Addiction is an extremely personal disease. Of course, someone’s drug or alcohol addiction does not just impact them on a personal level. It impacts all those around him or her — and on a personal level of their own. However, when the addict/alcoholic is caught in a never-ending cycle of abuse, it is usually for several reasons.
If you have or had a negative relationship with drugs or alcohol, think about the origins of your use. Chances are you will be able to pinpoint specific emotional issues that contributed to your desire to use. This is true for almost everyone with a substance use disorder. That is because drugs and alcohol can temporarily mask troublesome emotions. And while using might seem like an easy fix, the longer that the use continues, the worse these emotions can get.
So what happens when you go from using drugs or alcohol to getting sober? Yes, you eliminate the immediate risk of suffering further substance-induced damage, but much still remains. What is often leftover is a jumble of feelings and behaviors that support an addicted lifestyle.
You may have heard of the term “dry drunk.” A dry drunk (or drug user) is someone who no longer drinks but who still exhibits behaviors synonymous with addiction. If you are a dry drunk, it doesn’t mean that you appear under the influence of substances without using. What it means is that even though the substance has been removed, you still behave the same. Learning how to modify negative feelings and behaviors is imperative in order to avoid becoming a “dry drunk.” This is achieved by focusing on your emotional sobriety.
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 it was something he believed in order to reach a true spiritual awakening. One of the best ways he described 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.”
Emotional sobriety refers to your emotional wellbeing after you have stopped actively abusing drugs or alcohol. You need to identify, address, and manage the negative behaviors/emotions connected to your substance abuse. Just because you stopped using does not mean that you are “healed” or “cured.” Addressing these issues is just as important as getting sober. How can you expect to make genuine changes in your life while still having negative feelings and poor behaviors? Emotional sobriety keeps you actively working on improving your emotional wellness and maturity.
Why is Emotional Sobriety Important?
Without being emotionally sober, you are going to continue experiencing distressing emotions with no resolve. You will keep behaving in ways that jeopardize your physical and psychological wellbeing. And, when these patterns remain after your use has stopped, they only set you up for failure.
Ending your substance abuse is a huge accomplishment and absolutely necessary if you want a second chance at life. But that will only take you so far. Your emotional sobriety is directly related to your success in recovery. It is arguably the most important part of your recovery and for the following reasons:
Being aware of your emotions 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. As you feel them, you will determine how to handle them. For some, emotional regulation comes from participation in CBT or other behavioral therapies. Others develop this skill from 12-Step meetings or through other therapeutic means. Knowing how to recognize and effectively manage your emotions keeps you from needing drugs or alcohol to mask them.
A major part of recovery is acceptance. You will work to accept that you are powerless over drugs or alcohol. You are encouraged to accept your past actions and strive to correct them if possible. You will also need to accept both the positive and negative emotions you feel in recovery. The greatest benefit of acceptance for emotional sobriety is no longer needing to keep fighting. All of your emotions are real and valid, and accepting them for what they are can bring you emotional stability.
Above all else, emotional sobriety is key to preventing relapse. If you take drugs and alcohol out of the equation but continue behaving the same way, not much is changing. Without effective change, you are bound to begin using it again. True change comes from focusing on your emotional needs. Address any anger or sadness you have. Spend time sorting out trauma. Establish ways to maintain happiness and contentment. This is the groundwork you need to do in order to prevent relapse.
Your emotional sobriety is critical to your recovery. When you focus on caring for and managing your emotions effectively, you can achieve true success.
Are You Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol and Need Help?
Being addicted to drugs or alcohol is extremely painful, distressing, and anxiety-provoking. As you continue to use, the effects become more severe and threatening. If you do not stop, you could head down a road that only leads to a dead end. In order to save your life, getting professional help is a must.
If you have gotten sober from your active addiction, that is a huge achievement. But, it is an empty achievement if you do not focus on your emotional and spiritual needs. 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 can become.
No matter if you are still using or if you are newly sober, reach out to us right now. We can help you get the care you need to live happy and sober.