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The Difference Between Being Clean and Sober

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Everyone is familiar with the saying “clean and sober”, believing them to be one and the same. Many people who are in the recovery community see a difference between being clean and sober. One is the initial step into sobriety, while the other only happens after a person begins to fully embraces their sober life. 

The Difference Between Being Clean and Sober: What is Clean?

A person who experiences addiction to drugs or alcohol but is currently not using them can be described as clean. They may be looking for drugs or alcohol, but can’t afford it or find it. Or they might be attempting to quit using drugs or drinking alcohol and have started racking up time being sober. The person is clean in the sense that they aren’t using. However, there is a vast difference between being clean and sober. 

There are a number of reasons why someone may get clean, but not yet embrace sobriety.

  • Testing out sobriety to see if they can handle it.
  • Legal reasons, such as a DUI or custody hearing.
  • A loved one has given an ultimatum.
  • They can’t find the money for drugs or alcohol

Whatever the motivation for getting clean, without properly addressing the underlying causes of addiction, there is a very real risk that relapse will occur. A person who is clean by this definition may exhibit signs of depression or anxiety. They might be quick to anger or act in hostile or even violent ways. Additionally, someone who may be clean from drugs but might substitute alcohol instead.

The Difference Between Being Clean and Sober: What is Sober?

For those who see a difference, being sober means having gone beyond the initial stages of not using or drinking. These individuals are purposely choosing not to drink or use drugs. The path they walk on is a deliberate one, rather than one forced on them due to outside circumstances. They may be fresh out of a treatment program, have several weeks of recovery under their belt, or be years into a sober life. 

What these individuals have in common is that living a clean life is just half the battle. They see the difference between being clean and sober as initially embracing the clean part, but learning to love and put into daily practice their commitment to staying sober. Sober people have amassed knowledge about their recovery and ways to reduce temptation and avoid relapse. They typically have support systems in place, like private therapy, support groups, outpatient treatment programs, or a mentor to whom they can turn for advice and support. 

A sober person remembers when they were new to sobriety, whether wanting to be there or not, and how they white-knuckled their way through each day. Now that they are enjoying the benefits of sober life, they find many examples in their lives when they can make a decision that keeps them in recovery without it being something they have to debate. It might be turning down an offer to use or declining to spend time with an old drinking or drug-using friend or dealer. It might be avoiding a situation they know feels more like their old, unhealthy life, and instead engaging in new, healthy activities they have come to cultivate and enjoy.

Why You Should Get Help to Get Sober

When you try to “white-knuckle” your way through sobriety, you are only addressing the symptoms of addiction. Addiction is a disease and often requires professional support to address the underlying factors that contribute to substance abuse. Sheer force of will is not enough for most people to achieve long-lasting sobriety. 

Almost everyone needs help at one time or another. Entering into treatment is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it takes a great deal of strength to admit that you need help to overcome addiction. Furthermore, decades of evidence have proven that people who get help while beginning the recovery process have better outcomes than those who don’t.

Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles

Wanting to be clean and sober is a goal for many who struggle with addiction but reaching out for help can seem scary. Clear Behavioral Health in Los Angeles understands how to provide the compassionate, professional help you need, including detox, residential, and outpatient treatment.
If you would like to learn more about our program, contact us today and let us answer your questions.

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