against a potential relapse. This phase is the ultimate key to conquering your addiction and moving into a healthier, more balanced life and involves the following complex processes: 

  • Changing behaviors that contribute to addiction and relapse instead of merely changing drinking and using habits alone.
  • Realizing that drugs and alcohol were not the only issues in their life and that these are symptoms of an underlying problem.
  • Understanding that alcohol and drugs often act as a solution to a larger problem in their life.
  • Working through the problems that led to the development of the addiction and developing healthy coping mechanisms and solutions to deal with these issues.

Can individuals relapse even if they are in recovery? Yes. 

Relapse is a realistic part of the treatment journey. Although it does not happen for everyone, the goal of relapse is to recognize the urges, cravings, and triggers and use the tools and coping mechanisms you learned in recovery to prevent the relapse from spiraling out of control. This may mean that you re-enter a treatment program or increase your frequency and duration of therapy. Relapse looks different for everyone. 

Seeking recovery at Quest 2 Recovery

Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”.

National Recovery Month: Forgiveness in Recovery

In light of National Recovery Month, we will focus on two important topics that are not commonly discussed in relation to recovery: forgiveness and the difference between sobriety and recovery.

National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery”.

Our team at Quest2Recovery believes in celebrating recovery daily as addiction recovery is based on progress, not perfection. Each new day is one step forward in the right direction.

 

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.

— Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness is an important lesson to learn, not only in recovery but also during many stages of life. Forgiveness is an intentional and voluntary process characterized by letting go of any negative energy from our inner selves that was aimed at other individuals and/or aimed towards ourselves. People forgive each other for small and large mistakes all the time. We are taught from a young age to value forgiveness to be successful in our personal and professional relationships. Without forgiveness, we will harvest ill feelings such as resentment, anger, jealousy, and bitterness, negatively affecting our mental health. Letting go and forgiving another individual is not about that individual, but about us. We are letting go and freeing any negativity from our hearts and minds. Forgiveness in recovery can be a bit more complicated as often, we are not only offering forgiveness to others, but we forgive ourselves for our past actions, thoughts, and mistakes.

 

Dangers of harvesting resentment in recovery

Addiction can be fueled by past abuse, trauma, and hurtful actions by others. It can feel threatening to forgive those who have hurt us, and it can also feel scary to forgive ourselves for our bad decisions. However, harvesting resentment in recovery can be very unhealthy and often lead to relapse. Sobriety usually starts with forgiveness as harboring anger and resentment can lead to anxiety, increased stress levels, and a weakened immune system. When you were using drugs or alcohol, you may have been able to cover up any negative feelings with your addictive substance of choice; however, now that you are in recovery, you cannot use these unhealthy vices as a crutch. As a result, you are more prone to feeling every type of emotion during recovery, both positive and negative.

 

Resentment and addiction

Individuals struggling with a substance use disorder can often harbor feelings of resentment, guilt, and anger, which can worsen their already present addiction and even lead to a co-occurring mental health addiction such as depression or anxiety. Without forgiveness, there is resentment, blame, guilt, hurt, and grudges. The most common grievances associated with addiction include the following:

 

  • Unrealistic and high expectations of others while holding low expectations for themselves
  • Resentful towards other people who are trying to help, give advice, or offer encouragement
  • Anger associated with past trauma
  • Jealousy of others
  • Anger associated with being wrong by others in the past

 

Forgiveness: an opportunity to begin anew

Forgiving others is not only about letting go of negative feelings, but it also provides the opportunity for growth within new relationships. It can give you a fresh start, a do-over. Of course, you have the option of giving those you forgive second chances, but you also have space to allow for other people to enter your life. A strong support system is necessary for a successful recovery, and by forgiving others, you create space and compassion for new relationships.

 

The importance of self-forgiveness

Accepting your mistakes, acknowledging your emotions of guilt and shame, learning from your past experiences, sharing your lessons and feelings with others, and making up for your past mistakes through actions are all significant steps in self-forgiveness. Forgiving yourself for your addiction and the associated behaviors that go along with it can greatly impact your recovery. Self-forgiveness can boost your self-esteem, which can result in healthier lifestyle choices and self-care routines. Self-forgiveness can allow you new growth opportunities. Self-forgiveness can allow you space for healing and compassion. Self-forgiveness can allow you to hold new relationships. And most importantly, self-forgiveness can allow you to succeed in recovery.

 

Have you taken steps to forgive yourself and others? If not, what is holding you back?

 

Seeking help, forgiveness, and recovery at Quest 2 Recovery

Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”.