Substance use has a way of making us realize that we need treatment, that sobriety becomes necessary. There are behaviors and consequences that become apparent to others, if not ourselves directly. However, have we considered that we may also need emotional sobriety? What is emotional sobriety?
The ability to feel and experience emotions that are uncomfortable without engaging in the overwhelming desire to change those emotions is emotional sobriety. We can resist the urge to make judgments about our emotions, feed them, numb them, or try to escape them.
Because substance use is closely tied to emotions, and emotions are often the original reason we use substances, emotional sobriety is important to the success of our substance sobriety.
Why We Need Emotional Sobriety
There are many reasons we may need emotional sobriety. Some of these reasons include that we may hold grudges or don’t let go of our own mistakes, we are easily offended, but we never allow ourselves to be angry, we usually feel misunderstood, we get stressed out very easily, we struggle to assert ourselves, or we struggle to recognize our own emotions or triggers.
Conversely, some of the ways we can express our emotional sobriety include being able to feel our emotions without using substances, without numbing or escaping them, or distracting ourselves from them. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we also want to be able to feel positive emotions without feeling the need to enhance them with substances.
Emotional sobriety is being able to notice suffering and reduce it down to the core of pain or being able to know the difference between thoughts, feelings, and facts. We know we have achieved emotional sobriety when we are resilient, we have wisdom and are balanced.
When we distort reality and convince ourselves of things that are not true, we are making cognitive distortions. Some examples of cognitive distortions include all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, disqualifying the positives, dwelling on negatives so that it clouds our thinking, jumping to conclusions, making assumptions about someone else’s thoughts, exaggerating thinking, believing our own faulty predictions, incorrect labeling, blaming self or others, and using should statements.
All of these situations are ways that our mind distorts reality and makes us believe things that aren’t true. This creates emotional reactions that are often disproportionate to the situation. Gaining emotional sobriety is centered around rational thinking and healthy emotional responses instead.
Dispelling Emotional Myths
Throughout our lives, we develop beliefs around our emotions. Perhaps we believe that reacting strongly gets more response than reacting rationally. Or that there is a right and there is a wrong way to feel in every situation. We feel like we must always be optimistic, no matter what. Or that negative feelings are bad.
We might feel like we have a bad attitude, and that is why we feel painful emotions. All of these ideas are myths. It doesn’t matter where we learned them from, they do not serve us and are counterproductive, especially when we are in recovery. The antidote to these emotional myths is to learn rational responses.
For example, the belief that stronger reactions get more responses may have some truth in it. But are those the responses that we want? Do those reactions accomplish anything? Does our own overreaction help us? When we can develop rational responses to all of these situations, we will be heading toward emotional sobriety.
Creating Emotional Sobriety
Our own emotional sobriety is within our reach. We simply need to utilize some of the tools we learn in recovery. These include:
- Mindfulness Meditation – teaching ourselves to be present without judgment eliminates exaggerated emotions.
- Our Values – when we listen to our core self, we honor our personal values. As we honor our values, any emotions are authentic, not distorted.
- Self-Compassion – by using daily self-care and treating ourselves with kindness and love, we also honor our emotional well-being and learn to feel true emotions.
- Balance – we can balance our responsibilities, including work, family, and other relationships, and allow ourselves time for ourselves, thus reducing stress.
- Rational Responses – practicing rational responses allows us to become emotionally sober, which helps us to stay physically sober from our substances, as well.
Side Effects of Emotional Sobriety
In addition to the basic concept of emotional sobriety, of being able to regulate our emotions without reacting to them, we can develop some other very powerful attributes. These include self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, and emotional intelligence.
By developing and living these attributes, we exhibit confidence, the ability to laugh at ourselves, as well as a general awareness of how our words and actions affect other people. We have integrity, are trustworthy, and respectful of others. We have the ability to achieve our goals and are driven to achieve, learn, and grow. We have an increased ability to both identify and manage our emotions, as well as the power to be empathetic with other human beings.
Emotional sobriety can be every bit as powerful as our sobriety from substance use. Both types of sobriety support one another in helping us to become who we want to be.
What is emotional sobriety? It is the ability to navigate our emotions rationally and realistically and respond similarly. Create your own emotional sobriety at AToN Center. Call (888) 813-5928 to find both sobriety from substances and emotional sobriety today.