There’s no way around it: sobriety is never easy. The process of breaking free from an addiction to drugs, from fighting against physical cravings to changing habits and hobbies to avoid drug culture, is a huge undertaking, effectively demanding a completely new and different way of life. For most individuals struggling to recover from addiction, the physical bonds are of the utmost importance. Resisting the urge to use, working through the painful components of withdrawal, and continuing to relearn a new way to live is often priority number one, putting emotional health squarely on the back burner. However, this can be a mistake, especially for those who ultimately want to lower their risk of relapse as much as possible.
Emotional sobriety can be just as important as physical sobriety, helping those in recovery to regulate emotion and mood in order to control urges and focus on continued abstinence. No matter the perceived strength in your convictions, the art of emotional sobriety can be your ticket to holding strong during the early stages of recovery.
What is Emotional Sobriety?
Emotional sobriety refers to the complex transformation that must occur for recovering individuals to properly cope with feelings that arise during day to day life as well as feelings related to drug and alcohol use.
Humans have an inherent drive to minimize and eliminate painful realities, instead choosing to focus on more uplifting sensations. However, in recovery, this isn’t always possible. Feelings that were previously masked with drugs and alcohol must now be confronted in the cold light of day, leading to an internal weakness that can drive the urge to use again. Truly overcoming the pain of addiction, the drivers behind addictive behaviors, and the important changes sobriety demands isn’t something that can be brushed under the mat; instead, substance abusers must come to terms with what they are feeling and why they feel the way they do.
In order to truly break the cycle and avoid relapse, it’s critical for patients to get in touch with their emotions, both positive and negative. Rather than letting feelings define actions, positive emotional health involves managing feelings to avoid rash, unpredictable, or self-harming behavior.
The Importance of Emotional Sobriety
The months and years immediately following rehabilitation is often a fragile period of time. A recovering addict’s ties to sobriety are often tenuous and easily broken, and a few wrong steps can be all it takes to erase a developing pattern of good behavior.
Many addicts unaware of the importance of emotional health pull the metaphorical car over when detox is done, assuming they are finished with the process of overcoming addiction and subsequently have nowhere left to go. Those striving for emotional sobriety, however, keep pressing forward, continuing on the road to a better future, even when conditions get tough.
Emotional sobriety is a big part of continued success in the time following professional rehabilitation, helping to tame destructive behavior and guiding patients toward productive, healthy decisions. Learning how to interpret, utilize, and cope with the fluctuating and extreme sensations that govern addiction is often a long, slow process, but without effectively doing so, relapse becomes significantly more likely.
Achieving Emotional Sobriety
Like many elements in recovery, emotional sobriety is an individual journey. What works for one person may not work for another, creating a truly personal process that requires time, attention, and focus.
For many, taming emotions rather than giving in to them is very uncomfortable. After years of feeding negative feelings with drugs or alcohol, recovering addicts must learn how to stop problematic trains of thought, redirect dark patterns, and actively work to minimize the physiological effects that can come with stress and anxiety.
Tactics for managing emotional stability include:
A practice that uses long, slow, deep breaths to center the mind, promote relaxation, and focus on the present, meditation has many health benefits, from managing stress to relieving anxiety and depression. When problematic emotions begin to arise, defaulting to meditation can help struggling patients to clear the mind, release tension, and calm bodily responses to stress. This can keep emotions under control, giving patients tools to prevent bad decisions.
Use of a Support Network
A support network is a valuable part of recovery, offering an outlet through which recovering substance users can receive unwavering assistance throughout a quest for sobriety. When negative feelings begin to dominate, speaking with loved ones and other members of the recovery process can help to set those emotions aside. Instead of giving in to the urge to use, for example, a member of your support system can remind you how hard you’re working and how proud you should be of your successes.
Mindfulness refers to the ability to be fully present and aware in life. Instead of allowing thoughts and ideas to become jumbled and disorganized, mindfulness advocates setting aside obsessive, anxious, or erratic feelings in favor of embracing the here and now. When thoughts drift to past mistakes, future stressors, or unimportant actions, mindfulness reminds us to focus on only what can be controlled in a given moment, releasing anxiety in favor of controlled feelings.
Emotional grounding uses positive feelings to counteract negative ones. When, for example, unhealthy thoughts begin to interfere, individuals are encouraged to instead fixate on the good things in life, like a steady job, happy relationships, or a comfortable home. In time, focusing on accomplishments and positive aspects of sobriety will overtake the challenges in remaining sober, helping users to shift feelings in a healthy way.
While not all addicts are religious, those who are can benefit from incorporating spiritual practices into the recovery process. A key tenet in the 12 Steps, spirituality can help recovering addicts to accept “the things you cannot change” while pulling strength from a higher power. Bible study, church services, and worship groups can assist with this process, helping substance abusers to put energy and focus into a force of good.
Emotional Support in Rehabilitation
In many comprehensive rehabilitation programs, emotional health is prioritized just as strongly as physical health. In addition to a detox process that utilizes medical resources to treat withdrawal, highly trained counselors are available to help patients target the key issues that drive addiction, identify healthy coping methods, and teach strategies for self-love and self-confidence that can further emotional sobriety. This process is wholly unique from one patient to another, offering support in a way that speaks to personal life events, addictive habits, lifestyle, and drug of choice. At the completion of a treatment program, patients are armed with the resources necessary to continue to move forward with a focus on emotional health and well-being.
The Treatment Center’s Outpatient Services team employs numerous forms of counseling in both group and individual formats, encouraging patients to grow together while continuing to foster independent progress. Our options include:
- Intensive trauma work
- Group counseling
- Family therapy
- Relaxation training
- 12-Step groups
- Spiritual guidance
Our goal is to provide a holistic approach to recovery, offering a full suite of customizable services that can ensure those in need receive personalized guidance.
Get Help Your for Addiction
Recovery from addiction is a long, challenging road. When you are seeking assistance to help you focus on both physical and emotional health, Outpatient Services is here. Please contact us at (844)211-7944 for a confidential consultation.