Life can be a real struggle if people are unable to handle their emotions. Their lack of emotional maturity makes it impossible to find real happiness. It also means that these individuals will be more likely to engage in maladaptive behaviors such as substance abuse. They turn to chemicals as a means to escape the pain caused by their emotions. When people become addicted to alcohol or drugs, there can be no further emotional development. They become stuck. When the individual finally gives up alcohol or drugs, they will need to once again focus on their emotional development. If they fail to do so, they will struggle to build a comfortable life away from their addiction. Emotional sobriety does not mean that the individual escapes unpleasant emotions. It just means that they are no longer such a victim to their emotions.
Emotional sobriety can be described as the ability to deal with feelings positively. The individual who is emotionally sober might not always be walking around bursting with joy, but they will no longer be such a victim of their emotions. This type of sobriety can be defined as the ability of to feel their feelings. The individual who is emotionally sober no longer has the urge to escape their feelings by climbing into a bottle or sticking a needle in their arm. They are willing to deal with whatever comes their way because they have a deep inner strength that they can rely on. Emotional sobriety is closely linked to serenity, an unshakable sense of inner peace that people can find in recovery.
These are some of the signs of emotional sobriety:
* An ease living in the present moment without most of the time thinking about the past or planning for the future
* An ability to regulate behavior, which makes a person less likely to fall into addiction or other self-destructive patterns
* An ability to cope regardless of the vicissitudes of life and stress
* A decreased likelihood of becoming the victim of strong emotions
* They do not use any substance to the extent that it might cause them harm.
* An ability to face life without succumbing to extreme moods
* Holding a positive perspective despite what is happening in life
* The ability to develop deep and meaningful relationships with other people
* Decreased suffering from mental and physical problems that are brought on by too much stress
People develop emotional maturity through living life and facing problems. Most addicts begin to abuse alcohol or drugs while they are still young, so this means that they fail to mature emotionally. This type of development cannot occur when people are numbing their brains with chemicals. This means that addicts are emotionally immature, which is something they will need to deal with once they become sober.
When people are sober but have not achieved any level of emotional sobriety, they can be described as a dry drunk. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they talk about people who have not touched a drink in years but have still not managed to get sober. Those who are in the midst of dry drunk syndrome find a life without alcohol to be similar to serving a prison term. They may be full of anger and resentment, and their behavior can be almost as bad as when they were abusing alcohol and drugs.
Those who have not achieved much emotional sobriety will:
* Hardly live in the present moment
* Struggle to regulate their own behavior, which means that they do things that harm themselves and other people
* Have difficulty with the challenges of life and may resort to maladaptive coping strategies such as work addiction or exercise addiction
* Become victim to their own emotions
* Give up one addiction and begin abusing other substances
* Feel like they are living on an emotional rollercoaster
* Experience a great deal of negativity
* Find it hard to develop healthy relationships
Early sobriety is sometimes described as an emotional rollercoaster. Once the individual stops suppressing their emotions with chemicals, these feelings can resurface intensely. One of the most important tasks of early sobriety is to learn how to handle emotions. If the individual fails to learn how to manage them effectively, they will be tempted to return to addiction. The most dangerous emotions for people in recovery include:
* Excessive joy
* Anger and resentment
These are some of the habits people can adopt to develop emotional sobriety:
* Mindfulness meditation can be a highly effective tool for helping people to develop a healthier relationship with their emotions. It encourages the individual to focus on the present moment and to observe how emotions rise and fall away again. The meditator begins to see that their emotions are impermanent, and that it is possible to react differently towards them. This means that the individual no longer needs to feel like they are a victim of their emotions.
* Facing and overcoming challenges in life is the natural way that people develop emotional sobriety. Those who are recovering from an addiction find that their path is full of challenges. Every time that the individual faces one of these problems, it adds to their maturity. This is why it is beneficial to view these challenges in life as a chance to grow. Those who refuse to deal with the obstacles in their path either relapse back to addiction or become a dry drunk.
* Keeping a recovery journal can be beneficial for people who are attempting to develop emotional sobriety. One of the great advantages of journaling is that it gives people the opportunity to more closely examine their experiences. It also means that they can chart their progress and notice improvements. Emotional maturity does not occur overnight. It can happen so slowly that people fail to see that they are making progress. Keeping a journal prevents people from becoming disillusioned, because it reminds them of how far they have come.
* Spending time with people who are already emotional sober can be inspiring and motivational. Humans are highly influenced by their peer group. This is when in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous they suggest that members stick with the winners.
* Using a program like the 12 Steps can help some people develop emotional sobriety. The founder of AA, Bill W., defined emotional sobriety as the next frontier for people who had escaped alcoholism. He did fear that the 12 Steps alone might not be enough to ensure emotional sobriety but believed it would bring people a long way along the path.
* Some individuals find that therapy can be a great asset in their quest to create a meaningful life away from addiction. The therapist can act as a guide and assist the individual in making good choices that will lead to emotional sobriety.
* As people progress in their recovery, they develop effective coping strategies. They do this through a process of trial and error. Some people view these coping strategies as being similar to tools in a toolbox. Once the individual has accumulated enough tools, they will be able to handle almost anything that life throws at them. It can be helpful to think of serenity and emotional sobriety as being similar to having a full toolbox.
* If people have unrealistic expectations for emotional sobriety, they can fail to appreciate how much of it they have already developed. It does not imply that the individual will be walking around full of bliss all the time and completely unruffled by problems in life. It just means that, during times of high emotion, the individual has a bit more control.