Sobriety involves not being under the influence of substances like alcohol or drugs and is often considered a person’s natural state at birth. In addiction treatment, achieving sobriety is a primary goal, emphasising sustained abstinence. However, early abstinence can be complicated by residual effects such as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). A term like “Dry drunk” refers to someone who abstains but harbors a latent desire to resume use. Sobriety’s meaning can vary across different contexts, including recovery programs, law enforcement and psychology, sometimes implying a broader achievement of life balance.

Sobriety is defined as a complete and ongoing commitment to avoid all addictive substances that cause harm, aiming for a life characterised by improved health, mental clarity and emotional stability. Emotional sobriety, a key component of recovery, involves developing the inner strength to face life’s challenges without resorting to substances, enabling individuals to experience and manage a wide range of emotions healthily.

While sobriety and recovery are often used interchangeably, they describe different stages of the path away from substance use. Sobriety is the essential first step, involving the cessation of substance use, while recovery is a broader, more holistic process that addresses the underlying causes of addiction and promotes overall well-being. Recovery extends beyond mere abstinence to include personal growth, healing and the development of coping strategies for a balanced and fulfilling life. Thus, sobriety lays the groundwork for recovery, a comprehensive healing process towards a purposeful, substance-free existence.

The Abstinence Model

The abstinence model in recovery posits complete cessation from using any substances, a requirement some treatment facilities insist on even before starting therapy. This model, defined by Merriam-Webster as the practice of refraining from enjoyable activities or substances, emphasises self-imposed restraint and the power of will to quit substance use entirely. While for some, this approach might seem straightforward, leveraging personal willpower and the determination to quit, it presents a set of advantages including the retention of personal autonomy, the ability to maintain one’s own life rhythms without the interruptions of structured treatment plans and potentially a quicker recovery process. It champions the idea that an individual can decide to stop using substances on their own terms, without external constraints, keeping their daily routines uninterrupted by the demands of conventional treatment methods.

The effectiveness of the abstinence model may vary among individuals. While it offers significant benefits like unrestricted personal autonomy, allowing individuals to make their own choices about quitting substances and the convenience of a faster recovery process without the time commitments required by traditional treatment plans, it’s not universally applicable. This model suits those who can harness the necessary willpower to abstain independently, respecting their life’s rhythms and personal commitments without the need for external interventions. Ultimately, whether the abstinence model is the right approach depends on the individual’s circumstances, their ability to self-motivate and their personal preferences in navigating the path to recovery.

The abstinence model, while offering benefits in addiction recovery also presents significant disadvantages such as a high likelihood of relapse, the abstinence violation effect and the failure to address the root causes or underlying problems of substance use disorder. Relying solely on willpower and personal responsibility, this model overlooks the complex motivations behind substance use and often leads to feelings of shame and guilt following a relapse, as individuals attribute their failure to abstain to personal moral failing. Additionally, the model falls short in treating the comorbidity often associated with SUD, where mental illness and substance abuse coexist. Simply stopping substance use without tackling the underlying issues doesn’t lead to holistic recovery, underscoring the need for a more comprehensive approach to achieve true wellness and wholeness in recovery.

Sobriety involves recognising the need for change, reaching out for support and finding the right treatment program. Treatment can be complex, depending on the individual’s level of addiction and readiness for change, often necessitating a personalised approach. Therapies like Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and Motivational interviewing (MI) are commonly used. The process includes getting through withdrawal, which may require medically supervised detox to manage symptoms safely.

Building a support system is crucial, involving family, friends and professional help. This support can extend beyond the initial treatment through aftercare programs to manage relapse risk and maintain sobriety. Sobriety is not just the cessation of substance use but also entails developing coping mechanisms and habits that support health and wellness long-term. Despite the potential for setbacks with the right commitment and support, sustained sobriety and a healthier, substance-free life are achievable.

What is Sobriety? Addiction Guide - Achieve and Maintain Sobriety

Sobriety involves recognising the need for change, reaching out for support and finding the right treatment program. Get help from qualified counsellors.

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    Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.

    Our team, led by Gareth Carter, offers empathetic and professional support, guiding you through every step of the treatment process. Whether you're in South Africa or abroad, our acceptance of various insurance plans makes quality care accessible, providing a platform for lasting recovery and a healthier future.

    Inpatient Rehab

    Rehab care is a good option if you are at risk of experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms when you try stop a substance. This option would also be recommended if you have experienced recurrent relapses or if you have tried a less-intensive treatment without success.


    If you're committed to your sobriety but cannot take a break from your daily duties for an inpatient program. Outpatient rehab treatment might suit you well if you are looking for a less restricted format for addiction treatment or simply need help with mental health.


    Therapy can be good step towards healing and self-discovery. If you need support without disrupting your routine, therapy offers a flexible solution for anyone wishing to enhance their mental well-being or work through personal issues in a supportive, confidential environment.

    Mental Health

    Are you having persistent feelings of being swamped, sad or have sudden surges of anger or intense emotional outbursts? These are warning signs of unresolved trauma mental health. A simple assesment by a mental health expert could provide valuable insights into your recovery.

    Finding the right rehab close to you is simple with WeDoRecover. Our network includes the finest rehab centers, ensuring personalised, quality care for your recovery needs. Let Gareth Carter and our empathetic team help guide you to a center that feels right for you, offering expert care and support. Start your healing today by choosing a rehab that's not just close to you, but also that truly cares about your loved ones recovery.

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