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Clean. Dry. Sober. These words all indicate the lack of drugs or alcohol in the body, but do they mean different things? Depends on who you ask. To a non-alcoholic or addict, these words are interchangeable. But to people who have suffered from addiction, there is an important distinction between these words.

Clean and dry both mean not having drugs or alcohol in your body. If you are completing or have recently completed detox, and haven’t returned to using or drinking, you are “clean”. This is the necessary beginning of moving away from your addiction. But, it is truly only the first phase if you want a happy, whole life.

How is clean/dry different from sober?

In recovery, “sober” means you are working a program of recovery. This is entirely different from simply not drinking or drugging. For an alcoholic or addict, drugs and alcohol are our solution. They are what makes it possible for us to get through each day- what makes it possible for us to live comfortably in our own skin and handle both the ups and downs of life. In the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it says that “alcohol was but a symptom”. This means that the main problem of the alcoholic or addict is not the drugs and booze. At first this is a difficult concept to grasp. “If I could only quit drinking, my life wouldn’t be such a mess.” “If I could only put down the drugs, I would get my job/car/significant other/fill in the blank back.” These thoughts are common in the newly sober. However, if a person remains “off the wagon” without finding another solution to live by, life will be unbearably uncomfortable and unmanageable- stone cold sober. This is what usually leads to relapse when someone avoids or neglects working a program of recovery.

So, how do I get “sober”?

If you are a real addict or alcoholic, to be truly comfortable in sobriety, it is essential to work a program. This means attending 12-step meetings, getting a sponsor, and working the steps. The steps of AA and NA are what allows us to get to the root of our disease, and to live a happy, comfortable life. The steps and your program, when done thoroughly and with total honesty, will provide the same level of ease and comfort provided by drugs and alcohol, without the destruction and loneliness. You may be able to get by for a while without putting in the work, but eventually, without a solution, you are bound to pick back up right where you left off. Thousands of men and women in AA or NA will tell you that the work required is 100% worth it to achieve true sobriety, and as a result, have a full and happy life.

For more information on 12-step meetings, find the local intergroup in your geographical area, or click one of the following links: