After you have become physically sober, you will still have more work to do if you want to be able to get the most out of this new life. One of the most important things you will need to do to ensure your future happiness is to develop emotional sobriety. This can be defined as the ability to handle your emotions, which is important because it is often the failure to do this that drives many into addiction in the first place.
Emotional sobriety differs from physical sobriety in that it is not something that you can just switch on. You develop this type of sobriety over a long period by dealing with life in a more effective way. The fact that this important ability can develop slowly means you may not be aware that it is occurring, so here are eight signs that can give you an idea that you are on the right track:
If you are constantly fretting over the future or feeling regret about the past, you probably have a lot more work to do in your development of emotional sobriety. One of the clear signs that you have developed this ability is you find it easier to just live in the present moment with your racing into the past or future. Practices like mindfulness meditation are great for helping you develop this ability.
The fact that you are now so comfortable in your own skin means that mind-altering substances are no longer appealing to you. As you develop emotional sobriety, you begin to realise that almost everything you need for happiness is available in the current moment.
Emotional sobriety means you do not have to keep on achieving more and accumulating new goodies in an attempt to make yourself feel better. From this new perspective, you are able to see that you already have plenty of good in your life, so you are now free to appreciate all of this good stuff.
Being emotionally sober does not mean you get a free pass in life, but it does mean that you generally view being alive as an incredibly wonderful privilege. You develop the sense that things are always going to work out in the end, which means that you are generally positive and upbeat about things; this makes you an attractive person to be around.
You may still have some bad habits, but your level of emotional sobriety means you find it easy to change your behaviour. You understand that the goal is progress and not perfection, but you keep chipping away at any bad habits because you know this is going to improve your life.
In this collection of Grapevine stories, sober women and men describe the transformations sobriety can bring as they practice the principles of AA in all aspects of their lives. Many discover that happiness is a by-product of giving without any demand for return. Others embrace the present with gratitude to claim moments of real peace -- "a quiet place in bright sunshine," as Bill W. put it in the essay that gave the impetus to this book. We invite you to join the journey. Read a sample story: A Benchmark in Sobriety.
Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob left us three remarkable legacies. Their first legacy was the 12 Steps. The 12 Steps have helped millions of people find freedom from their addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Their second legacy was the 12 Traditions. The 12 Traditions do for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous what the 12 Steps do for the individual. We can think of the 12 Steps as a design for daily living that promotes emotional well-being and peace of mind while the 12 Traditions provide guidelines for the healthy functioning of the AA fellowship as a whole. Their third legacy was the formation and structure of the General Service Office. These three legacies formed the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous as we know it today.
In this letter Bill shared the insights he gained while understanding and unpacking the emotional causes of his depression. Bill worked hard on his recovery. He also received psychological help from Dr. Harry Tiebout, the first psychiatrist to recognize the importance of AA. Dr. Tiebout befriended Bill and the fellowship and left us with many important insights into the process of recovery. You can learn more about his work in a Hazelden publication of his collected works. Bill also received spiritual direction from some very prominent spiritual leaders of his time, such as Sam Shoemaker.
Bill sought the truth about himself and about life. From these efforts he developed the ability to be honest with himself and identify emotional and behavioral patterns that were causing him much distress and anxiety. The letter that Bill wrote is a synthesis of what he had learned about himself and his dilemma after being sober 21 years.
Bill realized that his emotional state was dependent on the outcome of his interaction with others, that he was emotionally dependent on how other people behaved toward him for his self-esteem, for his emotional well-being. Bill described his epiphany this way:
If you want to achieve emotional sobriety, then you need to get honest with yourself about your current level of emotional maturity. Your level of emotional maturity relates to your level of differentiation. The more mature you are, the more differentiated you are. But none of us are perfectly differentiated. We all exist somewhere along a spectrum of undifferentiated to differentiated.
During our recovery work through the ACA Program, we begin to feel a noticeable freedom from the damaging effects of The Laundry List traits. We are healing from the trauma and neglect of our childhood. We gain emotional sobriety by reparenting ourselves. We learn to love ourselves, perhaps for the first time in our memory.
Getting sober was probably no cake walk for you in the beginning and maintaining your sobriety really focuses on two things: having a connection with a Higher Power and having emotional sobriety. The connection with a Higher Power entails prayer and meditation. Emotional sobriety involves practicing spiritual principles which is not always easy to achieve.
This excerpt out the book really puts into perspective what a person should try and strive for every day in their recovery. By staying sober, someone has a better chance at being considerate and helpful then they would if they were loaded. Practicing these principles in all your affairs will no doubt improve your emotional sobriety and can really help you to become the person you were meant to be.
You will continue to make mistakes in sobriety which will cause significant growth in your recovery if you remain sober and work on changing your behaviors moving forward. Do not be so hard on yourself because there are a lot of great things that can come out of your lapse in judgements. Compassion, tolerance, and humility are just a few promises that can come true from simply cleaning up your side of the street as these things continue pop up.
Many people who have a hard time understanding and processing their emotions do eventually turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Unfortunately, when they do reach recovery, the issue of emotional maturity is still an issue and may be worse than ever. In order to successfully make a change in recovery, emotional sobriety must be achieved.
Emotional sobriety also means being able to fully experience feelings without having to run away from them through use of drugs, alcohol, or other means of escape. This ability builds a deep sense of peace and strength within a person that helps them face any hardships that may come along in life. Other characteristics of emotional sobriety include:
Joy is something that lies within. It remains steady, regardless of emotional ups and downs. Joy is having peace in the truth that no matter what comes your way, you can face it with calmness and strength.
Most healthy adults cycle through stages of learning, reflection, and growth. Those cycles are how humans continually improve. They also help explain why some traditional knowledge about addiction and recovery is no longer considered valid. Addicts do not achieve emotional sobriety any more than otherwise healthy people achieve maturity, strength, or wisdom. These are pursuits that evolve, not destinations where people arrive. With the right tools and support, the lifelong journey of a recovering addict does not have to be peppered with setbacks that lead to nowhere. It can be as healthy, positive, and empowering as any journey toward self-improvement.
People tend to manage stressful situations by either distracting themselves or focusing on the problem. Distraction is an effective technique for physical sobriety, partly because it is an attainable goal and the experience is strong. For long-term emotional sobriety, however, distraction denies the addicted person access to important tools for learning, processing, and growth.
Engaging with mildly negative emotions helps you process and interpret them. Joseph explains that over time, coping skills emerge through learning, not avoidance. In early stages, avoidance can help get you through rough times. As emotional recovery continues, exposure helps you defend against relapse.
Physical and emotional sobriety are two vastly different things. A person can eliminate the addicting substance and achieve physical sobriety, but remain emotionally addicted. Fortunately, recovery is not a pass-or-fail endeavor.
Emotional sobriety opens doors for you to learn from experience. Just as the journey toward good health or even spiritual enlightenment is never finished, the journey toward freedom from addictive substances is ongoing. Emotional sobriety is a lifelong pursuit.
For most people recovering from substance abuse, abstinence from the drug is the main goal. But focusing too much on this one goal misses the bigger picture of living a life of emotional sobriety, a life that feels meaningful, satisfying and productive.
Emotional Sobriety is the differentiator between the person that remains sober and the one who relapses. Emotional sobriety is also what differentiates the person who lives a healthy life vs. the one who turns from substance addiction to other addictions such as over-eating, exercise addiction, sex or pornography addiction. 2b1af7f3a8