Stop Drinking without being "Sober"

I’m going to talk about addiction in a new way. Very soon this conversation will leave the concept of sobriety far behind, where it belongs. 

First of all, I personally don’t want to embody the state of consciousness called sobriety. Very soon you’ll know why. Sobriety is a word hundreds of years old. It has about as much importance today as a wagon wheel. 

When you think of being sober, it’s not really an awe-inspiring state of existence. Other than the state of not being drunk, it means to be sedate, serious, and solemn. No, thank you. If you are anything like me, those qualities just don’t fit my personality. Therefore, it’s disingenuous and inauthentic for me to act “sober,” even when I’m not drinking.

We seriously need to stop using the terms “drunk” and “sober” as if they were opposites. Being drunk is a very short-term altered state of consciousness. Being “sober,” on the other hand, is associated with more permanent traits like: unemotional, conservative, sensible, thoughtful, businesslike, rational, and objective.  Drunk is a temporary state, and sober is a collection of more permanent traits.

These two concepts are not even talking about the same aspects of human development.  Being drunk is an artificial state of mind achieved with intoxicants. Anyone can get drunk. Being sober, on the other hand, is a collection of qualities more related to an individual’s personality, shaped over an entire lifetime.

So how do we authentically talk about not being intoxicated without using sobriety as the alternate state of consciousness? This is actually a much bigger problem then it sounds. We have culturally confused the two concepts for so long that we don’t have a developmentally appropriate word for “non-drunk”. We need a term that is legitimately desirable and dignified to take the place of “sobriety.”

Be very careful, because we are now entering sensitive territory, exposing huge social problems linked to being conscious. If you declare that you want to be “sober” when your personality is much more irreverent and open-minded, this statement will feel inauthentic. As a result, you will likely seek out the altered state of drunkenness more readily because it is actually more congruent with your learned sense of self. 

Wait, so are we saying that the way you define yourself overwhelmingly influences the way you feel? Yes that’s exactly what I am saying! By making the focus of your goal a state of consciousness that is too dissimilar to your actual sense of self, you are setting yourself up for failure. It’s the same as starting a diet because you want to get “skinny.”  Everyone knows that doesn’t work because “skinny” isn’t even a real functional state to achieve. 

Similarly, we can’t start out our journey saying, "I want to stop drinking so that I can be sober.”  You probably don't actually want to be sober. You most likely want to feel some version of independent, autonomous, successful, awesome, sexy, desirable, caring, loving, smart, and a bunch of other cool stuff like that. 

In essence, focusing on sobriety in hopes of stopping drinking is about as effective as focusing on being skinny in hopes of stopping cupcakes from going down the hatch. 

For more on how to cultivate an awesome state of mind without drinking you will have to stay tuned.