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What’s the Difference Between Clean and Sober

What’s the Difference Between Clean and Sober
January 15, 2024
by admin

Two of the most common terms people say when going through addiction treatment are “clean” and “sober.” Even though some people think you can use both terms interchangeably, they have a few differences.

You can be clean but not sober. If you want to achieve social, emotional, and spiritual sobriety, as well as proper physical recovery, you must understand what makes these terms different.

Let’s go over the difference between both terms and how important they are when recovering from substance abuse disorder.

What Does “Clean” Mean?

Being clean means your body is free of toxic substances like drugs and alcohol. In other words, there are no toxic components related to these substances in your system, allowing your body to work properly.

A person is considered to be “clean” when they complete the first part of their detox program. Being clean, however, doesn’t solve the root problem that caused the abuse in the first place.

Someone can be clean and still struggle with addiction. If you’re clean but don’t address the underlying cause of your problems, you’re more likely to relapse.

What Does “Sober” Mean?

Being sober is the “next step” in your recovery. Not only are your neurological systems (and your body in general) in great shape now, but you’ve also addressed the root causes of your problem, making you less likely to relapse.

When you’re sober, you likely have a different character and mindset, meaning that you have a new perspective on life, with tools that allow you to enjoy life again.

There are three key factors needed for sobriety:

  • Social sobriety
  • Emotional/spiritual sobriety
  • Physical sobriety

Of course, physical sobriety is often the “first step.” When it comes to emotional sobriety, you must take accountability for your actions and actively look for ways to fix the underlying issues. This will help fight self-loathing emotions and fix old wounds.

Social sobriety refers to when you’re able to reintegrate into society without the risk of relapsing or engaging in toxic behavior. Staying sober isn’t easy, and it takes commitment from the person. However, if you dig deep and stick with your treatment, you’ll get great results.

What Are the Key Differences Between the Two Terms?

What’s the difference between clean and sober, then? In simple terms, it’s the “recovery phase” you’re into. When you’re clean, it means you’re not actively consuming drugs or any toxic chemical components. It doesn’t mean you’re free from your substance use disorder, though.

When you’re sober, however, you’ve achieved a higher form of recovery. Not only is your body free from these toxic substances, but your mind is also healed and ready to go back into the world.

While you can stop taking drugs and alcohol immediately, getting sober doesn’t happen overnight. You must make an effort to change toxic behaviors, heal broken relationships, and take accountability for your past actions.

Is It Possible to Be Clean and Sober at the Same Time?

Of course. A sober life also includes being clean. When you’re sober, you have the necessary tools to get back to society safely, which also allows you to re-enter the job market, have a healthier perspective on life, and find a new purpose.

Remember that being clean is only “step one” of the process. If you want to achieve proper recovery, you must also spend time working on yourself to achieve that “sober” status.

How Does a Recovery Program Help People Get Clean or Sober?

Recovery programs ensure you get the right tools to heal safely. Usually, trying to deal with addiction yourself will expose you to harsh withdrawal symptoms, which make you more likely to relapse.

By getting support from a community and professionals, however, you’ll have an easier time dealing with these tough emotions.

When you follow a recovery program, you’ll do the following:

  • Find healthy activities that promote stress relief and self-satisfaction.
  • Recognize that substance use is not the entire problem but rather a symptom of other underlying issues in your life.
  • Change any toxic behaviors that encourage you to relapse.
  • Understand that alcohol and drugs don’t solve problems in your life but rather offer temporary relief for them.
  • Find healthy coping mechanisms to use when facing hardships in life.
  • Talk to people going through the same circumstances to find support.

Bottom Line – Start Your Recovery Process Today

Struggling to overcome addiction is very common. Those who don’t understand the main difference between being clean and sober may find it complicated to achieve proper healing during recovery.

Thankfully, the process becomes much more manageable if you join a recovery community. In these places, you can discuss your physical and spiritual journey with others, which will give you a better idea of how you can use your treatment program to achieve the best results.

If you’re looking for support groups and a professional team of people willing to help you during treatment, check out what Ascension House has to offer.

From effective classes and treatment options to a friendly community, we can help you make a huge difference with your treatment, ensuring you achieve the recovery you’ve always dreamed of.


What Does It Mean to be Clean and Sober?

It means your body is free from any drugs or alcoholic substances and that you’ve discovered the root of the problem that made you start your substance abuse and worked it out.
In other words, you’re free from the overbearing weight that comes from being dependent on a harmful and addicting substance.

What Does It Mean When Someone Says They Are Clean?

In simple terms, it means the person is no longer using any drugs or actively participating in a recovery program.

Is It Possible to Be Clean but Not Sober?

Technically, yes. If you’re clean from consuming drugs but are still struggling to work through the emotional and spiritual toll that came from the addiction, you’re not sober yet.
Being sober entails a much more complex recovery stage compared to when you’re clean, as it includes other crucial aspects such as emotions, spirituality, and socialization.

What Role Do Emotional and Mental Health Play in Being Sober?

Achieving sobriety helps people build healthy relationships, find meaning in their lives, and cope with their mistakes. Substance abuse is known for causing depression and anxiety, which can lead to people struggling to regain a normal life.
With proper treatment, however, these people can fight the emotional toll that comes from substance abuse, fix any broken bridges, and be completely free of addictive substances.

Can Someone Relapse If They Are Sober?

Sober people can relapse, although it’s less likely to happen if they worked hard in the past to re-enter society healthily and faced their problems head-on.
Sometimes, traumatic events can trigger an aggressive emotional response in a person, making them likely to relapse. In these cases, it’s crucial to seek help from a professional or support group in time.