There’s a common saying in recovery groups, it says that someone relapses in their head long before they go back to using drugs or alcohol. While this has been a concept in AA and NA meetings for a long time, many recovering addicts that have never seen the inside of an anonymous meeting aren’t aware of what emotional sobriety actual is. In this article, we’re going to take a look at emotional sobriety and the effect it can have on the success of addiction help.
When someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol their entire way of thinking and acting will change over time. That’s because substance abuse greatly skews our priorities as human beings. People in the throws of addiction still value relationships, career goals, and personal growth, but they value those things less than feeding their addiction. While this isn’t true for all substance abusers, it is a common trend that only grows stronger as addiction takes a stronger hold.
Unfortunately, even after some receives addiction help, they can still hold onto those past behaviors. Undervaluing the things that make life worth living, and compromising their physical, mental, and emotional health through addictive behavior. Emotional sobriety is what happens when you overcome those thought patterns and start to engage in a lifestyle that lets emotional balance and health thrive.
Emotional sobriety doesn’t mean someone is happy all the time. Emotional sobriety doesn’t suddenly remove the turmoil and natural tribulations that life throws at us. Instead, emotional sobriety is about building a structure, a life, that allows you more chances to feel positive. Working towards emotional sobriety means going beyond addiction help to alter our behaviors into a more emotional healthy lifestyle. It can be hard to visualize what an emotional sober person looks like, but it’s actually very easy to visualize the other side of the spectrum. Then near perfect inverse of emotional sobriety is commonly referred to as a “dry drunk.”
While the term “dry drunk” is a bit of slang, it does accurately paint a picture of the type of person it refers to. A dry drunk is someone who no longer drinks or uses drugs, but otherwise continues to engage in the behaviors of an alcoholic or drug addict. You may not have recognized it at the time, but you have almost definitely run into dry drunks before. They are generally rigid in their thinking, resentful of what life has thrown at them, they have trouble expressing their emotions, they feel the world owes them, blame others for their emotional states, and generally look back upon their addiction through a strangely romantic lens. And believe it or not, there are people that exhibit all of these behaviors, but have never touched a drug or drink. Likewise, everyone could do more to obtain emotional sobriety, even people who have never had addiction help.
Change starts when we are able to recognize and admit the negative aspects of our personality and lifestyle. You can change something if you don’t know what you are trying to change. That means taking an honest look at who we are and noting the aspects of ourselves that we need to work on. This is a lot easier said then done, and in many cases outside help is needed. That’s why treatment centers and medical professionals alike largely agree that therapy is something that the vast majority of the population would benefit from. That being said, you don’t necessarily need to get professional help to start working towards emotional sobriety, instead you can take another look at the concept of a dry drunk and start working towards the other direction. Instead of remaining rigid in your thinking, you could try to open your mind to other ideas. Instead of resenting what life gives you, you could take on challenges as they come. Instead of blaming others for your emotional state, you can start to take responsibility for your own emotions and learn how to better express them. And instead of looking back at your addiction with rose colored glasses, you can hold onto the pain of hitting rock bottom. Yes, it is important to move on and to not let the trials of yesterday hold you back from enjoying today, but its also important to remember the pain that led you to seeking addiction help in the first place. If we forget about the mistakes we made in the past, what is stopping us from repeating those mistakes in the future? The unfortunate answer is that we can’t let go of the past. We need to remember that pain, but we also need to learn how to stop wallowing in our own pity. We need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, without forgetting the lessons those mistakes taught us. If you can manage to do that, then you are that much closer to obtaining an emotional sober mindset.