What Does Sober Mean? Exploring Sobriety and Its Benefits

what does being sober mean? background of woman walking on the beach

The term “sober” is well-known, but do we truly understand what it means? Is it simply the absence of alcohol and drugs, or is it something more? Getting sober is a significant step in one’s life, one that could lead to a pathway of recovery and self-discovery. 

But what should you know before you decide to take this journey? Here, we’ll discuss what sober actually means and how to achieve it.

Important: if you (or a friend) struggles with addiction, please talk to a professional. There are some resources below to help guide you. 

Exploring the Meaning of Sober 

If you look up the definition, the Oxford dictionary says “sober” means “free from the influence of intoxicating liquor; not intoxicated; not drunk.”

While Dictionary.com applies a slightly nuanced definition: “not intoxicated or drunk; habitually temperate, especially in the use of liquor.”

So, it doesn’t only mean “not drunk.”

Sober means being free of intoxicating substances, as in not controlled by them. It’s a state of mind where an individual doesn’t have alcohol or drugs in their system and can think clearly and logically. 

“Sobriety” is a more complex concept than simply abstaining from alcohol and drugs. It refers to the journey of achieving and maintaining a sober lifestyle. To become sober, one must recognize and accept that the addiction is potentially caused by underlying factors and is a significant problem that requires professional help.

What to Expect if You Stop Drinking Alcohol

If drinking alcohol is a very regular part of your life and you suspect addiction, you might experience a few side effects when cutting it out completely as a newly sober person. These withdrawal symptoms can be caused by both physical and mental factors:

  1. Moodiness
  2. Headaches
  3. Anxiety/Second guessing yourself
  4. Sleep quality changes
  5. Obsessing over something else
  6. More free time
  7. More energy (though this might be delayed)

Benefits of Living a Sober Life 

Alcohol has a massive effect on our brains and bodies, and drinking a lot of it can have scary side effects in the long term. For instance, one study found a link between breast cancer and moderate alcohol consumption in women. 

Drinking alcohol can even change our biological age! Be warned that the study saw a drastic difference in the biological age of people who drank ten 250ml (~8.5oz) glasses of wine per week vs two. 

That’s roughly 2.5 (5oz) glasses of wine per night – not completely out of the ordinary for many people.

In other words, alcohol addiction doesn’t have to be the only reason to become sober. Your overall health should be a priority. 

In the long term without alcohol withdrawal symptoms, people have reported having more energy, having less stomach issues, and sleeping better. 

Aside from protecting your body and mind, there are other potential benefits to changing your drinking habits. 

You will likely have a lot of time to do something new, pick up a new hobby or spend time with friends. 

You relationships might get deeper, as time spent with friends and family will no longer include alcohol and its short term side effects. 

Overcoming Challenges of Staying Sober 

Reaching a state of sobriety is not an easy path and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It varies from person to person, depending on their specific addiction, lifestyle, and motivation. 

However, the general path to sobriety commonly involves some steps, including enrolling in a rehab facility, undergoing therapy or counseling, and joining support groups. 

It might also involve making lifestyle changes, finding new hobbies, and surrounding oneself with supportive people. 

Sober Curious vs Sobriety

“Sober curious” is a recent term used to describe a group of people curious about drinking less alcohol but not yet committed to abstinence, or only practicing sobriety for a short period of time. 

This might include participating in Dry January, a practice of limiting alcohol consumption in the month of January – something that many people practice together. 

For some, sober curiosity is the first step in deciding to lead a sober lifestyle. For others, it’s merely getting educated about the ill effects of alcohol. 

It’s a positive move toward more awareness of how common alcohol use and substance abuse is. 

Tips for Maintaining Sobriety 

Complete abstinence might be necessary for some, and achieving sobriety doesn’t come in one day; it’s a lifelong journey that requires daily commitment. If you’re considering drinking less alcohol simply for health reasons, there are lots of things you can replace alcohol with. 

For more tips, read this to learn about things to do to maintain your sober living.

Sobriety doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual will never drink again. Instead, it implies remaining in control of their lives and choices related to alcohol and drugs. Here are a few tips to consider when trying to drink less alcohol:

  1. Join social media groups that celebrate sobriety and the sober curious
  2. Try replacing your evening drink with zero proof one. There are lots of non-alcoholic spirits and beers that are great. See non-alcoholic beer reviews, try a non-alcoholic gin and tonic with a gin substitute, or see all the best non-alcoholic drinks that come ready to drink and don’t require mixing.
  3. Pick a new hobby. Take that art class you’ve been thinking about or learn to kite surf. You never know what new friends you might make.

If alcohol addiction is an issue, professional help will be necessary. 

Self control will only get one so far – developing healthy coping mechanisms, finding identifying triggers that lead to the addictive behavior, and practicing mindfulness and meditation are hugely beneficial for anyone on this journey. 

Recognizing When You Need Help 

It’s essential to note that achieving sobriety is not only limited to getting free of drugs and alcohol. It’s also about addressing and overcoming the underlying issues that have led to addiction in the first place. 

Mental illnesses, past traumatic events, and stress are common examples of challenges that can lead to addiction. Therefore, seeking treatment from a qualified professional is essential in tackling these underlying root causes.

If this is you or a friend, there are many places to find support, and just a few are listed below. 

Finding Support in Your Sober Journey

Whether it’s and addiction treatment center, psycologist, or AA group, connecting with professionals and addiction recovery communities will provide the support you need to start your journey in sobriety. 

Here are a few resources to connect with for support, information, and recovery programs – whether for you or a friend

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Alcoholics Anonymous



To sum up, sober means being free of addictive substances and achieving and practicing a lifestyle that allows an individual to be in control of their decision-making process. 

Cutting habits out can be difficult, especially alcohol, since it’s such a social substance. It requires commitment, effort, and a willingness to make significant lifestyle changes. 

The decision to become sober and not drink alcohol is a personal one, and the journey is unique to each individual. However, with the right support and professional guidance, anyone can achieve sobriety and live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Angela T.
Hi, I’m Angela! Ever since alternative beverages made their debut, I’ve been on a mission to find the best. As someone who loves wine and making craft cocktails, I approach each new beverage with curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism. I hope these honest reviews will help you learn which non-alcoholic drinks are best for you.