Abstinence vs Sobriety: Focus, Endure and Trust

I'm often asked what the difference is between abstinence and sobriety/recovery. Prior to recovery I spent a lot of wasted energy on striving to achieve and maintain my 'abstinence', without anything to sustain it, and each time I would end up crashing; succumbing to the endless temptations around me.  

The concept I was failing to grasp was that recovery is what sustains my abstinence, and abstinence + recovery = sobriety.  

Think of it like this...

Another goal I want to accomplish is lose weight. I've struggled with my weight for most of my life; especially since the delivery of my youngest son.

I struggle with my weight because I love big juicy burgers, cheese fries and soda way too much.

I crave this type of food. The craving is so intense at times that even with the best intentions of staying away from it, my willpower fades, and I cannot keep from eating it.

My attempts at abstinence from these types of food have always proven fruitless.

The food always wins.
The craving, always wins.

I cannot simply stop eating this food and expect to stay healthy, however, or I'd starve to death. No, I need to replace this food with healthier options.

I need to focus on the healthy, endure the detox process, and trust that my body will learn to crave the yummy stuff rather than the unhealthy stuff.

Such is with recovery from sexual addiction. We will fall over and over and over if all we strive for is to not act out.

We must focus our energy and time on healthy behaviors, activities, habits and coping mechanisms.

Once we have our recovery plan in place, we just endure the detox process that will follow. Our bodies experience intense sexual cravings after ceasing our unhealthy sexual behavior, just as it craves fat, sugar and salt when we switch to eating healthier foods.

Finally, we must trust that the Lord is with us every step of the way through this gut wrenching process.

All He asks is that we give an all-in, concerted effort and He will do the rest.
He wants us to succeed.
He desires for us to get healthy and He will not leave us unaided.
I'm not going to lie, it is hard - but He knows that; He has felt it, carried it, and atoned for it.
He has endured the very same cravings that we have; even food cravings.
We may feel that we are left alone to our own devices, but we are not.
We have our own chariots of fire on the hill, ready and waiting to defend at the first rally call...
All we have to do is ask, and then let God help.

The difference between abstinence and sobriety is clear...

Abstinence is stagnant - there is very little work involved, and without work there is little result.

With simply white-knuckling effort we are often left with intense craving; our minds consumed with thoughts of the drug we wish we had. It leaves us empty, sad, and hopeless; wondering if we will ever escape the poisonous grasp of our addictions.

Recovery takes a lot of hard work, diligence, faith and trust. But because of our willingness to put forth such a significant effort, the Lord gladly pours out many blessings upon us.

Such blessings that leave us feeling hopeful, full of worth, cherished and happy. It helps us feel connected to our Father in Heaven, Savior, family and friends. With recovery, our cravings diminish, as well as our shame. We begin to see Satan for who he is; the enemy of our soul, and we come to more quickly identify and dismantle his lies.

In recovery, we are made whole. We are freed from sins of the past and find hope for our sins of the present and future.

In recovery, we are finally able to maintain that ever elusive abstinence.

In recovery, we are found and, again, made whole..


  1. I love this! It's so true. That's why my attempts to fix myself failed, I didn't include the Savior and I refused to change certain parts of my life. Once I started recovery and turned it over to God, I could finally succeed.

  2. And then somehow, I missed this post. I like it, too. Good principles, easy to read and understand.

  3. this is an intriguing thought.....i guess my question is what did you do to fill the void that it left in your life...?

    1. Good question. That's a lot to post right here. My entire blog is dedicated to what I do to fill that void.. but mostly I fill it with the Light of Christ. I focus on my Savior and let Him heal me. I focus on anything addiction recovery related; any addiction, not just my own. I focus on getting outside myself and serving others. I focus on not giving up, on being patient with myself and not expecting perfection. And I focus on being better today than I was yesterday.


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