Individuals who are struggling with addiction often wonder whether there is a distinction between being “clean” and being “sober.” In the most basic sense, both things are essential to attaining and maintaining sobriety, but there are some key differences that should be highlighted.
What it Means to be “Clean”
When an addict refers to him or herself as being clean, what they really mean is that their body is free of drugs or alcohol. This takes place when the chemical components of their drug of choice have completely left their system, and when the body is able to function in a state that is unaltered by these dangerous influences. Being clean is often the
Being clean is often the first step to becoming sober, but it alone is not sufficient to reach that point. We are clean when we have gone through the initial stages of detox, and many an addict will tell you that becoming clean is a difficult process.
What Does it Mean to be “Sober”
Sobriety is a far more complicated subject. Being sober does entail having all traces of drugs and alcohol removed from one’s system, but that is just the beginning of the story. Sobriety encompasses three different aspects, all of which are important and all of which are central to any 12 step program.
The first is physical sobriety, which only occurs after the body has been free of chemicals long enough for the brain to begin to recover. Next comes spiritual and emotional sobriety, where the individual seeks to come to terms with who they are and why they have made the choices that led to their current state of being. This is the part of sobriety in which individuals also seek to look outside of themselves, and make things right within relationships that have been damaged by their addiction.
Finally, comes social sobriety, where an addict begins to move back into the social realm and have meaningful interaction with others. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of sobriety and is the goal that many addicts keep in mind during their difficult days.
Being clean is important, and is the first step back into the world of the living. True 12-step based sobriety, however, encompasses far more than simply having a body that is free of drugs and alcohol.