The Importance of Emotional Sobriety

August 16, 2017

It's not just addicts who dream about being emotionally sober. It's everyone's dream to be able to be calm in stressful situations. Yet, for the addict, such transformations to higher levels of emotional well-being is a must. The addict population does not have the luxury that others do, to act out on their emotions. This is because the addictive personality could easily lead to a relapse. Read more about the addictive personality here. And for more on what happens after a relapse take a look at this article. In other words, addicts have to live spiritually, or live with the consequences of their addiction. As the AA adage sums, "live a spiritual life, or die a spiritual death is not always the easiest prospect in life. But, that’s the life of a recovering addict/alcoholic."

Many addicts are after a quick fix in recovery. The agenda to feel entitled to everything, even a spiritual experience; is on the table. First, they get physically sober. This is an important and worthy cause. Without the actual distancing from addiction, there is no recovery. Albeit vital for recovery, it only goes so far to ensure a worthwhile life, if it is not followed by a spiritual awakening. Read more on this phenomenon, here. But, if addicts expect a spiritual awakening as an entitlement from sobriety, it will not happen. To have a spiritual awakening in recovery, addicts need to be emotionally sober. They need to use the program to transcend their addictive personality. When they feel anger, stress, sadness, shame, and resentment; they need to find ways to accept it and let it go. Only by accepting what is, and surrendering to a power greater than themselves; will they find serenity in sanity. It's unconditional acceptance of reality that will create emotional sobriety. And it is emotional sobriety that will guarantee an enduring recovery.

What is a Spiritual Bypass?

The concept of a spiritual bypass is when we try to fix our emotions to avoid certain feelings. It's a subtle form of avoidance. For example, when pain arises, we meditate it away, pray it away, or even talk it away. For those in early sobriety, possibly it's important to talk. But, over time, spiritual bypasses may mean a reservation in recovery. For more on reservations, click here.Addicts will often confuse a program of recovery for a spiritual bypass. They will feel that if they work their program hard enough, they can avoid certain feelings like anger and sadness. But, that is just magical thinking. It is a cognitive distortion. For more on these distortions, read our article on "Stinking Thinking in recovery". To have a holistic and well-rounded recovery, emotional sobriety demands that we do not avoid feelings, but accept them as they are. Active addiction was a time of great avoidance. To allow recovery to play the same role as addiction once did; is to court a relapse.

The Importance of Emotional Sobriety 

There are some reasons why emotional sobriety is crucial for successful recovery. Without emotional sobriety, addicts are pretty much treading water or white-knuckling their sobriety. It's essential that addicts become emotionally sober in addition to physically sober.

First of all, emotions reveal our true selves. If addicts want to get in touch with their authenticity, the key, is to understand their feelings. Many addicts are intimacy anorexics. They do not want to talk about their feelings, and what causes those feelings. These subjects have been avoided amid a lifetime of addictive behaviour. Well, now in recovery, it's about time to learn what these hidden emotions tell the addict about themselves. It is by understanding the truth, that addicts will begin to emerge as authentic human beings. For more information on inauthenticity, read on the "Addiction Coping Mechanisms: The Masks We Wear Part I."

When people know themselves at the level of their feelings, they will have the ability to choose. Addicts have been living reactively. The addiction was a result of choicelessness. Being reactive individuals, addicts have never been able to make sound choices for themselves. But, when they are emotionally sober, addicts will be able to choose from a genuine and personal space. Their actions will no longer be influenced by the environment or others as it was in addiction. But, from a sense of self.

Emotional sobriety ensures freedom. Most addicts are biased individuals. They are easily swayed by the arguments that others have made. They lack a sense of their own convictions. Hence, they get easily wayward by the strong influences of the outside world. This is called codependency. For more on this, click here. The freedom from bias allows emotionally sober addicts to live free.

"And acceptance is the key to all my problems." This adage is never more true than in practicing emotional sobriety. Because emotionally sober addicts are accepting of what is. Having unconditional acceptance is difficult, but over time, it can be accomplished. When addicts can accept reality as it is, there is no cause for addictive behaviour.

Emotional sobriety keeps the addict mindful of his/her behaviour. Mindfulness is the present awareness of who we are, what we're doing, and how we're feeling in the moment. Read more on why it is a necessary tool for sobriety. It helps to keep tabs on addictive behaviour. Click on "Why Mindfulness is not a religious practice," to learn more about this subject. By being mindful, the emotionally sober addict can live with him/herself as they are.

The Key to Emotional Sobriety is a Sound Recovery Program

A sound recovery program is one where addicts are aware of their behaviours. In such programs, change is constant. The goal is to gain emotional sobriety. Physical sobriety is a prerequisite. So, the only stress on physical sobriety are relapse prevention measures. For more information on that, take a look at our article on "Relapse Prevention: Prevention and Tools for solid recoveries."  But, in the 12-steps, there is no relapse prevention except practicing a spiritually sound life. To do this, emotional sobriety is a must. Hence, working a 12-step program or any other recovery program is essential. These programs ought to stress unconditional acceptance of reality or each moment as they happen in recovery. For most, this journey towards emotional sobriety begins with treatment. But, it concludes with a spiritual awakening. Once emotionally sober, very few things will trigger a recurrence of addiction in spite of life's challenges.

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