Earlier this month, we shared a series titled One Woman at a Time to show what happens when one woman recovers from alcoholism. Have you ever wondered what it means to recover? Or how that’s different than being sober?

With September 14 being recognized as National Sober Day, and the month of September being National Recovery Month, we took a moment to ask our staff who are in recovery to share their perspective on the difference between being “sober” and being “recovered.”

Sober or Recovered: What’s the Difference?

To me, sober just means I’m not drunk at the moment. To be recovered means that I don’t suffer from the obsession to drink or use, my life no longer feels hopeless. In fact, it’s the exact opposite! My life has taken on new meaning, and I’m able to live free. I’m useful to those around me, and I get to help others recover. – Kady Tucker, Volunteer Coordinator

I think the biggest thing between sober and recovered is FREEDOM! I no longer think about how I’m going to drink today or how I’m not going to drink today. I don’t have to hide from booze or feel sorry for myself that I “can’t” drink. I’ve been placed in a position of neutrality today. Safe and protected. When I think about being recovered, I think about the psychic change that occurs. I am not the same person I was when I was drinking. I’ve had a spiritual awakening, a revolutionary change to my way of thinking and living. I am happy, joyous, and free today and that is the biggest gift of all! – Stephanie Crawford, Peer Recovery Coordinator

Sober means that I am in a state without alcohol – which works for some people, and that’s great! But for me, as an alcoholic, it has no permanent or long-term effect because it only helps solve one part of my problem – the body part. On the other hand, recovered means I’m actively taking Steps beyond that initial state of sobriety and finding a genuine, lasting solution to my problem. “Recovered” not a graduation medal – it is a badge of hope for the woman who feels like there is no hope left for her. – Nina Herndon, Director of Communications

Recovered to me is having the spiritual experience. There is the “Burning Bush” experience and, what I call, the “Slow Burn” – which is the “educational variety” of a spiritual experience. I’ve experienced the overwhelming single spiritual experience (Burning Bush) before, but my growth and Psychic Change came from the slow burn of little God moments that happen to me almost every day now that I am a recovered alcoholic woman. Because I live a spiritual life, I can see where God is directing me and am God reliant instead of being self-reliant. – Kristi Hall, Social Detox Coordinator

Being sober just changes my drinking habits. Being recovered changes everything about who I am. Being sober is just about the drink. Being recovered is about living in the fourth dimension. – Lisa Kroencke, Executive Director

Sober means having physical aliveness without alcohol. Recovered means having hopeful awareness of all life without alcohol. – Rosalind Jones, Social Detox Coordinator

To me, sober means just not drinking; that’s as far as it goes. Recovered means complete freedom from the disease of alcoholism. It represents hope and goes beyond not drinking. It touches every part of your life and those around you. – Ainsley Chapman, Director of Outreach

I get peace and serenity in recovery that I found in the bottle and never had in just being ‘sober.’ – Teresa Hollingsworth, Social Detox Coordinator

Sober, for me, merely means abstaining from alcohol. Recovered is the state we arrive at once we have had a Spiritual Awakening from going through the 12 Steps (and staying active in them), of which one by-product is not drinking. – Chloe Cramer, Director of Programs

Being sober is just not drinking. It’s narrowly escaping the hell I was living, just long enough to get a breath. It is where I am in constant, suffocating bondage of self, comparing myself to others, white-knuckling it. Racing thoughts of, ” Is this enough? Am I enough? But I am surviving!” But I want to LIVE, not just SURVIVE. Being recovered means, I have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. It means that I haven’t “escaped” but have been rescued from the hell I was living. There was nothing narrow about this rescue. Now, I go back with My Higher Power, with a flashlight and the map, and rescue others. We are warriors. I have seized fighting myself and everyone, for I have been relieved of the bondage of self. My experience led me down both paths, but being recovered, I have a purpose. – Taylor Baker, Social Detox Coordinator

Being sober is taking away my solution and remaining sick in my mind. In recovery, the problem no longer exists, and I can experience serenity, peace of mind, and purpose. – Elizabeth Page, Social Detox Coordinator

In the Big Book

In the first 164 pages of the Fourth Edition of the Big Book, the word “recovered” is used several times. These are some of our favorites:

  • “The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism.” – Title Page
  • “Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body.” There is a Solution pg. 20
  • “Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.” There is a Solution, pg. 29
  • “If he says yes, then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered.” Working With Others, pg. 90