What Is Emotional Sobriety and How Do You Achieve It?
Freedom from addictive substances is a goal for recovering addicts and alcoholics. However, there’s something called emotional sobriety, and it’s just as important as being substance-free. Without emotional sobriety, the recovery process can only go so far. Sooner or later, everyone who is recovering from addiction must begin to develop emotional sobriety to have a full, happy, and satisfying life.
Emotional sobriety is being able to cope effectively with a full range of emotions without drugs or alcohol. It’s the ability to experience every feeling as it surfaces without stuffing it, blaming it on someone else, expressing it in an unhealthy way, or indulging in another addiction to avoid feeling it.
Are Substance Abusers Emotionally Challenged?
Addicts and alcoholics go to great lengths to avoid emotions. In fact, many addicts use drugs and alcohol primarily to manage and control feelings. In sobriety, as these feelings begin to emerge, they can no longer be covered up with substances. Instead, they must be faced and dealt with in a healthy way. Sometimes, it’s as easy as allowing emotions to surface and sitting with them. At other times, it’s a matter of taking action in response to a feeling.
So What is Emotional Management?
Emotional management may be the most difficult part of substance abuse recovery. Not only are feelings constantly surfacing and affecting our perception of the world around us, feelings also shift and change on a regular basis. There are also painful emotions from the past that, up until now, have remained safely under wraps.
If you have a painful feeling and you observe it and allow yourself to feel it fully, you can be absolutely sure of one thing. That emotion will always give way to another emotion. Although emotions can seem very real, they are not facts. Because they’re constantly changing, they have little substance. Emotional maturity means being able to experience a broad spectrum of feelings while maintaining a balanced state.
Why is Emotional Sobriety So Important?
Nothing can set up a substance abuser for relapse like challenging emotions. That’s why it’s so important to start learning emotional management right from the start. Stress, for example, is an inevitable part of life. Learning how to manage stress in a healthy way is an important part of recovery.
Are Substance Abusers Prone to Emotional Instability?
Substance abusers stop developing emotionally when they start using drugs and alcohol. When they get sober, they might have the emotional coping skills of a young child. The task now is to resume growing emotionally. This can be a very challenging and difficult process.
The goal is to avoid being a victim of emotions and instead become a master of them. That involves finding an inner strength and peace that produces a feeling of serenity even in the midst of emotional turmoil.
Another goal is to be able to feel emotions deeply without expressing them in destructive ways. Substance abusers with low levels of emotional sobriety are prone to other addictions like work addiction, exercise addiction, food addiction, and gambling addiction.
Strangely enough, even positive emotions can cause problems. Joy, excitement, and elation can be tied to less pleasant feelings like guilt, a sense of not deserving to feel good, and a fear of losing what’s causing the good feelings.
Stick With the Winners
The best way to cultivate emotional sobriety is to stay close to those who already have it. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous encourage recovering addicts to find a sponsor who can provide guidance in choppy emotional waters. It’s also helpful to interact with others in recovery who are a bit farther along on the emotional sobriety path.