Further to previous posts on this theme – negative formulations, the language of avoidance – I thought it’d be worth examining the idea of ‘sobriety’.

My lifelong understanding of sober is of it meaning ‘straight’, or, in relation to drinking, ‘not drunk’. This is reattained within hours of drinking, depending on what you drank how much of when. I’d also apply it as an antithesis of intoxication in general. Not high, not totally wired. There is in addition the more general usage pertaining to seriousness, or at least attempting to be serious; strait-laced, straight-faced. Wearing a sober suit.

Something about the ways it can be used, though, means I hesitate before applying it lightly as a term for what I’m trying to achieve.

I mean, I am aware that something resembling a duck, that walks and quacks like a duck, is likely a duck. If you want to call me ducky, feel free. I’m not avoiding or denying anything, just querying terms.

The Wikipedia page on ‘sobriety’ is unambiguous. It’s all about the booze.

Sobriety is the condition of not having any measurable levels or effects from alcohol.’

This seems to narrow things considerably to a quite specific definition, ignoring any more general meanings, as well as application to other substances people might use to access their particular ‘click’.

The sobriety referred to there is linked to preconditions such as ‘sustained abstinence’ from drinking. Again, that *is* what I’m attempting, but, gah, the idea of ‘not doing something’ implied in the word abstinence! The concept of ‘self-denial’ also, where what I’m trying to foster is more an idea of… self-indulgence? Just in ways different to ones I’ve used since way back?

Regarding ‘effects from alcohol’, we must be talking here about something beyond the physical effect of having-had-booze. That (not inferior or superior) effect of the need for a drink, sometimes some weeks, months or years away from any having been consumed… That urge is important to get to grips with, but it is not associated exclusively with booze (or other substances).

Still on the wiki, I found this sentence arresting:

‘Someone who abstains, but has a latent desire to resume use, is not considered truly sober.’

Considered by whom? one might ask. It is here that I make ‘ah, but, yeah,’ faces. Any latent desire to resume use is separate to a conscious state of being sober, surely? Not a barrier to sobriety, but a distinct aspect one can process more effectively when sober and abstemious?

Saying you’re not supposed to entertain those feelings at all seems an unreasonable height of bar.

So, yeah, not sure about ‘sobriety’ in that sense. Etymologically, sobriety comes from the Latin sobrius (not intoxicated), as well as the word sobre found in various European languages, stemming from the Latin super, meaning ‘above’.

Latent desires or not… Sobriety indicates being over something.