In the beginning, the focus is on physical sobriety. When an addict decides to quit using, they need to put aside their emotions, and the only thing they need to worry about is not picking up. As their body adjusts to functioning without drugs or alcohol, they can slowly begin to concentrate on what’s most essential to their recovery: emotional sobriety.
What is emotional sobriety? In short, it’s being able to regulate your emotions and your mood. Emotional sobriety is being able to deal with strong feelings without resorting to addictive, compulsive, or destructive behaviors. Without emotional sobriety, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to maintain physical sobriety.
People who are physically sober but not emotionally sober are often referred to as “dry drunks.” Dry drunks may not be drinking or using, but they are still exhibiting destructive behavior and are unable to handle their emotions in a healthy way. There are so many “dry drunks” out there for a reason; emotional sobriety isn’t as simple or as “easy” to accomplish as it is to abstain from drugs or alcohol. Physical sobriety is concrete and tangible, while emotional sobriety is abstract.
Ways to Achieve Emotional Sobriety
There are many different things you can do to improve your emotional sobriety. Many addicts and alcoholics receive tremendous help with their emotional sobriety through addiction fellowships like AA, NA, and other 12-step or non-12-step programs, where they can find support from people who understand what they’re going through. Therapy with mental health professionals or addiction professionals can also foster emotional sobriety.
Here are some more tactics and mindsets that can help you keep your emotions stable:
Strong emotions have physiological effects. Adrenaline can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, for example. Relaxation techniques can help you control your physical response to strong emotions and help you cope with them.
A good support network helps you maintain physical and emotional sobriety by providing a place where you can feel loved, accepted, and safe. Supporters can help you keep your emotions “in check,” but you must be willing to ask for help and learn from them.
As your emotions go up and down, your emotional sobriety depends on keeping yourself stable. When you’re feeling down, ground yourself by being grateful for the positive things in your life and what you have accomplished in becoming physically sober. When you’re feeling up, remember to be humble.
Practice staying in the “here and now.” Focus on the present instead of dwelling on the past or anticipating the future, which you cannot control. At the same time, remember that your present emotions are only temporary feelings that don’t define your life, and they will pass.
Your spirituality can also help you maintain emotional sobriety by reminding you that there are forces greater than yourself and to “accept the things you cannot change.”
Just like physical sobriety and recovery, everyone’s emotional sobriety and journey to it is unique. How do you maintain emotional sobriety in your life?