Is There a Difference Between Being Dry and Sober?

Going through recovery for alcoholism is a long process. It involves the same stages as any stressful event in life: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Unfortunately, some individuals never get through the anger stage of the process. They continue to be bitter about having to abstain from alcohol.

Dry vs. Sober: What’s the Difference?

A ‘dry drunk’ is a person who hasn’t taken a drink, but continues to have the same thinking and behavior as when they were an alcoholic. This individual has given up alcohol, but they haven’t given up their alcoholic ways. Alcoholism is more than a behavior; it’s a disease that affects all aspects of a person’s life. Simply stopping the alcohol isn’t enough to achieve full recovery.

Sobriety, on the other hand, is more than just giving up alcohol. It involves new thinking, new behaviors and a new attitude, all things that are learned through the 12 steps. Recovering alcoholics learn to accept the fact that alcohol wasn’t the problem; their choices were. Alcoholism was the unfortunate symptom.

How the 12 Steps Help in Achieving Sobriety

When seeking recovery at an addiction treatment center like The River Source, patients go through the various steps of recovery. Detoxification, counseling and natural therapies work together to rid the body of the drug, better understand what led to the addiction and change harmful behaviors. At the end of treatment, clients leave with a continuing care plan that gives specific recommendations for what the patient can do to keep them on the right track.

Each continuing care plan is unique and based on the individual needs of the client. However, most plans include attending 12-step meetings. The 12 steps lay the foundation for a healthy, long-term recovery that will modify behaviors and change thinking. Through sobriety, recovering alcoholics learn to recognize their character defects and how alcoholism masked their ability to cope with various problems in life. 

Most importantly, AA meetings remind those recovering from addiction that they are not alone. Through the program, there are endless opportunities for engaging with members, learning from others and helping other alcoholics. There will be good days and bad days, but consistent growth and development is always taking place. After all, sobriety is not an end destination; it’s a lifelong journey.

Why Being ‘Dry’ Isn’t Enough

Not everyone who stops abusing alcohol attends the 12-step meetings. Some feel that the 12-step approach is a “one fits all” solution that doesn’t apply to them. And, it’s safe to say that there are some recovered alcoholics who have been successful at their journey to recovery without the help of AA meetings. Maybe they accomplished a new way of thinking, behaving and coping through healthy lifestyle changes, such as developing a hobby, eating well and exercising, spending more time with family and engaging in constructive activities like yoga and meditation.

Unfortunately, the more common scenario is that recovering alcoholics who are trying to recover on their own without the help of AA meetings remain in a bitter, angry state. They may be achieving their goals of refraining from alcohol, but they aren’t progressing in terms of the disease. They continue to struggle and often wonder if they should return to abusing alcohol again. For some of these people, they don’t like where they are in life and are having a difficult time committing to a 12-step program.

As you may be seeing firsthand in yourself or a loved one, simply being “dry” doesn’t cut it. Not only does it make your days long and difficult, but also it makes you more apt to returning to drinking. If you don’t find peace, contentment and happiness in your life, you can easily return to the “friend” you know best: the bottle.

The 12 Steps Offer a Unique Journey to Sobriety

It’s true that everyone takes a unique path to recovery, and there is no “one fits all” solution. Being part of a 12-step program is also unique since you will go through the 12 steps at various times, struggling with some and surpassing others. You will make new relationships, have strong mentors and even become a sponsor yourself. The best part of becoming sober is that you’re also becoming happy. You’re acquiring the tools and skills needed to be fulfilled in your life, and it’s nearly impossible to pick up these tools on your own without any type of training.

Every addict deserves a second chance – a real second chance. Being dry is a great first step, but most people still continue to have the attitude, “I just want to drink again.” Modifying your thinking to being happy to be sober is the ultimate quest. While we can’t be certain what will happen from one day to the next, the journey of sobriety teaches us to be grateful for the days we do have and eager to continue on this healthy, rewarding path.