Recovery Is So Much More Than Sobriety

By Dawn Leprich-Graves, LCPC, PMH-C

Recovery Is So Much More Than Sobriety

There’s a major difference between sobriety and recovery. Sobriety is abstinence, not doing something. This might take the form of not doing a drug, not drinking, not gambling, not shopping, not having sex. It’s the opposite of the famous Nike slogan, “Just do it.” In this case “Just don’t do it.” Sobriety has a definition that is universal and very black or white. While very important, it is not the end all be all as a cure for addiction. And so, let’s take a deeper look at recovery.

Because an addiction is often the center of an entire ecosystem which cultivates it, all parts of it must change. This is unique to every individual and has many gray areas. A person in recovery is making specific and intentional decisions to change all of their life domains (ie: emotional health, relationships, physical health, spiritual well being, etc.). And most significantly, there is a major thought process adjustment that happens in order to be open to all of these other changes. All of these domains get touched and impacted by addiction and so each of them must have their own plan for recovery in order to cultivate a healthier lifestyle and ecosystem. This is what happens just for the person in recovery.

However, addiction is never created within a vacuum. Because of this, their support system (ie: family, partner, close friends) will also have to make some significant changes. This may be a difficult concept to accept as it seems the biggest issue is the addicted person’s drug intake or behaviors, so why would anybody else have to change? If we think of the addiction as a symptom, not the cause, of the ecosystem it might make this easier to understand. There are always enabling behaviors that can no longer exist in the new and healthier ecosystem. Accountability is necessary for all those taking part in recovery.

If you’re reading this article, my guess is you were seeking some kind of education on this topic, and so I want to point you to a couple of enhancers for your awareness and education.

  • SAMHSA Recovery Month
  • CoDependent No More by Melody Beattie (or any of her books)
  • Beautiful Boy by David Scheff and Tweak by Nic Scheff
  • Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson (poem)
  • 28 Days (movie)
  • Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery (documentary)
  • Jellinek curve (Google search)
  • Roles in an addicted family (Google search)
  • Enabling behavior (Google search)
  • Stigma fighting: Nice People Use Drugs campaign


Dawn Leprich-Graves, LCPC, PMH-C

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