Sobriety vs. Recovery…is there really a difference?
I’ve thought this many times, and I’ve talked about it with a few friends in recovery from sexual addiction too.
So the discussion is this:
What is the difference between recovery and sobriety?
Or is there a difference?
I think the question is one that needs to be addressed. I think there is a misconception, especially in some addiction recovery programs, about what sobriety and recovery look like – some may even say they are one and the same.
For this reason, I’d like to discuss the similarities and differences I’ve found and get your feedback.
What is Sobriety?
The White Book defines sobriety:
“…for the married sexaholic, sexual sobriety means having no form of sex with self or with persons other than the spouse. For the unmarried sexaholic, sexual sobriety means freedom from sex of any kind. And for all of us, single and married alike, sexual sobriety also includes progressive victory over lust…True sobriety includes progressive victory over lust.” (p. 197-198)
It also states:
Everything begins with sobriety. Without sobriety, there is no program of recovery. But without reversing the deadly traits that underlie our addiction, there is no positive and lasting sobriety. (p. 77)
In my opinion, sobriety can be simply a form of white-knuckling and not working recovery at all. The White Book seems to agree:
We may even find ourselves cruising the old haunts or flirting-for no special reason, of course. Maybe I’ll just be swept off my feet and overwhelmed, so I won’t be responsible, we think. Such attitudes can persist in sobriety. (p. 71)
Possible indications of being “white-knuckle sober” from my experience:
- attending meetings occasionally or thinking I have no need to go to meetings all the time anymore (this was me at one point in my “sobriety”)
- not working the steps daily or maybe at all
- completing the steps and thinking all is well, “I’m good…,” “Check that one off the list…”
- not having a sponsor who is working their own recovery actively
- having a sponsor to check it off my list but never talking to them, checking in, or working steps together
- expecting my sponsor (or bishop or wife) to reach out to me and see how I’m doing
- pushing blame on past sponsors (or bishops or wife) for why I’m not sober or in recovery
- continuing to “lust like a gentleman” with no real plan of action to stop and stay stopped
- continuing to practice addictive behaviors without either a conscious awareness that they are there, or a blatant disregard for them
As it says in the White Book:
Sexual sobriety opens the door to recovery, where the healing begins. (p. 39)
What is Recovery?
For me, a by-product of recovery has to be sobriety, but there’s much more for a person that’s in real recovery from sexual addiction.
Recovery is more than mere sobriety. (p. 87)
Real recovery from sexual addiction looks different. Here are some indications I’ve recognized:
- daily working the steps with a sponsor who has worked the steps
- attending meetings consistently – possibly multiple meetings
- sponsoring others
- nightly accountability to spouse and/or sponsor
- progressive victory over lust through surrender in the moment and reaching out to others in recovery
- awareness of negative emotions I’m feeling and the willingness to write them out, share them, and be vulnerable
- reading addiction recovery literature
- writing, writing, writing
- meetings, meetings, meetings
I’m grateful, today, for what I’m learning about sobriety and recovery.
I don’t have everything figured out.
The more I’m trying to live in recovery, the more I seem to recognize my own brokenness and need for a Higher Power to surrender to.
I look forward to discussion on this topic and hope that long-term recovery will be the ultimate goal in all our recovery meetings.