First I should start by saying that when I say ‘sober’ I’m not talking about refraining from alcohol, or drugs, or any of those chemical intoxicants. Granted, that’s certainly part of it – you can’t trust yourself to make intelligent decisions when you’re drunk, and a pothead is of no use to anyone.
But you also can’t trust yourself to make intelligent decisions when you’re angry, for example. So if you choose to avoid drunkenness for that reason, then you ought to avoid anger. The same would go for other intoxicating emotions – meaning, those emotions that make you lose control of your better faculties. So you ought to avoid things such as jealousy, resentment, pride, greed, lust, and so forth.
On the other hand, as long as someone doesn’t have a problem with alcohol addiction, for example, it seems reasonable for them to allow themselves a beer or two every once and a while. As long as it doesn’t turn into drunkenness, and done in the correct time and place, there seems little harm in the occasional glass of wine with dinner.
The emotional intoxicants, however, seem much more dangerous. They are generally involuntary, and always seem to come on in exactly the worst time and place. Indeed, that seems to be an integral part of what they are.
Finally, there’s the question of “why.” Why do I want to attempt a sober life? And the answer is, because intoxicants of any kind will inhibit my ability to be the best version of myself. They will prevent me from growing as a person, and from meeting and increasing my responsibilities to those around me.
Therefore, sobriety seems to mean this: to abstain from the excessive consumption of intoxicants which for me are voluntary; and to control, to the best of my ability, those intoxicants which are for me involuntary; and to do so with the explicit goal of maintaining a healthy body and mind so that I can grow as an individual and increase my contributions to the community.