Drug addiction and alcoholism create an intense physical connection to the abused substances. That physical connection can be broken through a difficult detox process and ongoing treatment. Breaking a physical connection to drugs and alcohol will not break the deeper psychological connections. Cravings stem from the chemically dependent brain that has been rewired to need drugs or alcohol for normal functioning. Those cravings lead to intense mood swings and emotional instability. Gaining a renewed sense of emotional stability is a remarkable accomplishment and landmark in the long term recovery process.
Emotional stability is often equated with maturity. We see young children who throw tantrums as being emotionally immature because they are unable to control their emotional responses to disappointing situations. Emotionally stable and mature adults are better able to regulate their responses and their moods. Drugs and alcohol erode an emotionally mature adult’s ability to have a regulated response. In young adults and adolescents, harmful substances halt critical developmental processes in the brain. Often it is said that the age where substance abuse began is the age where emotional development stopped.
Meditation and other relaxation techniques can instill an even-handed response to a difficult situation by calming a recovering addict’s nerves and allowing him to handle stress with something other than drugs or alcohol. Research has shown that meditation helps to shrink an individual’s amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for “fight or flight”. A person with a more active amygdala will be prone to more rash responses, including drug and alcohol use, when confronted with a stressful situation. A smaller amygdala also allows growth in an individual’s frontal cortex, which helps a person to concentrate and have a more measured response to stress.
Emotional stability will rarely be recovered quickly or instantaneously. Small steps can be taken at first to keep his emotions in check. Over time, a mature and measured emotional response will become second nature. Because emotions can be fragile, a recovering addict should continue to practice meditation and other techniques that are designed to maintain and expand his emotional stability as his recovery takes him into genuine sobriety.
Emotional sobriety is part of sustaining long term sobriety from drugs and alcohol. The extended care services program at Sustain Recovery Services in southern California teaches adolescents and young people the life skills they need for achieving long term sobriety. Please call 949-407-9052 for more information on how our unique aftercare program can help you build a life of recovery.