You might be confused if you have never seen or heard the term “emotional sobriety” before. Emotional sobriety? It conjures up images of people sitting with straight faces, looking bored. Or perhaps you imagine the opposite of emotional sobriety: emotional intoxication. Emotional intoxication might make you think of someone madly in love. He is so intoxicated with desire that they can’t sleep at night, and can’t think of anything else besides the person he loves.
Emotional sobriety means acting and behaving in a calm, deliberate manner without the aid of drugs and alcohol. Quitting drugs and alcohol is only the beginning! It has been said that drug and alcohol abuse are merely symptoms of underlying psychological or mental issues. After a person ceases drinking and drugging, all the issues resurface, and no longer can the addict or alcoholic flee from his feelings using substances.
These “underlying issues” might be simple things everyone can understand like feeling restless, irritable, or discontent. They might be diagnosable diseases such as social anxiety or even schizophrenia, patients of which suffer from higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse.
In early recovery, many find themselves unable to cope with reality without returning to their old coping mechanisms of getting g drunk or high. This results in “emotional intoxication…” not the aforementioned feeling of being in love, but the intoxication of rage. Anger can yield a “spike” in brain activity, related to spikes in brain activity induced by drugs and alcohol. This means fits of rage can produce rewarding and reinforcing effects, in a crudely similar way to the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse.
Some call the state of being free from drugs and alcohol, but still exhibiting the same behaviors of negative feelings associated with drug and alcohol abuse, being a “dry drunk.” Meaning, you’re still a drunk, you’re just not drinking.
Early recovery can be hell. Anger and resentment can consume the individual. Minor nuisances become tremendous day-ruining issues. Many recovering addicts and alcoholics frequently mention common annoyances of life as major sources of stress and anxiety, such as waiting in line at the supermarket, or being passed on the highway by a rude driver.
After investing enough time and effort into their recovery, many recovering addicts and alcoholics can achieve emotional sobriety. This is the peaceful state of mind of a person with solid and reliable coping mechanisms. Emotional sobriety is not getting upset at the fact that every other line at the grocery store is moving faster than yours because the old lady in front of you decided to pay for her groceries with a check. Emotional sobriety is changing lanes to the right so the maniac driving at 85 miles per hour in a 55 zone can fly past you on your left.
Coping mechanisms can include something done silently and internally like prayer, meditation, counting to ten, or breathing exercises. They can also include calling a friend or sponsor, exercise, going to 12-step program meetings, or even something like watching TV or playing video games until the anger or other negative emotions subside.
Emotional sobriety is obtainable for anyone who is tired of being unable to cope with reality without drinking or taking drugs; all it takes is a little effort and patience. Try asking others in recovery what methods they have used successfully to gain some peace and calm in their lives.