The Difference Between Sobriety & Recovery

The difference between sobriety and recovery. Not many people think about it in this way, but these two things are not the same.

For me, I had to get sober before I could recover and I think this is true for most people.


Sobriety is stopping the substance.

In twelve steps, it is recommended that you don’t make any major life changes in your first year of sobriety.

It's not because we have some overwhelming desire to control you and your life. It's because in your first year you want your focus and energy to go into NOT DRINKING.  Period.

I’m not talking about changes like changing your toothpaste. But big changes like starting or ending a relationship, a new job, moving to a new city- these changes disrupt your life and routine. They can also create additional stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and general discomfort.

You don't want situations and activities that are going to cause you to have high highs, or low lows. You want to stay even, because highs and lows are going to knock you off balance. That’s what causes more feelings,  high anxiety, sadness, uncertainty. And all of those feelings are what lead us to drink.

When you are newly sober there are already some stressful and uncomfortable events. Everything is new and unknown.

  • How will my friends and family react?
  • Will I lose all my friends?
  • Will I ever have fun again?

The natural process of making a huge change in your life will bring enough uncertainty and anxiety on its own. You want to spend this time getting through these events and getting comfortable in your new lifestyle. Take some time to be calm and patient, get to know yourself in this new version of you and introduce this new version of you to the other people in your life.

This is the sobriety part. Getting comfortable in your new skin, going through some life events as a sober person, and getting where you feel stable and comfortable as your new self.

You hit a point where you get comfortable with not drinking or using drugs.  You find acceptance, you know you don't want it in your life, it's not doing you any favors and you're feeling really good without it. You have a good routine in place and you're comfortable with the sober part.

After that, recovery starts.


I have to keep the signal clear.

Sobriety is getting the signal clear and getting comfortable with that. Then, we start recovery.

Recovery is healing.

Everybody is recovering from something because recovery is the healing process and we're all healing from different things in life. Recovery and healing are not specific to addiction.

We've all been through devastating life events like divorces and  breakups. You know how bad it feels.

✔ Your anxiety goes through the roof.

✔ You feel terrible.

✔ Your self-esteem takes a hit.

✔ You start to question your value and your worthiness.

✔ You start to question everything you did, or didn’t, do.

Saying to yourself, “I could've done this better”, “I should have done this”, “I should have said that”.

You feel failure and rejection.

Whether you drink or not, you have to recover from a breakup. Just like so many other life events.

Losing someone close to you, losing a job, any kind of natural disaster ie. fire, tornado, hurricane.

Everyone is recovering, healing, from life.

But when we drink and/or use drugs, there is another layer to this because we start to use the substance as our method of coping with feelings, instead of learning how to actually cope with feelings and get through it.

When alcohol became my primary coping mechanism I would drink to numb every feeling.

Anxiety… check.

Boredom… check.

Sadness… check.

Insecurity… check.

Overwhelmed… check.

Sleeplessness… check.

Lonely… check.

Not good enough… check.


Self-loathing… check.




Alcohol became my solution to everything I felt. And that’s how you get trapped.

When you get sober, and put down the drinks and drugs, you must heal all those broken pieces.

This is the stuff we start to learn after we’re sober. We get in that healing process.

I started with my habits and behaviors because many of the uncomfortable feelings I had daily stemmed from my behaviors.

I wasn’t honest, I wasn’t always a good friend, I was selfish, and I did some crappy hurtful things in my drinking life. In my recovery, I had to start doing all of those things differently.

I made a conscious decision to be honest, no matter what. I started to shift my thinking to be more positive and grounded in gratitude (for all the things I take for granted everyday 🤦‍♀️) instead of being negative and always mad about what I didn’t have. I started to be considerate of other people instead of only looking out for what I wanted from everyone.


Because I wasn’t making good choices and I wasn’t a good friend and did crappy hurtful things, my self-esteem was in the gutter.

Having such low self-esteem affected every part of my life, too. I was super irresponsible with money so my finances were always in turmoil. It affected who I spent time with, who my friends were, the places I went… all of it revolved around my low self-esteem.

In my recovery, I had to address that and heal my self-esteem. In some ways, it’s not nearly as hard as it seems, at the same time, it’s all delayed gratification. And that has always been one of my greatest challenges.

I am wired for instant gratification. I want the reward RIGHT NOW! But, all of the greatest things in life require effort, diligence, and patience. It’s ALL delayed gratification.

Once I could see the pieces I needed to heal I could start practicing new behaviors to heal those things.

Decide what kind of person you want to be and what kind of life you want to have, and make the choices that get you there.

I had low self-esteem, I was codependent, I felt inferior to everyone and I didn’t stand up for myself or protect myself. And when you put all of those things together it creates constant fear, worry, and anxiety.

I had no idea who I was because I would mold myself to match whoever I was with. If you say you like to go hiking, then I would say I like to go hiking. If you like Italian food, then I would like Italian food.

I wanted so badly to be accepted that I would be whoever I needed to be to fit in. And this continued to play into my low self-esteem because I had zero sense of who I was!

If you wanted to go to a restaurant that I hated, I would never stand up for myself and say, “No, I don’t really like that place, let’s try somewhere else.”

I would just go because I was so scared if I didn’t that you wouldn’t like me.

I wasn’t intentionally choosing what I wanted in my life and going out and doing those things.

My fear and anxiety were so overwhelming- fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear of embarrassing myself- I had too much fear to figure out who I was.

In my recovery, I get to fix all those broken pieces. I have to have a clear mind, a clear signal to get in tune with myself and see who I am, to love and heal me.

Bitter & Resentful

If I don’t address how I have let myself down and how I may have settled for less than what I really want, and how I have lived in fear then I will end up bitter and resentful, blaming the world for my problems.

Living in fear- fear of change, judgement, failure- will keep you from getting the things you want in your life. It’s okay to have fear, that’s normal and fear is asset. It warns you to be cautious and helps us assess risk. What I didn’t like in myself is that I let my fear hold me back.

You’ve heard the saying, “Real courage is being afraid and doing it anyway.”

Fear is normal. But I don’t want to have so much fear that I never make a move to change and improve my life. I don’t want to be too scared to get off my buns and build the life I want.

If we let fear hold us back, we get bitter and angry and resentful because we're not living in who we really are.

Recovery is slowing down, looking inward, and figuring out exactly who you are so you can create a life that makes you happy and that you can be proud of.

I had to step out of that fear, own who I am and grow the f*&% up. That's what recovery is.


I don't drink booze, but I love a badass cup of coffee 💖


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