What Is Emotional Sobriety?
Have you found yourself wondering about emotional sobriety? Maybe you have heard others discuss it and want to know more?
Or perhaps you are keen to find out its importance in addiction treatment? Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you!
When it comes to emotional sobriety, it can be a tricky topic to approach. With so much research being undertaken, there is a wealth of information online, and most of it is difficult to access, let alone understand.
It leaves many of us confused and unsure of where to go from here.
But no longer! Today we are here with the answers you need to help you understand this subject. Just keep reading to find out more about emotional sobriety today.
What Is Emotional Sobriety?
Emotional sobriety is a new approach to addiction treatment that focuses on helping patients identify their emotions and feelings before they act out.
The goal is to help them develop healthier ways of coping with negative emotions and stressors.
Emotional sobriety is based on the idea that addiction is often rooted in unresolved trauma from early childhood.
By identifying and processing these issues, patients can begin to heal emotionally and move toward recovery.
The Link Between Trauma And Addiction
People who abuse drugs or alcohol are likely to be troubled with emotional regulation problems. They tend to act impulsively and sometimes dangerously when faced with emotionally challenging circumstances.
Their ability to maintain close relationships is also impaired. They often have an overly pessimistic worldview.
Trauma experienced in childhood is most likely to cause these problems. Children learn by surrounding themselves with positive people and environments.
Alcohol or drugs are sometimes used as a temporary escape from daily stresses. Eventually, this becomes a habit of escaping the stress and dealing with everyday life.
Traumatic experiences change our brains and body chemistry. Changes happen in our brain cells which make certain chemicals more available.
These chemicals affect how we think and feel. If someone has been traumatized repeatedly, their brain’s chemical balance may not fully recover after one traumatic experience.
This means that whenever they encounter another stressful event, their reactions will be stronger than those of a person who had less exposure to trauma which may lead them to abuse drugs or alcohol frequently to deal with the difficult emotions.
How To Achieve Emotional Sobriety
Achieving emotional sobriety doesn’t mean that an addict should always be happy and positive.
Emotional sobriety requires people to accept and realize their emotions, but it also means that they shouldn’t let their emotions control them.
A combination of counseling and medication is often necessary to deal with addiction problems caused by difficulty with emotional regulation.
As part of emotional sobriety, counselors encourage addicts to express their feelings verbally; rather than hiding them inside.
This helps them release painful memories and process any resentments and regrets over past events that might be contributing to addictive behavior.
Counseling is designed to teach a patient what triggers his/her compulsive behaviors, so he/she learns new ways to cope with pain instead of using drugs or alcohol to numb it away.
Some techniques include hypnotherapy, art therapy, meditation, guided imagery, and other forms of self-expression such as listening to music or writing poetry.
Emotional Sobriety means being able to deal with your emotions. You must learn how to control them and use them constructively.
You should be able to handle your emotions without getting drunk or using drugs. Emotional sobriety is different from physical sobriety because it develops gradually.
To become physically sober, you need willpower and strength. You also need to maintain your health by eating right and exercising regularly. These things help you stay away from drugs and alcohol.
To become emotionally sober, however, you need courage. It’s easier said than done to become emotionally sober.
Signs Of Emotional Sobriety
You might not realize that you are developing emotional sobriety until you start noticing signs. Eight signs that can help you realize that you’re on the right track include:
- You feel less anxious when you think about your problems.
- Your fears seem smaller or easier to manage.
- You are less sad.
- You enjoy going out more.
- You’ve stopped drinking (or using).
- You don’t want to drink as much.
- You sleep better at night.
- You feel happier overall.
In addition to counseling and medication, some patients benefit from having support groups where like-minded individuals can share experiences and offer advice.
People who have been through similar situations are generally more understanding when clients confide in their struggles.
Although there are many types of support groups, common among them are Twelve Step programs for alcoholics and addicts and meetings for teens too.
The Importance Of Emotional Sobriety
There’s no point in being sober when you feel the same way you felt while using or drinking. Abstinence-only recovery doesn’t work because it doesn’t address any other problems besides alcohol use.
White-knuckling through recovery is no way for a recovering addict to live. Emotional stability helps fulfill the gaping holes left by drugs or alcohol with balanced thinking and emotions.
Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of emotional sobriety.
Stress is unavoidable, but dealing with it properly will reduce stress levels and make you a more pleasant person to be around.
We all experience stress, whether it’s from school, work, finances, relationships, or something else entirely. When people are stressed, they often act irritable, angry, or even violent.
Alcohol adds fuel to this fire by making people forget their problems — temporarily.
If you’re trying to get back into treatment after long periods of sobriety, it won’t do any good if you continue to rely on the drug, especially if it’s causing you to relive emotional traumas.
Those old wounds aren’t healing because you haven’t dealt with what happened to you. They may come up to haunt you when you least expect it.
Overcoming Bad Habits
If you’re addicted to alcohol or drugs, you probably already know what triggers your urge to re-use — your environment, friends, family members, etc.
Whatever makes you crave a substance is still there, and it creates an opportunity for relapse.
A major part of staying clean is learning ways to cope with these difficult circumstances so you don’t succumb to your urges.
For example, you could try talking to a friend rather than drinking alone or taking a walk instead of smoking. Being aware of what makes you want to use will make it easier to avoid temptation.
Even though you’re abstinent, you need to find healthy coping mechanisms that help you deal with the stresses in your life.
Overcoming Anxiety & Depression
Depression and anxiety are both treatable mental illnesses, and recovery is possible. As previously stated, getting emotionally stable is important to function properly in daily life.
Staying sober is only half the battle; the second half involves keeping yourself well-balanced so you don’t slip into depression or become overwhelmed by feelings of despair.
It takes time to learn new skills to regain control over stressful events and situations in your day-to-day life.
Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand with addiction. Treating underlying issues can greatly decrease the chances of returning to addictive behavior once an individual reaches sobriety.
Identifying Causes Of Depression
Treatment is a two-step process. First, identify the reasons why you’re depressed. Second, find treatments to help you better handle those problems.
For instance, a lot of people who have anxiety tend to isolate themselves for safety and comfort purposes.
They may not realize that isolating themselves leads to feeling lonely and having no outside contact except via phone or social media.
This lack of human interaction results in them becoming introverted and withdrawn, which further exacerbates their depression.
In addition, some people feel sad because they’re not able to accomplish certain goals in their lives such as losing weight or quitting smoking.
They may begin to self-loathe because of these shortcomings and develop negative attitudes toward others. People who are depressed often believe that they are worthless because they’ve let themselves go and become lazy.
The first step of treatment is identifying why you’re depressed. Once you understand the root cause, then you can choose appropriate treatment options.
Talk to your doctor, therapist, or counselor about treatment plans that can alleviate depressive symptoms.
Sometimes medications, counseling sessions, or even psychotherapy are necessary. You can also get support from religious organizations that provide free or low-cost services.
If medication or therapy isn’t effective, then the next step is changing your lifestyle.
Try exercising regularly to fight addiction cravings, quit smoking if you smoke, eat healthier foods, and cut back on caffeine.
Emotionally sober people don’t need to use substances or alcohol to feel better. Emotional sobriety is about being mentally stable.
Sometimes emotional sobriety is not about just tolerating what you feel but about finding ways to work through difficult feelings.
Teaching emotional sobriety helps addicts control their emotions when they’re sober so that they are less likely to drink or use when they feel depressed or anxious, so they can live both mentally and physically healthier lives.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: September 24, 2023