Emotional Sobriety

Physical Sobriety vs. Emotional Sobriety

Just getting sober is not enough, in the broad scheme of things. There is a huge difference between being sober physically from drugs and alcohol and sober emotionally from the thinking and behaviors that lead us to use in the first place.

Putting down the drugs and alcohol is certainly the first step towards a sober life, but it’s really just the beginning. Living a life marked by regrets, fears, and resentment is not a truly SOBER life. To be really one hundred percent sober, we also have to be emotionally sober. Emotional sobriety means not re-creating past traumas, not using drugs and alcohol to cope, being able to take life as it comes and live life on life’s terms.

Some signs of a lack of emotional sobriety:
Outbursts of anger, unable to control strong emotional responses.
Inability to “roll with the punches”
Unable to live in the present and let go of old wounds and resentments
Inability to engage in deeply emotional relationships
Desire to self-medicate to alleviate discomfort
Overly sensitive and unable to be objective

Sometimes in sobriety we achieve emotional sobriety and then backslide. One can  be sober for twenty years and still fall back into a space where they are no longer emotionally sober. This is called being dry, and being dry is often described as being even worse than being in the the midst of addiction. When someone is dry, they are completely unable to handle life as it comes, they no longer have the tools or ability to deal with life. They are miserable. At least in using there are drugs and alcohol to help combat feelings, but when dry in sobriety there is nothing to alleviate the pain, anxiety, or disease. If you suspect that you might be in a dry place or on your way towards one regardless of whether you have three weeks clean or three years, consider doing the following:

1. Get to meetings
Go back to the basics. Try doing 90 meetings in 90 days (or as close to this as possible). Re-connect your self with a network of people who can support and and guide you.

2. Share with another alcoholic
It is amazing what just talking about your feelings and thoughts can do for your emotional and mental well-being. Get back to talking instead of holding things in. Only by bringing issues to light can we process and let go of them.

3. Call your sponsor
Start making a habit of calling your sponsor daily. When we stop connecting with our sponsor, it becomes easier and easier to go days and then weeks and perhaps months without speaking to them. If they no longer have what you want, find a new sponsor. Find someone who has what you want, someone who will hold you accountable.

4. Reach out
If you are struggling, call someone. This goes along with sharing and calling your sponsor, but it deserves to have it’s own category. Even if it’s 2am, there will be someone out there who will pick up their phone and help. Do not sit in your feelings, and do not act on them. AA is all about connection and solution.

5. Help others
Sometimes the best way to heal yourself is to help others. By focusing on other people and their problems, you can get out of your own head and into solution. Helping others can also raise your self-esteem and remind you of why you love being sober and how good you can truly feel when you are truly emotionally and physically sober.

6. Listen to your body
Get plenty of rest and exercise and try to eat healthy. It is amazing what kind of an impact eating poorly or not sleeping enough can have on your emotional well-being and emotional sobriety.

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