Emotional Sobriety is often overlooked in the world of recovery. I seldom hear about the emotional side of recovery in the rooms, 12 steps, sponsorship etc, yet I have found this to be the key for me to stay sober. It is just as important as any other part of my recovery. I define this element as the ability to channel all mental responses, such as joy, sadness, and anger, into positive outcome. Webster’s definition: Emotion is the subjective, internal experience by an individual of a group of biological reactions arising in response to some situation (as opposed to the emotion being consciously willed to occur). There is a feeling, or affective, response (sadness, anger, joy), a physiological response (changes in internal bodily functioning), a cognitive response (an interpretation of the situation), and possibly also a behavioral response (an outward expression).
I see emotional balance as being a key foundation of true sobriety and recovery. I have been sober for 10 1/2 years and most of the relapses I have witnessed is because of a lack of emotional sobriety. If you are reading this material then most likely you have, sometime in you life, allowed your emotions take you down a path that has been very unhealthy. For example, you had a bad day at work and instead of going to the gym and eating a low fat healthy dinner, you went straight home, ate pizza, and a half-gallon of ice cream and sat on the couch to watch your favorite TV show. Or for a true alcoholic and drug addict like me I might turn to porn, sex, gambling or even into a relapse of my drug of choice which was vodka and xanex. There are a million examples and excuses we use to give ourselves instant comfort and emotional relief.
I often go through tough times in life. The key to success is to channel what we see as pleasure and discomfort. If we are discouraged or depressed eating junk food and drinking alcohol will be toxic and poison to our bodies and our souls.. This will only bring us long-term discomfort and pain. I must pause in that moment and ask ourselves what is the SOLUTION to my discomfort? Most likely the logical answer is to do something good and healthy for yourself. A natural chemical hormone is released in your brain when you exercise called endorphins and serotonin. This is a hormone that gives you a feeling of well-being. This is the “natural high” in life. Find the relief you seek in the natural, not the unnatural such as toxic foods and alcohol. Ask yourself, “is the next 60 seconds of pleasure eating or the next couple hours of taking that drug of choice worth the long term pain of being even more miserable or soul sick?” Pause when agitated. I must walk the action all the way through before we act on our emotions. How will I feel in a few hours or tomorrow if I enjoy the escape now? The answer is always much worse.
The solution is drop to our knees and pray to a higher power to relieve us of our crazy thoughts – our false illusions of reality. Call your sponsor in recovery, get to a recovery meeting, share your thoughts with others (we are only sick as our secrets), exercise for at least 20 minutes aggressively, eat a good meal, try to laugh out loud and get some rest. If we do this instead of giving in to escaping in the junk of the world we grow and become stronger in the solution of recovery
The most powerful thing O can do to create or keep Emotional Sobriety is to move into a place of gratitude. I learned my first 2 months pf sobriety to practice gratitude even if I think I have nothing to be grateful for. The first thing my sponsor had me do in the entire recovery process is to get on my knees every morning and and say out loud to my higher power 5 things I was grateful for. I started out saying thank you for a bed to sleep in, food to eat, water to drink, love in my life, recovery ,meetings to go to, eyes to see out of etc. I did this 2 times per day and after day 30 I really started to feel a shift deep inside me. I felt a healing taking place. I started feeling warm and loving inside. Hope and excitement started to grow in me. After 4 months of doing this along with working the 12 steps of recovery, I can say I felt JOY for the first time in my life living in an Oxford house with 5 sober guys in the ghetto in Aurora, CO. I learned what Emotional Sobriety really was at that time and how to use that tool to get back to it whenever I fall into my selfishness of life.
My motto is “Don’t let life circumstance and emotion dictate proper action”. In other words don’t let the way you feel change the things you should be doing each day. If you are involved in a recovery program don’t let your emotions and feelings keep you from following the plan of recovery.. Make a commitment to yourself, loved ones and God that you will follow the footsteps of LIFE not death no matter if you have a bad day or not.