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The Difference Between Being Clean and Sober

Many in the recovery community use the terms ‘clean’ and ‘sober,’ but what exactly is the difference when it comes to clean vs sober?

Being ‘clean’ means not using substances. ‘Sober’ suggests a deeper change, a lifestyle shift towards a healthier, more balanced life. It’s like wanting to be both clean and sober at the same time.

For example, one might think, ‘If I could just stop using,’ but then find that being clean isn’t satisfying. Feelings of emptiness and unhappiness return. Hence, going back to using is easy because it’s familiar, even if it’s harmful. Can you relate to this struggle?

Being sober means more than just not using; it means addressing the root causes of substance use and making positive life changes. It’s about finding happiness and fulfillment without relying on substances. So, if you’re struggling to stay clean, consider seeking support to help you work towards a truly sober life.

The debate about clean vs sober is rather easy to comprehend. For instance, a ‘dry drunk’ hasn’t had a drink but still acts and thinks the same way they did when they were an alcoholic. This person has abstained from alcohol, but they have not refrained from their alcoholic practices. Substance abuse is a disease that affects every aspect of a person’s life, not just their behavior. Therefore, simply abstaining from a substance will not result in complete recovery.

Sobriety, on the other hand, entails more than simply abstaining from the preferred drug. It involves new ways of thinking, behaviors, and attitudes learned through a detox program’s steps. Recovering substance abusers learn to accept that drugs are not the problem. It was their choices that were the problem. The unfortunate symptom was an addiction. 

What Does It Mean to Be ‘Clean’?

When someone addicted to drugs or alcohol says they are clean, they say that their body is free of drugs or alcohol. This happens when the chemical components of the substance they abused have left their system entirely, and the body can function in a state unaffected by these dangerous influences. Being clean is frequently the first step toward sobriety, but it is not sufficient in and of itself: we are clean once we have completed the first detox steps.

Clean Checklist:

  • Have not used any substances, including drugs and alcohol, for a specific period (e.g., 30 days).
  • Have removed any drugs or alcohol from your home or surroundings.
  • Have avoided places, people, or situations that may trigger cravings or relapse.
  • Have attended support group meetings or therapy sessions regularly.
  • Have developed healthy coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety, or other triggers.
  • Have made amends or addressed any past harm caused by substance use.
  • Have a support network, including friends, family, or sponsors.

The difference between clean and sober is that when one is clean, they aren’t actively doing drugs. However, one who is clean is also not actively participating in a recovery program. In other words, These individuals are not doing activities that will help them stay clean and prevent a relapse. Activities that help people stay clean include the following:

  • Meditating, holistic therapy, or in touch with a spiritual source
  •  Attending a support group
  •  Working on their 12 steps
  •  Continuing to educate themselves about their addiction
  •  Being a part of a sober Fellowship
  • Having a sober mentor 

These activities help to prevent people from relapsing. A major key to sobriety is actively working on maintaining recovery.  This is a major reason why people who have been sober for years still attend support groups. Sobriety goes beyond abstaining from substances.

Sobriety usually includes developing a sober character.  This is when an individual who is addicted to substances changes their mindset and overall character.  As a result, a person addicted to substances can develop new ways and habits for dealing with life without drugs or alcohol. 

What Does It Mean to Be ‘Sober’?

While being clean refers to the absence of substances, being sober encompasses a broader lifestyle change—this distinction clarifies the clean vs sober debate. Sobriety is a much more complex topic. First, being sober entails getting rid of all traces of drugs and alcohol from the system, but that is only the beginning. Sobriety splits into three distinct aspects, which are critical and essential components of any detox program.

Sober Checklist:

  • Have not used substances for a specific period (e.g., 30 days).
  • Have actively worked on personal growth and self-improvement.
  • Have addressed any underlying mental health issues through therapy or medication.
  • Have developed healthy habits, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep.
  • Have found new hobbies or interests to replace old substance-related activities.
  • Have repaired or improved relationships with friends and family.
  • Have a positive outlook on life and feel fulfilled without needing substances.

There are three different aspects to sobriety:

  • Physical sobriety – it occurs after the body has been free of chemicals for a long enough period for our brains to start the recovery process, allowing us to think more clearly and make decisions based on reality rather than confusion and anxiety; 
  • Emotional and spiritual sobriety – we accept who we are, what we have done, and what we need to do to right the mistakes we have made (to the extent possible), learn to reconnect with others, and begin to feel at ease in ourselves 
  • Social sobriety – the process through which we re-enter society by making amends with others and developing to re-integrate with the world outside the recovery community. 

These things take time to complete. Physical recovery can take a few years after detox, depending on the amount of harm we’ve done to ourselves. It can also take months before we can even begin to think clearly. We may require the assistance of friends, counselors, and doctors to restore order to our neurological systems and lives.

What Does Recovery Entail?

In the recovery community, discussions about clean vs sober often highlight the importance of emotional and psychological wellness, not just physical abstinence. Someone sober is simply clean and has stopped using alcohol and drugs. However, recovery involves more complex processes, such as: 

  • Changing behaviors that assist addiction and relapse, rather than just changing drinking and drug use practices. 
  • Recognizing that substances were not the only problems in their lives but rather symptoms of a more significant issue. 
  • Understanding that substances frequently serve as a band-aid for a bigger problem in their lives. 
  • Working through the matters that led to the addiction’s development and promoting healthy coping mechanisms and solutions to these issues. 

People in recovery are in remission, which means that while they still struggle with addiction. An individual can learn to cope with emotional issues and the mental obsession with alcohol or drugs through therapies and medical approaches. This process can help them determine how to handle their cravings or even free their minds from cravings entirely.

Unlike those who enter sobriety without recovery, people in rehabilitation can grow healthy mechanisms to fill the void that alcohol and drugs left in their lives. With therapy, they can develop spiritual, behavioral, and emotional methods to deal with their feelings and urges. Furthermore, people in recovery build great support groups and a network of people who can relate to their difficulties. 

Addiction Treatment Madison, TN

Understanding the difference between clean and sober helps individuals in recovery recognize the nuances of their journey. You are not alone if you are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction in Madison, TN. Every year, thousands of people suffer from addiction, and help is available. Detox Nashville provides each of our clients with personalized, one-on-one care, as our facility offers holistic and comprehensive addiction treatment programs for those struggling with alcohol and drugs.

Call us today or contact us through the website to begin your journey toward a new life.

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24/7 Help Is Standing By, Call Us Now.