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Importance of Becoming Emotionally Sober in Recovery


Physical Sobriety Might Not Be Enough

When substance abusers give up alcohol or drugs, they are taking a vital step towards a better life. The reality is, though, that just giving up this behaviour might not be enough to guarantee success. This is why it is often said that recovery is a process and not an event. Giving up alcohol or drugs is just the first step, and in order to find real happiness the individual will need to do more. One of the most important things they will need to do is to become emotionally sober.

What Does It Mean To Be Emotionally Sober?

One of the most common reasons for why people fall into substance abuse in the first place is that they feel unable to cope with life, or, to be more precise, they find it had to deal with their own emotions. Alcohol or drugs works by numbing the person’s emotions so that they do not really feel anything anymore. They are able to go through life as if they are in a fog all the time. When a person gives up alcohol or drugs, it can mean that they are back where they started and are still struggling to deal with their emotions. Unless they find an effective coping mechanism, they will either relapse or turn to new maladaptive behaviours. To say that the individual has become emotionally sober means that they are now able to feel their feelings – they no longer have the need to run away from them.

Dry Drunk Syndrome

If people become physically sober but not emotionally sober, they can develop a condition that is referred to as “dry drunk syndrome.” This is something that can occur to people recovering from drug abuse as well as alcohol. To say that a person is a dry drunk means that they are physically sober but in many other ways, they still behave is if they are still caught up in addiction. The symptoms of dry drunk syndrome can include:

  • The individual is pessimistic about their future
  • They tend to hold a negative outlook most of the time
  • This person may treat recovery almost like a prison sentence
  • They will tend to be cynical about recovery and life in general
  • Prone to anger outbursts
  • They continue to behave unethically – for example, lying and trying to cheap people
  • They engage in Schadenfruede – enjoying the suffering of other people
  • They may engage in new maladaptive behaviours
  • They will tend to be closed minded, dogmatic, and arrogant
  • They can be difficult to be around because of their negativity and bad behaviour
  • They will tend to be manipulative
  • They are likely to feel disappointed by recovery and possibly even betrayed

If the individual is dealing with dry drunk syndrome, it will prevent them from getting the most out of their recovery. Even if they manage to remain sober, it will not be that great a life. The cure of this type of behaviour is to develop emotional sobriety.

Signs of Emotional Sobriety

When people are emotionally sober, they will show signs of this including:

  • The person will generally have a positive attitude towards life. They are optimistic about the future.
  • They will not try to hide from their emotions
  • They find it easier to live in the present moment
  • This person will have more time to think about other people. They are not always self-absorbed and caught up in their own little dramas.
  • The emotionally sober will usually get to avoid the emotional extremes. This is important because it is these extremes that can fuel the substance abuse.
  • The individual does not live in fear of their emotions. They know that they will be able to cope with whatever comes their way in life.
  • This person is likely to have a good deal of serenity because of their ability to deal with life on life’s terms.
  • This person is nice to be around. They will tend to attract people and find it easy to make new friends.
  • This individual will be able to deal with high levels of stress. They have terrific coping mechanisms that mean they can make it through even the hardest times.

How to Develop Emotional Sobriety

Becoming physically sober is relatively easy – all the individual needs to do is stop using alcohol and drugs. It takes a good deal more effort for people to become emotionally sober, and this is not something that is going to happen overnight. Some of the things that the individual will need to do in order to develop emotional sobriety will include:

  • The keys to becoming emotional sober is the willingness to deal with life on life’s terms. This means that the individual stops trying to run away from their emotions but instead learns to deal with them. Life is a great teacher, but the individual cannot learn anything unless they are willing to engage with reality.
  • Emotional sobriety requires that the individual keeps an open mind and is willing to change. The old way of doing things brought the individual into a world of suffering, so they need to be willing to let go of all of that.
  • The person needs to develop a different attitude towards the stresses and challenges in life. They need to see that these discomforts are really the key by which they will be able to develop emotional sobriety. It will mean that by facing these difficulties, the person will be able to grow emotionally. They will pick up new coping strategies along the way as they deal with these challenges, and there will come a day when they have enough strategies to be able to deal with almost anything.
  • Another important element of developing emotional sobriety is spending time with the right people. In AA, they talk about how you should “stick with the winners,” and this is excellent advice. Humans are highly influenced by the people they spend their time with.

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