Image Alt

Tommy Recovery Coaching

Beyond Abstinence

The Complex Nature of Sobriety: Beyond Abstinence

CNN has been producing New Year’s Eve specials since the 1980s, but their most popular broadcasts have aired since Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen started to host the specials in 2017. For the 2022 special, CNN went with a sober format because the previous year’s broadcast resulted in Cohen getting visibly inebriated as he delivered an insensitive rant. While many CNN viewers applauded the network’s decision, others felt labeling the special “sober” was a disservice to recovering alcoholics because Cohen later confessed that he got drunk after the ball dropped in Times Square and the broadcast concluded. The question of whether sober is an adjective for someone who drinks in moderation doesn’t have an easy answer, but it’s worth discussing because this is a lifestyle worth seeking.

What Being Sober Really Means

Whenever you’re not affected by a substance that has a psychoactive effect, you can categorically state that you’re sober. If we accept this definition, we stop being sober the moment we drink coffee or tea, smoke a cigarette, or eat chocolate. You’re also sober the moment you’re no longer under the influence. For example, ethanol molecules of wine can no longer be measured in the bloodstream after two hours. 

For people in recovery, being sober is a precious gift that saved their lives. For those who are “sober-curious,” it means being mindful of the things that can make their lives more peaceful and meaningful.

Putting Sobriety into Perspective

Most recovering alcoholics firmly believe abstinence is the strongest pillar of sobriety. According to studies published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, more than 85 percent of patients who recover from alcohol use disorder (AUD) choose to go the teetotaling route. However, the individuals surveyed for these studies either went through Alcoholics Anonymous or sought medical treatment, so we don’t know if those who recovered on their own are complete abstainers as well. It would be a disservice to question the sobriety of those who practice moderation in recovery. There’s no good reason they should be excluded from the fellowship of those who are on the journey to sobriety.

Mental Health as the Cornerstone of Sobriety

The American Psychology Association treats sobriety more as a mental health process than a state of being. Let’s say a woman enters recovery because excessive drinking was hurting her parenting skills. If she stays dry and embraces abstinence but continues to be a terrible mother, we can’t reasonably say she has achieved sobriety in the holistic context. 

Mental health is at the heart of working with a sober coach. Carlsbad clients who seek this professional service realize their bouts with alcoholism were prompted by external factors that were emotional, neurochemical, or behavioral. In the new wave of “sober-curious” patients, many realize substance abuse wasn’t the only factor keeping them away from sobriety.

Sobriety as a Way of Life

Millions of people around the world enjoy sober living without strict abstinence. They recovered from AUD and are mindful of their unique need to strive for sobriety, but this doesn’t cause them to refuse drinking from the kiddush cup to start Shabbat or from the chalice during Holy Mass. As already mentioned, moderation and abstinence are both welcome in sobriety. To a great extent, being sober forever is a commitment to avoid torment in your life. Your heart will tell you if abstinence is the only way to achieve this, and it’s an admirable way of life.


For residents of Carlsbad, CA, recovery and sobriety can be easier to maintain with the help of a sober lifestyle coach. At Sober Lifestyle Coaching, we know precisely what it takes to get sober, stay sober, and live the healthy lifestyle you deserve. We specialize in working with clients with active addictions as well as clients already in recovery. Our sober coaches help clients work through potentially challenging events, such as going to work and attending family gatherings, while providing encouragement, accountability, insight, and understanding through our own recovery experiences. To learn more about how a sober lifestyle coach can help you or someone you love, call us at 760-300-8338.

Add Comment


tell me more

Enter your details below and learn about all the perks you get by using Xtrail Explorer.

    Or call us for more info:

    Call Us Now