Lust & FantasyPornographyPurity & Freedom

Sobriety vs. Recovery

Two weeks ago, I got my list of interview questions for the documentary, Shamed.  There was one question on there that was so good, I hope they ask me, but even if they don’t, I want to answer it here.

The question:

Is sobriety enough?

It may seem like a simple question.  In the context of the series of questions though, it is a very deep, reflective question.  When comparing and contrasting ‘sobriety’ and ‘recovery’ does one really have to go through ‘recovery?’  That’s what it is asking.  To which my answer is, “No, sobriety is not enough.  Yes, you need to go through ‘recovery.'”

What’s the difference?  Glad you asked.

Sobriety, as it is used casually, is very similar to abstinence, actually.  If an former alcoholic has not drank in  6 months, we say he has been ‘sober’ for six months.  Sobriety in the Bible basically means that a person is thinking clearly or is alert.  In 1 Peter 1:13, we are instructed to be sober and vigilant (watchful) because the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom we may devour.

Here’s the thing.  Alot of us are really good at being sober when it comes to pornography.  The problem with sobriety is, we are judging our current progress by our past.  We live on constant alert, afraid of whatever it is we are looking for, and then, when it gets us (because it will if we stand there waiting for it long enough), we fall back in, hook line and sinker.  Then we start saying, “Well, it’s only been two days, what the heck, I’ll just start again next week.  Maybe I will wait until Valentine’s Day to start, or Easter.”

If you treat freedom from lust like a New Year’s Resolution, it’s going to end like one too.

Oh well, Maybe next year. or Hey!  5 out of 12 months isn’t bad; I’m going to shoot for 6 next year!

You are still obsessing over the sin, except now you are obsessing over not falling to it.  Either way, you are still obsessing over it.  Your house was broken into and instead of getting new locks on the doors and alarms and moving on with your life, you bought a shot gun and are standing in the doorway locked and loaded.  You’ll be darned if anyone ever busts into your house again, and you don’t even realize the house is falling down around you!  You’re too busy making sure that bad guy never gets anywhere near your front door again.  Park yourself there long enough and he won’t need to use the front door!

If I am sober from something, I am still focusing on the something.  I’m looking at how many days it’s been, then I am turning to that something and saying, “Na-na-na-boo-boo, it’s been 42 days since I listened to you!”  Tell me, at what point do we stop counting?  At one point do we put the shot gun down and move on with our lives?

You know what recovery is?

Recovery is the freedom to stop counting.

Recovery is the ability to move on, and heal.  Its focus is on healing, not on avoiding.  It focuses forward to a goal in front of us– a goal of restoration, fulfillment and joy.  It does not look behind in fear and anger.

If someone who is only ‘sober’ falls, they despair.  They give up.  They fall in and they decide to go ahead and stay a while and start again next week.  If a person in recovery falls, they get back up and keep going.  Why?  Because they are not “there” yet.  They look at that failure and learn how to keep it from happening again.  They learn, but a lock on the door, arm the alarm and keep moving forward.

So, is sobriety enough?  Sure, if you want to live a life afraid of what you have been and unable to function because you keep falling.  But if you want the abundant life God promises us (and who doesn’t?), then you need to push on to recovery.

Sobriety stops any more damage.  Recovery heals that damage.  So, No, Sobriety is not enough.

At least not enough for me.



  1. It might not be enough to end up with, but it’s a decent place to start. Being constantly vigilant in the beginning is sometimes all that stands between you and falling down.

  2. It is a good place to start, you need to know and be aware of what tempts you, what makes you weak..sometime avoiding what is bad for you is a necessary step for freedom. We need to be vigilant of our weaknesses. It isn’t something separate from recovery, but a step to recovery.

  3. Amen!
    A few years back I was frustrated in my quiet time with God. I had fallen to masturbation the previous day and I was like “Well, I’m back at day one again!” and I asked God when would I truly be free?
    His answer was “When you stop counting days.”
    It’s taken me a long time to realise what that means.

    1. Wow! Thank you for posting your comment, Pamela, this is exactly how I felt today! About a week ago I made a goal to go 30 days without masturbating and failed today and I said the exact same thing to God: “Back to day one.” But it makes total sense that counting the days is another form of slavery to this sin.

  4. I never denied that it was a good place to start. The question was is it ‘enough’ to which the answer is no. Of course it would not be a good idea to say, “I’m going to be free from porn” and leave everything the way it has been. But freedom is not “not doing it anymore.” True freedom also involves healing from it. If all a woman is concerned about is being ‘sober’ (as in, “It’s been 10 days since I last…”) and does not allow for there to be healing, she will fall back in again because after a while, we lose our ability to resist. You will always have a degree of awareness, it’s focusing only on awareness that causes problems.

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  6. I agree. Sobriety is not enough. Jessica said, “But freedom is not “not doing it anymore.” True freedom also involves healing from it.” If you put your focus on ‘not doing it anymore’ that has become your new master. Instead if you focus your heart on recovery and healing then you can break free from the addiction. Like Jessica said above sobriety is a good place to start but, “If someone who is only ‘sober’ falls, they despair. They give up.” “If a person in recovery falls, they get back up and keep going … They look at that failure and learn how to keep it from happening again.”
    I have been sober before. I’ve quit ‘cold turkey’ and gone months without falling off the wagon. I’ve never taken the step towards recovery before. I’ve never tried to heal myself I’ve only tried to stop the cycle. From my own experience I cannot stop at sobriety I need to recover from this.