The Relationship Between Emotions and Addiction

If you have or previously had a negative relationship with drugs or alcohol, it might be helpful to think about the origins of your substance use.

Chances are you will be able to pinpoint specific emotional issues that contributed to your desire to use. This is true for many people who struggle with a substance use disorder.

How Do Emotions Affect Physical Sobriety?

Because drugs and alcohol can temporarily mask troublesome emotions, people who struggle with feeling anxious or depressed may attempt to self-medicate with these substances. 

However, while using might seem like an easy fix, the longer this usage continues, the worse these emotions can get. 

Addiction is an extremely personal disease. Of course, someone’s drug or alcohol addiction does not just impact them on a personal level, but can impact all those around him or her.

What is Emotional Sobriety?

Emotional sobriety is a concept that was first developed by the infamous Bill W., founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He often discussed emotional sobriety as related to Alcoholics Anonymous, as it was something he believed was needed in order to reach a true spiritual awakening. One of the best ways Bill Wilson himself describes emotional sobriety reads as follows:

“How shall our unconscious—from which so many of our fears, compulsions and phony aspirations still stream—be brought into line with what we actually believe, know and want! How to convince our dumb, raging and hidden “Mr. Hyde” becomes our main task.”

The importance of emotional sobriety comes into the picture very well here. To achieve emotional sobriety in recovery means to achieve a level of emotional well-being after you have stopped actively abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

Why is Emotional Sobriety Important?

Why is Emotional Sobriety Important

To begin the path to improving your mental health, it helps to identify, address, and manage the negative emotions and behaviors connected to your addiction in the first place. Not only does this help you maintain your physical sobriety, but it will also help with developing emotional sobriety itself.

Emotional Sobriety and Your Recovery Journey

Ending your struggle with addiction is a huge accomplishment and requires quite a lot of strength and bravery to achieve. Achieving emotional sobriety is one of the most important things a person can do in order to ensure their successful recovery. 

To achieve emotional sobriety is arguably the most important part of your recovery, as it allows for:

Emotional Regulation

Being aware of your feelings and knowing how to regulate them are two different things. When you work on your emotional sobriety, you can develop skills to help you achieve both.

You can truly feel your emotions when you are not influenced by drugs or alcohol. The importance of emotional sobriety stems from the fact that, as you feel your emotions, you will determine how to handle them.

Learning How to Regulate Your Emotions

For some, this regulation comes from participation in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or other behavioral therapies, or through 12-Step meetings, which are designed to help individuals recover from their substance addiction.

Knowing how to recognize and effectively deal with your feelings keeps you from needing drugs or alcohol to mask them, and enhances your ability to practice emotional sobriety.


A major part of recovery is acceptance. For you (or others struggling with an addiction), you will be guided to work on accepting that, when it comes to the substance you depend on, feeling powerless to your cravings for it is quite normal. 

You will be encouraged to forgive yourself for your past addiction struggles, and truly begin working towards a life of recovery.

You will also be guided to accept both the positive and negative emotions you feel in recovery. 

They are all a valid part of the human condition, and accepting them for what they are can bring you emotional stability. 

Preventing Relapse

Above all else, emotional sobriety is a key part of preventing relapse, as lacking emotional balance during recovery can create an urge to return to addiction as a coping mechanism.

Mindfulness and Relapse Prevention

True change comes from focusing on your emotional needs. A person may find it easier to deal with both the negative and positive feelings life can cause through completing mindfulness techniques and developmental tasks such as:

  • Addressing any anger, sadness, or other milder negative emotions they may be feeling, and allowing themselves to embrace these feelings.
  • Spending time acknowledging and healing from trauma they may have experienced in life. 
  • Establishing ways to maintain happiness and contentment; an example of this may be the practice of expressing gratitude. 

Your emotional sobriety is critical not only for your recovery from substance abuse, but for your well-being as a whole . When you focus on caring for and managing your feelings effectively, the urge to continue drug or alcohol usage can be drastically decreased.

Addiction Recovery and Staying Sober

Addiction Recovery and Staying Sober

While certainly an important one, stopping your usage of a substance is just a single part of the recovery process. Addressing any underlying mental health issues is just as important as getting sober.

Furthermore, making healthier life choices can not only help battle negative thoughts, but provide the grounds for allowing your body to restore its natural equilibrium.

Methods for Staying Emotionally Sober

There are multiple ways in which you or others dealing with addiction can implement healthier lifestyles that will allow them to better recognize and process emotions. Some of these include: 

  • Developing Positive Social Connections. Surrounding yourself with healthy people who want to see you successfully develop emotional fulfillment and get sober can be extremely helpful during the recovery process.
  • Fulfilling Basic Needs. It can be easy to belittle basic needs; but just making sure to practice simple self-care routines (for example, showering and eating healthy meals) can significantly boost your emotional and physical well-being, as well as your self esteem.
  • Meditation. Meditation, yoga, or any other activity that can help you reconnect with the present moment can help reduce stress levels and increase productivity.
  • Receiving Confidential Help. Seeking out therapy or counseling who can teach you mindfulness practices, how to manage your negative feelings in a healthy way, and help process your difficulties with addictive substances can greatly alleviate the pressures of self-reflection and acceptance.

Finding Support Groups

It may also be beneficial to seek out support groups that have experience coping with addiction recovery and aim to help others develop emotional sobriety, as these social connections can drastically enhance your ability to deal with the fear, anxiety, and other negative feelings that can come with rehabilitation. 

Here at Divine Detox, we offer a Sober Living Program to help you do just that. Let us help you learn to live life in the present and provide you with the positive support you need to maintain your sobriety.

Are You Struggling With Addiction and Need Help? 

Being addicted to drugs and/or alcohol is extremely painful, distressing, and anxiety-provoking. As you continue to use these substances, the effects can become more severe and threatening.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a severe drug or alcohol addiction, the risk of overdosing or developing related health conditions is a major concern. Getting professional help for your addiction may just save your life.

Receiving the Help You Need

If you have gotten sober from your active addiction, that is a huge achievement. But it can be a difficult one to maintain without the right support.

Placing focus on your emotional sobriety can strengthen your resolve in recovery. And, the more you work on your emotional sobriety, the easier being in recovery and making healthier choices can become. 

No matter if you are still using and are in need of drug or alcohol rehab, or newly sober, we want to help support you! We can show you how to take the first step in getting the care you need to live a happy and healthy life!

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