I heard the term emotional sobriety a lot when I was new, and recently it was a topic at my home group. It was actually very helpful for me, because at the time I was wondering why I had such an incredibly hard time with my feelings of entitlement, jealousy, and judgment in particular.
I thought I must have been doing something wrong, or not doing something at all that was making me feel that way. But the reality was, I was being completely normal.
What is emotional sobriety?
For me, I now have the understanding that emotional sobriety is more about the actual ability to feel my feelings and less about figuring out why I am feeling “good” or “bad”. I used to think that if I wasn’t feeling “happy, joyous and free” then I was doing the program incorrectly. But really, it was more about how I was feeling in the present moment. How am I feeling right now? And what about now? Am I present for all of my feelings and not letting them affect my actions?
A lot of what emotional sobriety is for me is the ability to tolerate what it is I am feeling. It’s about the ability I now have to stay sober and not make a bad choice despite what I am currently feeling. It means that I no longer blame my program or myself just because life happens to be challenging at the present moment. It means I have the ability to take action, whether it is prayer, meditation, or simply a conversation with another alcoholic in order to better understand why I am feeling that way rather than beating myself up for it.
Walking through emotions, not avoiding them
The notion I first had of ‘emotional sobriety’ was that at some point into my time being sober I would ride cloud nine; that emotions and feelings would come easy for me and leave just as easy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Emotional sobriety, for me, is how I deal with feelings, not how I manage to avoid or not have them. I realized that all of those things that I were feeling were completely normal but that I was dealing with them appropriately despite emotions they evoked in me.
What does emotional sobriety look like for you?