The addiction recovery process is not a piece of cake by any means. Once physical sobriety is achieved, along comes a vital aspect of recovery that can cause us to either sink or swim – emotional sobriety.
As addicts and alcoholics, we have always had an exceptionally difficult time acknowledging our emotions, coping with them and accepting them. We have a habit of unconsciously protecting ourselves from pain and suffering with defense mechanisms that have usually failed us. It is scientifically proven that our emotions impact our thinking much more than our thinking impacts our emotions. This is because of the limbic system in our brains – the part responsible for sending signals to our cortex which affects how we think and perceive things. Emotional sobriety has a lot to do with being able to regulate our thoughts and emotions and roll with the punches in life. The thing about recovery is that when we started using drugs and alcohol, we stunted our mental growth. The process of getting sober is about maturing and learning how to handle things in an adult manner. For so long, we used alcohol and drugs as crutches when our emotions became too much to handle. And it is difficult once we do finally get sober to pinpoint exactly what it is that we are feeling and why. Who can deny that feeling bad is uncomfortable? I certainly can’t especially being an alcoholic.
From my personal experience in early recovery, feeling angry, sad, lonely or depressed was terrible. Immediately, I would try to do something to ease my pain. Since our main vices are gone, we do what we know best; to get that quick fix. This is not being emotionally sober. We do not need a quick fix anymore. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, teaches us to love ourselves; to be patient, kind, accepting, and honest people. The 9th step talks about how we will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us. This refers to emotional sobriety because in the beginning of our journey in recovery, we felt the world was ending when a minuscule part of our lives didn’t go as planned.
Acceptance is key to maintaining emotional sobriety because the reality of life is that things are not always going to go as planned. It is important to know that it is perfectly human and acceptable to feel sadness, rage, anger, or irritability from time to time. Being able to feel these feelings and know that they will pass without behaving in a way that will suppress these feelings, is a sign of having good emotional sobriety.
Our issues don’t just magically wither away to nothing when we sweep them under the rug. Eventually, they come back to us, even worse than before when we ignore our emotions. In Alcoholics Anonymous, you may often hear the terms “happy, joyous, and free” which sounds enticing for the newcomer to the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous; however, that is not all sobriety is. Life challenges happen to us whether we are using drugs and alcohol or not. What really makes our recovery is how we handle life when things don’t go as we planned. Sometimes we lose jobs, relationships fail, we lose loved ones, but the fact that we can feel these emotions and not pick up a drink or drug says a lot about our emotional sobriety. It is important that when these things happen, we do not use other behaviors or external things to make us feel good like overeating, under eating, being enraged, stealing, becoming promiscuous, spending unnecessary amounts of money, etc. When we do engage in these types of behaviors due to not being able to regulate our emotions, we inch closer and closer to that next drink or drug. That is why it is so important to ask ourselves daily what we are doing to maintain our emotional sobriety.
How can one maintain emotional centeredness? Developing a routine of self-care and nurturing would be to your utmost benefit when it comes to your emotional sobriety. Incorporating physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet, engaging in social events and processing your feelings with others are parts of your routine called your daily reprieve. Being aware of our emotional state puts us in a position of power. It allows us to make a wise and rational choice as to how and what we are going to do to deal with how we are feeling. Most importantly, it helps us allow ourselves to feel the way we feel and to be aware that it is okay to have feelings.
Getting Help at Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.