The Broadly Guide to Sobriety

From falling in the pool at your office party to completing the unofficial 13th step, here's your guide to kicking the habit.

Jan 7 2016, 6:55pm

Photo via Wikimedia Commons


The inability to consume alcohol without everything turning to shit.

The Big Book

Officially titled Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, what's commonly known as The Big Book was written in 1939 by Bill W. and Dr. Bob, another alcoholic, for cash. These two guys made it up as they went along, but today The Big Book has gone through several editions and is particularly notable for establishing the "12-step method." You'll either consider this book a bible, bullshit, or just pretty damn handy when you want to stop falling into the pool during work parties.


You can be clean but not sober. If your problem was mainlining poppers off a photographer's assistant's tummy every Saturday morning and you quit that, then you're clean from poppers, but you might not be cold sober.


When you don't drink or do drugs, but you're not in any type of recovery, i.e., you aren't doing shit about all the fucked up parts of your addict personality. You're a dry drunk: You're still compulsive, you still want to go higher, faster, longer than everyone else. You are insufferable to be around.

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Easy does it

This a simple slogan that you'll find addicts saying to each other with great solemnity. At its core it means: Stop forcing, manipulating, bullshitting, and badgering the universe to give you everything you want when you want it.

Fourth step

This is when you confess all your dirty secrets, all the boyfriends you cheated on, all the promises you've broken to another person. You take off the dirty diaper that's holding your leaky soul in place and you show it someone. This is either the best or worst day of your life.


Are you a living in a country where you're not allowed to go to school if you're a woman? Are you living on three dollars a day like one-third of the world's population? Are you homeless without family or friends who love and care about you? No? Then shut the fuck up and be thankful.

Higher power

A higher power is a force greater than yourself that you trust and organize your life around. It's said that for alcoholics, alcohol is their higher power, because they will put it above anything else. Your higher power doesn't have to be God, but it can't be you (or alcohol, obviously). It can be gravity or human kindness or "time." Some people use work or money as a higher power; many people pick their cats.

"I statements"

Instead of tearing into your relatives or lovers about all the things they are doing to frustrate and complicate your life—"you statements"—try using "I statements," in which you express your own beliefs, values, or failings. For example: "I feel hurt when you don't take my calls" is a good replacement for "DID YOU FUCK HER? YOU FUCKED HER DIDN'T YOU???"


For some, having to pee in front of 26 other women will be a bottom. Maybe this is the place that will convince you that it's time for a change. It could also be a great place to meet a new dealer!

Kick, the

After you kick the habit, you get to have experiences you didn't think were real, like getting a good night's sleep, arriving at places on time, or regular bowel movements.

Last House on the Block

This is what addicts typically refer to as AA, once all their excuses, unpaid bills, broken families, and probation officers catch up with them. It's the last option.


Where groups of adults admit that their lives are unmanageable and they want to be better. Vibe varies from a dour-ass cult scene to boisterous and loving. Always smell kinda funny, plus cake!

Ninth step

Undeniably, the most brutalizing of the 12 steps. This is where you apologize to the people you've wronged and ask them how you can make it up to them. Sometimes they forgive you immediately; other times they deny you and you just swallow it. Good news, though: If disclosure will do more harm than good, you're allowed to keep it yourself. Bill W. was major a philanderer, so if you fucked someone else's husband, you can just store that one away.

One day at a time

The mantra sober people tell themselves to get through the day. It's a good way to avoid "future tripping," which is when you freak out about all the things you haven't done yet. You might also obsess about the past and hate yourself for all the things you did.

Pissing yourself

Is this your rock bottom? Why or why not?


It's your addiction that allows you to stand up say, "Hi, I'm____, and I'm a raging alcoholic/overeater/meth addict/sex addict/anorexic." No one else can tell you if you qualify or don't. In AA, you might say, "I qualify as alcoholic because alcohol makes my life unmanageable."


Thought you were so tough with your cigarettes and your 30-day chip-on-shoulder. You figured you were set straight; you learned your lesson and are ready to drink like a responsible adult. Surprise!


Your sponsor is the person who walks you through the 12 steps and tells you it's absolutely OK to ditch your family of lushes on Thanksgiving. Depending on the program, the sponsor should have been sober for at least a year and be willing to take your call, listen to you whine, hold your hand, and kick your ass.

Thirteenth step

A hallowed tradition of both old-timers and newcomers, the "thirteenth step" is when you fuck another AA member. It's also a shitty dive bar in the East Village.


Here's something you might turn to offset the weight you've gained from booze, jumpstart all your "big plans" for your "concept album," and help you see through walls.


Amy Winehouse's comeback single that signaled to all her fans that she was on the mend and everything was going to turn out just fine.

Weight gain

Despite cutting out all the calories in booze, weight gain is common in early sobriety, especially during the first 90 days when you're apt to forgo social events in favor of staying in for Netflix and Cheetos.

or White knuckle

When you quit cold turkey, without the support of a program, guidance, or help from sober people. You're just powering through all the weird new feelings and resentments pinging off your exposed nerves. Super cool of you.

Youth meeting

A meeting for young adults typically under the age of 30. Occasionally an old man will attend and justify his presence by saying, "I'm a sugar daddy, and I'll buy you a car if I put it in ya twice."


What you find in sobriety.