Emotional Sobriety in Recovery.

Emotional sobriety is an important feature of recovery from addiction, and can be defined as the process by which we learn to regulate and handle difficult emotions and cope with them in healthier ways. For addicts and alcoholics, this is often a challenge, given that addiction usually comes about from our difficulties managing emotions.

Developing Emotional Sobriety

Developing emotional sobriety can be a lifelong process, but one that will enrich your recovery in so many ways. The concept of emotional sobriety is foreign to most, and it often isn’t the first priority when giving up drugs or alcohol. Giving up drugs or alcohol is just the first step on the road to recovery. After becoming physically sober, developing emotional sobriety should be the next focus, helping us deal with life in a more effective way.

In the early days, the focus has to be on remaining physically sober, on abstaining from using any form of mind-altering substance. Taking it “one day at a time” is encouraged, with emphasis placed on doing whatever works for the individual – such as meetings, sponsorship, connecting with fellow addicts and alcoholics, exercise, therapy, or trying alternative therapies. Getting sober and remaining sober is a process, as is learning to regulate and manage our emotions. It is just as important and beneficial to our overall well being, as not using substances.

What are emotions?

Emotions are a fundamental part of the human experience, and feeling the highs and lows are a part of life. Emotional sobriety doesn’t mean not feeling any negative emotions, or numbing and distracting ourselves from them, but rather it is about feeling our feelings in a healthy way.

Negative emotions can be dangerous in recovery from addiction, as in our past we used drugs and alcohol to cope with them. They can be a trigger for relapse if we aren’t careful. It is about learning to manage our feelings, and not letting difficult emotions such as sadness, anger or worry master us or overwhelm us.

Emotional sobriety also doesn’t mean that we are happy all of the time. It is about tolerating our feelings, and staying sober no matter what we are feeling. It is about knowing that feelings will pass, and that they don’t define us. We are not our feelings, we experience them. Emotional sobriety gives us the ability to remain clean and sober no matter what we are feeling or experiencing. It means we don’t necessarily need to do something to make the feeling go away. In this sense, it is easy to see how important this aspect of recovery is. It allows us to fully experience emotions without letting them control us.

What are the signs someone is developing emotional sobriety?

There are several signs that someone has developed a healthier relationship with themselves and their emotions. Often, when newly sober, managing our emotions is difficult, and it can take time to reach an equilibrium.

Being present – Being mindful and living in the present moment is not easy to achieve. Most of us spend our days worrying about the future, or ruminating about the past, neither of which we have any control to change. Focussing on what’s right in front of us, and incorporating daily practices such as mindfulness and meditation, can be really useful.

Thinking of Others – Having more control over your emotions and the ability to self-soothe, means there is more space to think of others and not just ourselves. If we can love ourselves, we have much more energy and time to love those around us, and we often become better people for it. It is a wonderful thing to focus more on the successes and happiness of other people, just as much as our own triumphs.

Practicing Gratitude – Developing emotional sobriety means being present and grateful for what we have in our lives, and cultivating a positive outlook on life. It isn’t about chasing more, never being satisfied with our lot, or attempting to make ourselves feel better or more ‘enough’ with material things.

Positive Outlook On Life – Getting sober doesn’t automatically guarantee an easy life. Rather, we have to learn to cope with ‘life on life’s terms’, using all the skills in our toolbox to deal with life’s problems as and when they arise. Generally though, developing emotional sobriety means that you have a broadly positive view on life, and that it isn’t something you want to escape from or numb out of. You no longer want to run away from your own life. We learn that feelings will pass, we can sit with them, allow them to be, and then let them go. This is not easy and can be looked at as a lifetime’s work.

Loss Of Desire To Use Mind-altering Substances – When we first get sober, it is normal to experience cravings and urges to use or drink. After all, we are learning to live a new kind of life. Over time however, as we develop emotional sobriety, we begin to realise that no happiness or purpose can be found at the bottom of a wine bottle, or from a cocaine binge. There is no appeal to using mind-altering substances anymore, because we have the hindsight and the emotional maturity to recognise our addiction for what it was, and to not want to go back to that place.

An Attitude Of Calm – As addicts, most of us couldn’t manage our emotions. Whether we were happy, sad, angry, or confused, celebrating or the opposite, we used drugs and alcohol to cope. Being emotionally sober means that we develop a level of control over our emotions – rather than them controlling us. We know that as long as we stay sober, everything will be OK. If problems or difficult situations arise, we know that we can deal with these calmly, without resorting to substances.

At UK Detox we work with a wide range of rehabilitation facilities and detox centres around the country to suit your needs and circumstances and provide home detox’s. We are a premier service with an extremely high success rate, offering addicts the opportunity to get clean and sober and live a successful life. We are living proof that it is achievable and now we are here to help you on your journey into recovery. Change your story, change your life.


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