Emotional sobriety is a term often used in the addiction and recovery community. Learn about what exactly it is and how to work towards it here.
Emotional sobriety goes hand in hand with physical sobriety. A term coined by the 12-step program community, emotional sobriety refers to the skills needed in order to overcome addition and stay sober. While physical sobriety refers to the literal action of refraining from using addictive substances, emotional sobriety is about understanding, confronting and controlling the emotions one often struggles with, without substance abuse.
In order to be physically sober, one must stay away from drugs and alcohol. Without emotional sobriety, this will be very difficult. In order to avoid relapsing, it’s imperative that one addresses any negative emotions which may have played a part in their addiction. By gaining the tools to manage emotions which have both led to and stemmed from substance abuse, remaining physically sober will be easier.
Emotional sobriety is all about coping with emotions in a healthy way. This means allowing yourself to feel your feelings, without letting them control you. The keys to emotional sobriety are identifying emotions, regulating emotions, and then regulating any behaviors which are related to those emotions.
How to Achieve Emotional Sobriety
- Physical sobriety: The first step to emotional sobriety is physical sobriety. In order to achieve emotional sobriety, you cannot use addictive substances.
- Identify triggers: Recognize people, smells, places and other things which may trigger negative emotions. One way to do this is by keeping a journal in which you describe your day and the emotions you felt. Of course, you can’t avoid everything, but recognizing your triggers can help you both prepare for and prevent negative emotions.
- Acceptance: Recognize and accept your negative emotions. Allow yourself to feel them, and think about how you can manage them in a healthy way. You may find that mindfulness journaling, meditation, exercise, cooking or creating artwork helps you to release your feelings. Getting a handle on your emotions can be really hard. Do your best to find an outlet that works for you, but don’t put pressure on yourself. This will take time.
- Community: Reach out to your community for help. Keep both your physical and emotional sobriety in check by going to group meetings such as AA and NA. Surrounding yourself with people who are going through the same experiences as you are is a great way to stay strong and committed. Make sure to spend time with loved ones as well, doing sober activities which are fulfilling to you. If you’re comfortable doing so, you can vocalize your struggles to your friends and family. Talking through your negative emotions with loved ones can make achieving emotional sobriety much more doable.
- Behavioral therapy: Seek professional help from a behavioral therapist who specializes in substance abuse. Behavioral therapists can help you identify negative emotional patterns, and teach you the skills you need to manage them.
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