Recovery is not as simple as putting down a drink or a drug. Abstinence calls for these actions but recovery demands that we accept personal responsibility for our emotional state. A serene recovery and all the gifts it encompasses require that we no longer blame other people for our discomfort. This personal responsibility may sound extreme and overreaching but it gifts a great freedom and liberation. No person or situation can upset us if we don’t allow it; no person or situation is powerful enough to make us drink or use. Emotional maturity is like serenity and serenity can be a healthy addiction in itself. “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today” (Big Book p. 417) is not a trite AA platitude, but rather a call for a personal revolution.
Emotional independence is our responsibility. We are not powerful enough to make anyone feel anything, just like other people are not powerful enough to make us feel anything. Allowing other people to control our emotional state may also give them the power to make us relapse. It requires much courage and even more practice to learn how to stop giving emotional power away and take responsibility solely for ourselves.
At AToN Center, we focus on emotional sobriety by teaching assertiveness through DESO Scripts, the identification of cognitive distortions in our thought process through Thought Records, and learn about boundaries and communication skills with various Recovery Studies and Psychology Groups as well as additional literature that deal specifically with this issue.
I am amazed to witness the empowerment on the faces of residents when they realize that they do not have to fall victim to the negativity around them. It is my privilege as a clinician to see the serenity that takes over when people focus solely on their own emotional experience. It is a subtle but steady revolution.