I can answer this from 25+ years of experience in the field of mental
health. According to the tenets of AA, an alcoholic is someone who
simply cannot control their use of alcohol. Once they start, they
will drink until they're drunk. Alcohol takes control over their
'Sober', as in 'Clean and Sober', obviously refers to freedom from
alcohol, but it also refers to a state of emotional and mental
sobriety, as in, the exercise of good judgment or common sense in
practical matters. Even without alcohol, an alcoholic can lose
their sobriety in what's called a 'dry drunk', so they can, at
that time, be clean, but not sober. Hence the inclusion of both
'Clean' refers to freedom from intoxication by alcohol or other drugs
to which one is addicted. Most alcoholics acknowledge that, not only
do they suffer from an addiction to alcohol, but they also have what
is known as an 'addictive personality', meaning that, even if they
remain alcohol free, they may tend to avoid dealing with the trials
of normal reality by utilizing whatever drug will dull the pain.
This is called 'cross-addiction', or simply 'chemical dependency',
and obviously, not sobriety.
Of course there are always those with different points of view.
It might be possible to find an alcoholic who asserts that he is
'allergic' to alcohol, which accounts for his inability to keep
from over-indulging once he starts drinking, and yet maintains
that aside from that 'allergy', he doesn't have an addictive
personality, and can use another drug, say marijuana, without
abusing it or overindulging in it.
This point of view would not be acceptable to most members of
AA, so if the person in question got up in front of the group
and stated they'd been free from alcohol for 60 days and thus
had 60 days sobriety, although he smoked a little marijuana
a few times a week, he would quickly be challenged on his
sobriety by the other members of the group. Chances are very
good that such people would avoid such a completely frank
disclosure to the group at large, though they might find
individuals in the group that would accept their mindset.
This is actually one of the reasons why AA was followed by a
group of other 12-step groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA),
Cocaine Anonymous (CA), and so forth. Some people who were
using the 12 steps of AA to recover from cocaine addiction,
e.g., believing that their only addiction was cocaine, might
show up for an AA meeting after having had a couple of coctails,
since they didn't feel they had a problem controlling their
drinking. Naturally this posed a problem for alcoholics who
could smell it on them during the meeting. So separate meetings
evolved for those recovering from cocaine or other drugs, and
eventually sister organizations were created, and such people
could be referred to those meetings instead of AA.
Nonetheless, this doesn't mean that CA and NA evolved into
groups that were more tolerant of substances other than
the ones for which people come to the meetings. These too,
would currently challenge the use of other substances,
especially prior to a meeting.
Some recovered alcoholics, however, disagree with the AA
perspective that maintaining sobriety one day at a time
is true recovery. In this article on Press Release Newswire,
recovered alcoholics Lilian and Murdoch MacDonald, of Ayrshire
in Scotland, note that alcohol abuse is a self-harming behavior
with roots in childhood, and:
?If an alcoholic is willing to identify and thoroughly address
these issues from the past, then there is no reason why he or
she should not be able to consciously change their previously
problematic behaviour patterns, even to the extent of being
able to drink responsibly and safely again in a perfectly
normal and sociable manner. We know that this is possible,
because we have done it ourselves."
Much more on the page:
The Murdochs' website is here:
Let me know if anything is unclear...
Searches done, via Google:
AA "sobriety is"