Genuine recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction involves more than just not using alcohol and drugs. It requires an afflicted individual to get past the emotions, stresses, and lifestyle habits that first led to substance abuse and that sustained the addiction. Failure to achieve this higher level of sobriety will convert an addict into a “dry drunk”, who holds onto negative emotions and harbors ill will toward a world that took his substances away from him.
What is Emotional Sobriety?
Addiction recovery experts refer to this higher level as “emotional sobriety”. A recovered alcoholic or addict who reaches this level will be able to look beyond anger, lingering resentments, guilt, shame, and other negative emotions, and will be better able to move forward with a positive outlook on his or her life. Failure to reach this level can lead to depression, frustration, and a sense that drinking or drugs are the only solution to those feelings.
Achieving Emotional Sobriety
The key to achieving emotional sobriety is being able to become aware of and come to terms with all emotions, both good and bad. Recovering addicts and alcoholics who let their emotions rule them without sensing and acknowledging those emotions will not reach the level of sobriety that allows them to avoid all temptations and relapses. Often this can be as simple as learning to count to ten when stress, anger, or fear raises the specter of a relapse. A short timeout may be all that is necessary to focus energy away from the emotion itself and instead to understand the threat to sobriety that is created by that emotion. Rather than doing something like drinking or taking drugs to make the emotion go away, a person who is working toward emotional sobriety will intellectualize the emotion. They will then work toward understanding the triggers that gave rise to the emotion and to respond to it in a healthy and productive manner.
Accepting that alcoholism and addiction are diseases will help place a recovering addict on the path to emotional sobriety. A recovering alcoholic or addict will be encouraged to accept responsibility for his disease and the problems that the disease might have caused, but he will be equally encouraged to take responsibility for staying sober. In this manner, addiction recovery that focuses on conscious choices and not on knee-jerk reactions to adverse stimuli will get an addict or alcoholic past any negative elements that can cause a relapse. Addiction and alcoholism are, thus, unique in that they allow an individual who suffers from the disease to direct and improve his own recovery with intelligent and rational decision-making.
Emotional Sobriety for Successful Recovery
Facing emotions head-on, rather than numbing them with drugs or alcohol, can be a frightening experience. The natural human reaction is to bury negative emotions. Addiction recovery techniques, including those taught in 12-step programs, can be a critical component in teaching recovering addicts and alcoholics to deal with those emotions. This process may never really end, but as a recovering addict’s emotional sobriety grows, he will learn to handle even the worst of times without the false numbness that he previously found in drugs or alcohol.
For more suggestions on achieving and growing into emotional sobriety, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. Our staff can provide a confidential consultation and direct you toward the programs that can get you off of drugs and alcohol and help you recover your full physical and emotional sobriety.