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All You Need To Know About Sobriety

June 3, 2024
18 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 3, 2024
18 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 3, 2024
18 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 3, 2024
18 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 3, 2024
18 min read

Sobriety Is Easier With the Right Strategies

  • Sobriety definitions can make it seem as simple as quitting drinking. However, sobriety is a challenging journey full of ups, downs, and obstacles. 
  • The path to sobriety requires a plan to manage stress, avoid triggers, practice self-care, gather a support network, and ride out urges. 
  • Reframe offers 24/7 support, motivation, and information to help you start and stay on the path to a healthier relationship with alcohol!

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier or work out every day only to find yourself not sticking to these goals several weeks later? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Like other goals we may set for ourselves, committing to sobriety may not be as simple as quitting alcohol cold turkey.

Understanding the challenges that may come with sobriety and learning to overcome them can help us stay on track to reach our goals. To set us up for success, let’s first define what being sober and committing to sobriety means.

What Does “Sober” Mean?

The term “sober” typically refers to not being affected or under the influence of intoxicating substances. Being sober can have different meanings because the term is used in the context of alcohol, other drugs, or both. 

In the context of alcohol, being sober can mean not intoxicated or abstaining from alcohol — a term that can apply to different points on the spectrum of sobriety (which we’ll explore in further detail shortly).

What is “Sober Curious”?

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The term “sober curious” was coined by Ruby Warrington, a British author. It refers to the idea of questioning our relationship with alcohol by examining the personal and societal reasons that we drink. Being “sober curious” can include thinking about sobriety, even if we may not be fully ready to commit. 

The cultural shift known as the “sober curious movement” gained traction in the late 2010s after the release of Warrington’s book and the growing popularity of wellness trends. Being “sober curious” challenges the normalization of heavy drinking and promotes a healthier lifestyle by quitting or cutting back on alcohol. How does this differ from sobriety?

What Is Sobriety?

As we mentioned briefly, sobriety is a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is being “sober curious.” On the other end is complete abstinence from alcohol — the most common definition of sobriety. 

The term sobriety is inclusive of all points on the spectrum of sobriety, but stages of the spectrum often all work towards the goal of complete abstinence. How is this different from being sober?

Sober vs. Sobriety

The terms sober and sobriety are often used interchangeably. However, sober is more frequently referred to as the state of not being intoxicated, and sobriety is more commonly referred to as the act of staying sober. When talking about sobriety, however, it’s important to remember that sobriety is not black and white. 

Now that we better understand what sobriety means, how do we achieve it?

The Journey to Sobriety

Quitting alcohol is a significant component of sobriety, but it’s often not as simple as it sounds. Here are some steps to help us begin our journey to sobriety: 

  • Identify the issue. The first step in beginning our journey to sobriety is recognizing that we may have an issue. We can identify signs of misuse or dependence by tracking our consumption and reflecting on our habits.
  • Overcome barriers. Once we’ve identified that our alcohol consumption may be an issue, we’ll need to overcome barriers such as denial or stigma. This may include minimizing the negative effects of our drinking habits or stalling in seeking support due to fear of stigma. Overcoming these barriers requires self-honesty and tackling our fears. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is proving to be a valuable tool for helping us balance acceptance and change by learning to accept things as they are right now while also recognizing and working toward necessary shifts.
  • Seek support. We can seek support by opening up to friends and family, joining peer support groups, and/or seeking professional treatment.
  • Set goals. Now that we’re ready to go, and we’ve developed a support network to help us through any challenges, we can set goals. Sobriety doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone, so having personalized goals is important.
  • Create a plan. Setting an overarching goal for ourselves is important, but creating a plan with achievable steps will make our overall effort more manageable and sustainable. (Quitting alcohol “cold turkey” can be dangerous, so it’s important to consult first with a healthcare provider before taking any such step.)

Once we’ve made a commitment to sobriety, we have better chance of achieving that goal and maintaining it when we incorporate the following strategies into our day-to-day lives.

Tips for Maintaining Sobriety

Maintaining sobriety isn’t always easy, especially in a culture where drinking is deeply ingrained. However, implementing the following strategies can help set us up for success: 

  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms. Healthy coping mechanisms such as participating in physical activity or engaging in mindfulness practices can help us turn to a more healthy outlet when we are tempted to drink. 
  • Avoid triggers. Identifying our triggers helps us avoid them or plan to navigate them successfully. For example, if social situations are a trigger for drinking, we can choose to avoid certain social events or plan to attend with a buddy for support. 
  • Develop a support network. Having close friends and family to open up to when things get tough helps us feel less alone.
  • Practice self-care. Taking care of ourselves as we would a friend reminds us to prioritize our health and well-being. Pamper yourself, eat well, and give yourself a break to re-energize and keep on trekking on the road to recovery.
  • Manage stress. Meditation, journaling, and other positive coping skills can help us lower our stress and avoid the urge to reach for a drink when things get tough. 
  • Focus your energy on alternative activities. Healthy distractions such as hobbies and passions can help us keep our minds off drinking. Clean off that dusty tennis racket or try a new workout class!

Even if we implement these tips to help us stay on the path to sobriety, relapses can occur. Let’s explore how we can navigate relapses in recovery. 

Tips for Maintaining Sobriety

Dealing With Relapses in Sobriety

Despite the unfortunate stigma surrounding relapses, they’re a common experience in sobriety. Research shows that roughly 69% of those of us recovering from alcohol use disorder will have a relapse. Let’s learn some ways we can deal with setbacks and continue on our journey to sobriety.

  • Understand it as a part of the recovery process. Remembering that relapses are a common part of the recovery process helps reduce any shameful feelings and ensures we reach out for support.
  • Identify triggers and warning signs. Relapses can teach us a lot about our drinking habits and triggers. Determining what our triggers are and being able to identify warning signs can help us avoid a future relapse.
  • Seek help and support. A support system is crucial in overcoming obstacles such as relapses. Reaching out for support as soon as possible can motivate us to keep going.
  • Revisit and adjust the treatment plan. Adjusting our treatment plan based on what we’ve learned from triggers and relapses can help us get back on track quickly.

Although relapses in recovery are common, they can be tough to work through. Let’s explore some ways to meet the challenge.

Supporting Someone in Sobriety

Support from friends and family on the journey to sobriety can make it less arduous and isolating for anyone. Let’s look at some ways we can better support a loved one — or they can support us!

  • Get educated about addiction and recovery. Learning more about addiction and recovery helps in understanding the challenges.
  • Provide a judgment-free space. Stigma is a significant barrier to anyone accessing treatment. Creating a judgment-free space allows those of us who are recovering from alcohol use disorder or dependence to ask for help when we may need it.
  • Encourage professional support if needed. Taking the step to obtain professional treatment isn’t always easy, but it may be necessary. Encouraging it when needed and assisting with accessing treatment can help those in recovery feel safe and supported.
  • Set healthy boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries is crucial for our well-being and helps us maintain our support in the long run.

Social support is beneficial but isn’t necessary to stay on track in sobriety. What can we do if we’re on our own?

Overcoming Challenges in Sobriety

The road to sobriety isn’t always linear. The challenges we overcome along the way often strengthen our commitment to sobriety. So how do we overcome them? Here are some tried and true strategies.

  • Navigate urges and cravings. Those of us who are dependent on alcohol are likely to experience withdrawal as a part of the recovery process. Urges and cravings may come up, but healthy coping mechanisms such as “urge surfing” — a mindfulness-based practice that helps us ride out our cravings — can help us overcome these feelings. 
  • Manage stress and negative emotions. Stress and the urge to escape negative emotions can be a major trigger. Addressing these feelings through mindfulness practices and professional treatment can reduce self-medication with alcohol. 
  • Rebuild relationships. Oftentimes, an unhealthy relationship with alcohol strains our personal relationships. Focusing our time and energy on rebuilding these relationships or fostering new connections helps us redirect our attention to other facets of our lives and develop our circle of support.
  • Find purpose. Sobriety may be our end goal, but delving deeper into our personal reasons for getting there gives us something meaningful to look forward to.

The road to recovery can be bumpy. But there is freedom at the end of the tunnel, and sobriety brings little wins that are worth celebrating. 

Celebrating Sobriety

Just as we might treat ourselves to a five-dollar latte on the weekends to celebrate getting through the week, small wins in sobriety also deserve celebrating. So often we can get caught up in the negative, but acknowledging our wins can remind us of the positives and motivate us to continue our journey. Let’s explore some ways we can stay positive.

  • Recognize progress and achievements. On a difficult trek, It can sometimes be difficult to see how far we’ve come. Journaling our feelings and documenting our progress reminds us of the obstacles we’ve overcome and encourages us to keep going. 
  • Celebrate small wins. No matter how small, a win in recovery is a win. We can acknowledge the positive aspects of recovery by taking ourselves out for a small treat, buying ourselves a sobriety gift, or throwing a sobriety party.
  • Acknowledge the journey of self-discovery. Self-discovery is an integral aspect of recovery. We may find ourselves gaining interest in new hobbies and passions and understanding ourselves better — all positives that are worth celebrating.
  • Identify the positives of sobriety. Our brains are wired to focus on the negative. Writing down the positives of the journey somewhere we can access them easily can be a great tool for getting us out of a negative mindset.

It Doesn’t End Here

Despite the misconception that sobriety is only for those with alcohol use disorder or dependence, sobriety can be beneficial for anyone. While sobriety comes with many benefits, the road to get there isn’t always smooth. Learning to handle the bumps will help us reach our goal. So go ahead: embrace sobriety and change the course of your life!

Summary FAQs

1. What is “sober curious”?

Being “sober curious” means questioning your relationship with alcohol. It could mean thinking about sobriety, even if we’re not fully ready to commit to it.

2. What is sobriety?

Sobriety regarding alcohol consumption typically means abstaining from alcohol. However, sobriety is a spectrum and can mean different things to different people.

3. How do I start my sobriety journey?

The first step to sobriety is recognizing that there’s a need for change. We can then reach out for support and create a plan.

4. What do I do if I relapse in sobriety?

Know that relapses can be a part of the process. We can learn from it by identifying triggers and applying this knowledge moving forward.

5. How do I support someone on their sobriety journey?

Supporting someone in sobriety can consist of creating a judgment-free space, encouraging them to seek treatment, and setting boundaries to maintain our own health and well-being.

Start Your Sobriety Journey With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

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