What Is Emotional Sobriety: The Next Step in Addiction Recovery
As much as it might be easier, sobriety isn’t just about your ability to stay away from drugs and alcohol. The journey that comes with achieving sobriety has many barriers that you have to overcome, beyond just physical, to come out healthy and happy on the other side of your addiction.
Being physically sober is going to be essential, but with that comes emotional sobriety. How your mental and emotional health is treated during your recovery process is a great indicator of how you will remain sober after treatment.
The addiction recovery process relies on all aspects of your health to co-exist and complement each other. You cannot rid yourself of addiction if you cannot maintain emotional sobriety.
To learn more about what it means to have emotional sobriety, keep reading!
What Is Emotional Sobriety?
Emotional sobriety came from the 12-step program created through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It’s important to have a grasp on both your physical and emotional sobriety to maintain sobriety and succeed in it.
Emotional sobriety is about being able to handle negative emotions or shifting emotions responsibly. Many people who struggle with addiction also struggle with properly regulating their emotions and acting on them appropriately. Emotional sobriety aims to learn ways to cope with your feelings and healthily express them.
It’s not about “feeling nothing” and not letting things impact you. It’s about how you handle the things that life throws at you in a way that won’t harm your well-being. It’s a conscious choice to enhance your emotional intelligence and become a better version of yourself.
And let’s be honest — this isn’t just for those in recovery! Everyone can gain from increasing their emotional intelligence and ability to self-regulate.
Why Is Emotional Sobriety Important?
Emotional sobriety is essential in retaining physical sobriety. Relapsing is an (unfortunately) common behavior that can occur during the recovery process. A person who has not yet mastered emotional sobriety might be more likely to falter during recovery. To prevent relapsing on your addiction, dealing with your emotional well-being and learning how to cope with how you feel will be key.
If you cannot properly understand how your emotions and reactions interact with your addiction, you might not be able to make the necessary changes to accommodate your needs. But we have some tools to help — we are here to support you on your journey to recovery every step of the way.
Achieving Emotional Sobriety
Emotional sobriety is a very complex idea that is not fixed overnight. It is not just learning about it that will help you succeed — it will take some practice, but you can do it! Understanding what it is and its benefits can help to motivate you to learn how to achieve it, but simply knowing about it won’t get you to the place you desire.
Achieving emotional sobriety takes practice and understanding. It requires a deep dive into your own mind to better understand why your addiction exists and how it affects you and those around you. You want the ability to experience and confront your emotions without them spiraling into breaking your sobriety.
Remember: just because you have been physically sober for a time doesn’t mean your addiction has disappeared. Unfortunately, your addiction can still manifest within your own mind, displaying itself in your emotional responses and reactions. Learning to self-regulate will offer solutions for when life throws you curveballs.
Be Physically Sober
This may not come as a surprise, but the first step in achieving emotional sobriety is to become physically sober. Becoming emotionally sober won’t be an option if you are not physically sober. This is because drugs and alcohol often suppress a person's emotions. People can’t think clearly or make their best decisions when under the influence of substances.
Before working on your emotional sobriety, you must commit to being physically sober. This will give you a clear mind as you enter into this next stage. For more in-depth information on getting physically sober, check out our blog here!
Accept Your Emotions
When you have been using substances for a long time, it can become difficult to recognize your emotions and what they mean. You might not understand why you are reacting to certain stimuli because you haven’t allowed yourself to feel emotions throughout your addiction. Instead, you may have numbed them with substances.
When you feel strong emotions, whether anger, sadness, or discomfort, you need to take a moment to understand them better. Ask yourself: where are these emotions stemming from? Why am I experiencing these emotions? What is an unhealthy response to these emotions? What is a healthy way to respond to these emotions?
Not everyone has the same journey when it comes to their emotional development. Many people with addiction come to find that somewhere in their life, their emotional development was stunted, making it more difficult for them to feel and accept their emotions at more than face value.
Try Behavioral Therapy
When you are undergoing addiction recovery treatment, you are likely going to be testing out a variety of different therapies. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapy that aims to better understand how you process your own emotions and thoughts. When practicing CBT, you are meant to take a step back and ask yourself why you are having negative thoughts and where they are coming from.
Only when you recognize these negative thoughts can you change how you deal with them. Behavioral therapy can help you reframe your negative thoughts to be more mindful of how you treat them. This helps with learning how to self-regulate so that you can shift your reactions to your emotions.
Instead of feeling anger and lashing out at people, you might be able to practice breathing techniques, think about what it was that set you off, and what unhealthy and healthy responses would look like. Think to yourself: “The old me would have responded to this situation like ___, while the current me is going to ___ instead.”
The mind is a pretty remarkable thing! While this work can be challenging, you are worth it.
Create Healthy Coping Mechanisms
You never know when you are going to be triggered. Emotional sobriety is key to knowing how to handle the triggers you come across throughout your day. For example, instead of feeling anxious all day about an event coming up, you can write down a list of all of the potential benefits that come from going to this event.
When you are around people using substances, you can take yourself out on a nice walk to remove yourself from the situation and refresh. Learning which healthy coping mechanisms can help you is a game changer.
When you have a variety of methods that will work to regulate yourself emotionally, you don’t have to stress out about the possibility of relapse. You know that you can trust yourself to make good decisions regarding your health and sobriety.
Mindfulness is something that seeps into every one of these methods. To see success in your emotional sobriety journey, you need to understand what mindfulness means with addiction.
Mindfulness is about becoming more aware when it comes to your addiction. It’s about not dwelling on the past or future, accepting triggers as they come, trusting that you know the best way to cope with them, and taking care of yourself first.
You’re not supposed to think too deeply when practicing mindfulness, but rather just accept your thoughts and feelings as they come and let them go. One helpful technique is to imagine your thoughts as clouds in the sky — notice them and let them float on by.
Peace of mind and acceptance help foster a better addiction recovery environment. It may seem easy, but it takes a lot of practice to become good at mindfulness as a concept. Allowing yourself to think and feel everything while simultaneously not allowing them to impact your mood or energy takes dedication, but it also makes the recovery process less scary.
Seek Out Community
When trying to maintain emotional sobriety, having a supportive group behind you can make the process a lot easier — in fact, we believe it’s essential. Talking with other people who have gone through similar situations can help you find coping mechanisms that work well for you. It can also help establish hope and confidence in you as you recover from addiction.
With Sober Sidekick, you can gain access to an online community of sober-seeking individuals who don’t want to go through their process alone. You can bounce ideas off one another anonymously while learning more about your own needs.
When you download the app on Android or iPhone, you can talk with sober individuals from all over the country, gain access to medical professionals when you need them, and join 24/7 AA groups, all at the tip of your fingers.
Get the app today to start working on improving your emotional sobriety to become a healthier and happier individual!
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Mindfulness-Based Treatment Of Addiction: Current State Of The Field And Envisioning The Next Wave Of Research | Addiction Science & Clinical Practice