Emotional Sobriety: What Is It & How Do I Practice It?

What Is Emotional Sobriety and How Do I Practice It?

Emotional sobriety, a term originated in the 12-step community, goes beyond the concept of merely abstaining from addictive substances. While physical sobriety focuses on the cessation of substance use, emotional sobriety equips a person with the necessary skills to maintain this state of non-dependence. It’s a crucial component in the journey to recovery, fostering resilience and preventing relapse by addressing the emotional factors that often underpin addiction.

What is Emotional Sobriety?

Emotional sobriety goes beyond the absence of addictive substances. It is about developing a skill set that enables a person to manage their emotions in a healthy way, preventing them from resorting to substances as a coping mechanism. 

This vital aspect of recovery is all about learning to regulate negative feelings, which if left unmanaged, can cause discomfort, cravings, and potentially relapse. The development of emotional sobriety is a lifelong project, requiring a shift in the way one perceives life’s challenges.

According to an article in Scientific American by Wray Herbert, there are two main ways of regulating emotions, both of which play a role in the journey towards emotional sobriety. In the early stages of recovery, the focus is on cognitive disengagement, a strategy that involves distracting the mind from thoughts of substances and cravings. This approach is succinctly summarized by the recovery maxim, “Don’t think and don’t drink.”

As the individual progresses in their recovery journey, a second approach comes into play. This involves a more thoughtful, engaged method of emotional regulation, where individuals begin to rethink their relationship with the triggers that could potentially cause them to relapse. 

This strategy involves acknowledging negative thoughts and emotions and working on ways to reduce their impact. Finding balance between cognitive disengagement and cognitive engagement is part of the process of achieving long-term emotional sobriety.

Strategies for Achieving Emotional Sobriety

During treatment, individuals have an opportunity to develop the skills necessary for maintaining emotional sobriety. These skills are cultivated through various strategies, including:

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is a cornerstone of most treatment programs aiming to foster emotional sobriety. It encompasses several types of therapeutic treatments where the common thread is a focus on identifying and changing potentially self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors.

The premise behind behavioral therapy is the assumption that all behaviors are learned and that unhealthy behaviors can be changed. It is a solution-focused approach that deals with the individual’s current problems and strategies, rather than focusing on past experiences.

There are several types of behavioral therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), among others. All of these therapies can help an individual reach physical and emotional sobriety. 

This is why many drug and alcohol rehab facilities offer dual diagnosis programs, which treat addiction and mental health simultaneously. Dual diagnosis is the epitome of both physical and emotional sobriety because both the addiction and the psychological underpinnings are addressed.

Accepting Emotions

Addiction often leaves individuals grappling with negative emotions such as shame, guilt, anxiety, and fear about the future. It is essential to accept these emotions – both positive and negative – as a part of the recovery process. Emotional sobriety involves recognizing these emotions, accepting them, and learning to manage them effectively rather than being overwhelmed by them.

Community Support

Participation in peer group meetings like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can foster feelings of camaraderie and provide valuable support. This sense of community can bolster emotional sobriety and motivate individuals towards success in their recovery journey.

Holistic Therapies

Holistic addiction therapies complement traditional behavioral therapies in promoting emotional sobriety. By cultivating mindfulness – the ability to live in the present moment – these therapies can help individuals avoid the pitfall of dwelling on past experiences or future uncertainties that can undermine recovery efforts. Techniques such as yoga, meditation, chiropractic care, and acupuncture are often employed to enhance emotional sobriety.

Looking for Treatment that Includes Stimulating Emotional Sobriety

At Wellness Retreat Recovery Center, a boutique Bay Area rehab facility, the commitment to emotional sobriety goes hand-in-hand with a dedication to personalized care. Recognizing that every individual’s journey to recovery is unique, the center caps its occupancy at six clients. This allows for highly personalized attention from the 24/7 medical staff and ensures each client can fully engage with the recovery process.

This low client-to-staff ratio allows for a more in-depth focus on each individual’s recovery journey. It ensures each person receives ample time with on-site therapists, fostering a therapeutic environment that’s more conducive to developing emotional sobriety than high-traffic clinics. The intimate setting helps to create a supportive community where each individual feels seen, heard, and valued.

At Wellness Retreat Recovery Center, our emphasis on emotional sobriety, coupled with a holistic approach to wellness and a dedication to personalized care, sets the stage for lasting recovery. For more information on how Wellness Retreat Recovery Center can support your journey to sobriety, please contact us today.