The difference between getting sober and living sober

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Getting sober is hard work: it takes self-awareness, courage, willpower and a strong support system. Succeeding at getting sober is an amazing achievement, but you might not realize that living sober is just as big an achievement, and is just as much work. Knowing the key differences between getting sober and living sober can help your recovery really stick long-term.

1. Getting sober is about emotion; staying sober is about calm

Beating addiction involves a lot of emotion. There’s learning to recognize the emotions that lead you to seek out alcohol or drugs, there’s identifying negative emotion that makes bad choices seem like good ones, and there’s the roller-coaster of emotion you experience when your body learns to live without something it thought it needed to survive. You still have to be aware of your negative emotions to live sober after recovery, but you also have to find a sense of inner calm that will help you put your negative emotions in perspective, and realize that they are not worth a relapse.

2. Getting sober is about cutting things out; staying sober is about finding new things

Recovering from addiction takes more than just a resolution not to drink. You might have to stop seeing friends with unhealthy drinking habits, stop going to social events that involve alcohol, and even cut out favorite foods because you’re too used to pairing them with a drink. Once you start living sober, however, you begin finding new things to replace what you’ve had to cut out. You make new friends who support your sobriety, you replace boozy evenings out with an exercise routine, and the meals you no longer enjoy get replaced by tasty gourmet food you’d never tried before.

3. Getting sober is about the moment; staying sober is about the future

When you first start to get sober, you have to take things one day at a time. Thinking beyond the next time you resist the temptation to drink is exhausting and can hamper your recovery, so you take your recovery step by step until you find a new, sober equilibrium. Once you’re past the hardest part of your recovery, however, living sober becomes about enjoying all the possibilities of a life without alcohol. Once you start planning a whole future without alcohol, complete with travel, friends, work and play, you’ve gone beyond addiction recovery to real sober living.

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