While some people think that the term “emotional sobriety” means feeling good while abstaining from drugs and alcohol, it’s more accurate to define emotional sobriety as the ability to feel good and bad feelings.
Substance abuse often starts and continues as a way of masking unwanted emotions such as anxiety, anger, disappointment, and fear. Maintaining emotional sobriety makes it possible for men and women to experience feelings without getting so overwhelmed that they return to substance abuse.
Anyone finding it difficult to remain sober should explore these three ways to maintain emotional sobriety. There is a good chance that at least one strategy will work well.
Mindfulness focuses on remaining in the present. Through daily meditation, people learn to recognize thoughts that lead to unwanted behaviors. For example, an alcoholic may learn that thoughts of inadequacy lead to anxiety, which makes him or her want to drink.
By practicing mindfulness, recovering addicts often discover that negative emotions don’t last forever. A person can learn to experience feelings like fear and anxiety without judging them. Knowing that the feelings will pass helps keep the emotions in perspective.
Mindfulness also teaches people that they don’t have to let thoughts dictate their behaviors. A woman who feels frightened doesn’t have to drink. She can separate her internal behaviors from her external behaviors. Even if she cannot change her feelings, she can change how she responds to her feelings.
Popular mindfulness exercises include:
- Mindful breathing.
- Mindful observation.
- Mindful walking.
- Mindful meditation.
- Mindful eating.
Regular exercise offers countless health benefits, including those related to mental health. Exercise and emotional sobriety have a chemical connection. When people exercise, their brains produce more endorphins, a neurotransmitter that interacts with opiate receptors to create feelings of safety, love, and relaxation.
Exercise does more than increase endorphins. It also lowers levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Practically any type of exercise can help people maintain emotional sobriety. Men and women who are physically fit enough to walk or jog can get tremendous benefits from cardiovascular exercises. Those with health problems that prevent vigorous exercise can try options like gardening, stretching, and even household chores.
Join a Reliable Support Network
Overwhelming emotions can make it difficult for recovering addicts to control their behaviors. Mindfulness works well, but sometimes people need to hear supportive advice from an outside voice.
Joining a reliable support network is key to maintaining emotional sobriety. It’s one of the reasons that 12-Step programs are so popular. When a recovering addict feels that he or she cannot resist using, the person can turn to others for help.
Twelve-Step groups aren’t the only options for reliable support networks. Many people get emotional support from their families, church groups, and friends.
Serenity View Recovery Center alumni can connect with each other online and in real life when they need help abstaining.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, recovering addicts need support networks that encourage them to make healthy decisions and stay sober. If you are struggling with sobriety, please contact us at Serenity View. We are here to help.
Emotional sobriety helps to maintain overall sobriety. When people learn to reduce negative emotions, accept emotions that they can’t control, and ask for help from members of their support group, they dramatically improve their chances of staying sober for a lifetime.