Emotional sobriety is a state of well-being that the recovering addict can attain beyond physical sobriety. For an addict, abstinence from drugs and alcohol is only the first milestone. When the addict is able to consistently abstain from using substances, the second challenge is learning how to avoid relapse by managing emotions and feelings. If one achieves physical sobriety, yet never makes an attempt to work on managing their emotions, relapse is likely to happen. In active addiction, the addict used alcohol or drugs as a defense mechanism to mask and ignore feelings instead of learning how to cope with painful realities. Emotional sobriety deals with living life on life’s terms and learning new effective coping skills – versus old ways – picking up a drink or using drugs. Emotional sobriety is evident when one learns how to be present and live in the moment – whether positive or negative – and be able to feel and handle those feelings.
Give yourself permission to feel without getting into too much grief, pain, or self-pity. Try to remember all the good things in life. Reach out to a friend and ask for help. Stay in gratitude as much as you possibly can. It is only human to feel many different ways all at once. However, be aware that major shifts in mood from elation to depression could signal a co-occuring mental health issue such as bi-polar disorder.
As an addict begins to practice humility and acceptance in relations with ourselves, to God, and others, they will experience freedom and be available to truly love others. Cut off all demands and expectations of people, places, and things. One’s present state of well-being should not depend on how others treat you, if only this or that would happen. Accept what is, and do your best to change the things you do have control over. Let go of the rest. Holding on, demanding, possessing, controlling, or grasping to an outside circumstance will only lead to meaningless frustration and depression. Surrender these terrible disabling demands to God, and then you will be able to be present and love others fully and freely. It is clear that the steady stream of life can’t flow until all of our awful dependencies are broken to the very core. To learn that others can not provide one with prestige and security, and learn to depend on God and trust and let go of fear is a major leap.
Are you able to tolerate how you feel right now? Are you able to accept life as it is right now? Why or why not? Ask yourself, if I can’t accept it, what can I change about myself? It takes courage and having wisdom to know the difference.