What is “Emotional Sobriety?”

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Emotional Sobriety

“Emotional Sobriety” is a term originally coined by members of 12 Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). When we refer to sobriety, we are generally referring to physical sobriety. People who are physically sober have been intentionally steering clear of all mood and mind-altering substances. When it comes to getting sober and beginning to live a life in addiction recovery, maintaining physical sobriety is always the first step. Once you are physically sober, you are able to dive into your emotional sobriety — develop and maintain the skills you need to stay sober long-term while living a happy and fulfilling life.

If you or someone close to you has been struggling with a substance use disorder of any kind, recovery is always possible. At 12 Step New York we are dedicated to helping residents of New York and in all surrounding areas overcome addiction and move towards long-term sobriety. We also help individuals who are new to sobriety find the resources they need to stay the course. To learn more about overcoming addiction or staying sober, contact us today.

What Is Emotional Sobriety?

There are countless adages in AA, some meant to pave a clear path for the newcomer, others meant to serve as reminders as we continue to navigate life’s challenges without the use of alcohol. One of these adages is, “Happy, joyous, and free.” When we think of emotional sobriety, we might be inclined to think of this specific idiom. Does emotional sobriety mean feeling happy, full of joy, and free from all stress and hardship? In short — no. If a person is experiencing anger, sadness, frustration, or discouragement, it does not mean they are experiencing an “emotional relapse.” It simply means they are going through a difficult time. Emotional sobriety refers to the ability to navigate these difficult emotions without the use of chemical substances. It means staying sober no matter what feelings are being experienced, and fully understanding that uncomfortable emotions are simply a part of life.

Practicing Emotional Sobriety

There are several ways to practice emotional sobriety. These include:

  • Calling up a friend when you are feeling frustrated about a specific situation and processing it with them. It can be dangerous to bottle up emotions, even though many of us are used to doing just that. When we process our frustrations with another person we are able to vent in a healthy and productive way.
  • Meet one-on-one with a licensed behavioral therapist. Outside help is often necessary, and it can be beneficial to seek out professional help and a safe, supportive environment in which to receive unbiased advice. Emotional sobriety is understanding when reaching out for additional help is necessary.
  • Finding healthy ways to process uncomfortable emotions when they arise. Maybe you have been more stressed out about work than normal. Rather than bottling up your stress until you explode and storm out of the office one day, you address what it is that is stressing you out. You speak to your boss about lightening up your workload or break up your workday with a walk outside on your lunch break. You delve into stress management techniques like mindfulness meditation and yoga, and do what you need to do to maintain balance in your life.

Am I Emotionally Sober?

How can you tell if you are emotionally sober? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When I feel upset, do I allow myself to feel upset and acknowledge that I will feel better eventually, or do I tell myself that I shouldn’t be feeling that way?
  • Do I have healthy outlets in which to process anger and frustration?
  • Do I often blow up at people, yelling at them and calling them names?
  • Do I shove down uncomfortable emotions so I can appear happy and calm at all times?
  • Do I communicate my feelings in healthy and productive ways?
  • Do I know how to ask for what I need in my interpersonal relationships?
  • Do I often feel slighted by others; like other people treat me unfairly, and like I deserve more than I am getting?
  • When I feel sad, do I try to make myself happy by engaging in behaviors that might not be conducive to a sober lifestyle?

The Absence of Negative Emotions

It is important to understand that emotional sobriety does not refer to the absence of negative emotions. Part of the human experience is going through a full gamut of emotions. There is not one person on this planet who has mastered avoiding negative emotions in their entirety. It simply is not possible. Some days we wake up full of joy and gratitude, smiling at strangers and whistling as we stroll down the street. Other days we wake up with a massive chip on our shoulder, cursing at babies, yelling at puppies, and wishing we could curl up into a ball and ignore everything and everyone for the rest of eternity. We experience heartbreak and loss, we experience excitement and pure, unadulterated happiness.

Emotional sobriety does not have to do with the successful evasion of uncomfortable feelings. Emotional sobriety refers to our ability to navigate a full spectrum of emotions, understanding that feelings are temporary and they will resolve with time. To learn more about emotional sobriety or to learn more about developing the coping skills necessary to maintain sobriety through emotionally challenging times, contact us today.

Contact 12 Step New York to Learn More

Because active addiction looks different for everyone, no two programs of recovery will be identical. Some people benefit immensely from ongoing 12 Step program involvement, while others might find alternative routes to long-term sobriety. If you or someone you love has been battling addiction, the first step on the road to recovery is always reaching out for help. Once you take this initial step you will be put in touch with someone who can offer you advice on how to proceed. At 12 Step New York we have a team of experienced individuals standing by to help guide you in the right direction — the direction of recovery. Simply contact us with any additional questions you have, and we will be there to guide you through the initial steps of the process. Contact us today to learn more.

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