Emotional Sobriety
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Emotional Sobriety: A New Perspective

The term “Emotional Sobriety” refers to managing difficult feelings. It is commonly used in
addiction recovery. It is different from physical sobriety. Physical sobriety refers to not using
alcohol or other drugs. Emotional sobriety is more complicated. A person can be free from
drugs and alcohol, but still not be emotionally sober. This is because dealing with emotions is
one of the most difficult parts of quitting substance use. Painful emotions are also what often
drive people back to using. Here we’ll cover ways to keep your emotional health.

What is Emotional Sobriety?

It would be nice to feel good all the time. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen. Stress and
unhappiness occur in everyone’s life. Being emotionally sober means learning to cope with
uncomfortable feelings. To do this, you must find ways to manage tough times. Sometimes it
also means learning to deal with happiness and contentment.

When a person is emotionally sober, they don’t usually have extreme mood swings. They find
a balance between the highs and lows of life. They do this by learning to regulate their mind
and body. By managing themselves, they no longer need substances. This lets them stay
physically sober. As a result, they are happier overall. Because they are no longer being
manipulated by their feelings, they are free to live as they choose.

Why Emotional Sobriety is Important

Most people with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) have trouble with their emotions. That is
what leads them to use substances. They use because they want to feel better. When
someone’s emotions are constantly causing them problems, they do everything they can to
control them. Sometimes this means using substances to feel good. It can also mean using
substances to maintain a natural good feeling.
If someone cannot attain emotional sobriety, then they are at a higher risk of using. Therefore,
they must learn to deal with their emotions so that they don’t feel the need to use.

Signs of Poor Emotional Sobriety

There are many signs that a person’s emotional sobriety is poor. These include:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Anger.
  • Feelings of worthlessness.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Eating too much or too little to help control emotions.
  • Sleeping too much or not enough,
  • Thoughts of hurting themselves or others.
  • Unsatisfying relationships with other people.
  • Lack of feeling fulfillment or satisfaction.

These are only a few major symptoms. A person may experience all of these, or only a few.
They may also have other signs. These are unique to each person. In short, a general sense
of being out of control is a good signal that their emotional sobriety is not good.
When someone’s emotional sobriety is suffering, they can often have an emotional upheaval.
This is often called a “dry drunk.”

What is a Dry Drunk

A dry drunk is when someone is being controlled by their feelings. When this happens, they
aren’t able to behave in a healthy way. This can occur in people who use any substance. It is
not only for people who abuse alcohol. Even when someone doesn’t have SUD, they can
experience a dry drunk. Dry drunks occur whenever someone has a severe response to
their emotions. Some marks of a dry drunk are:

  • Heavy focus on themselves.
  • An inability to control impulses.
  • Anger at others.
  • Holding on to resentment toward other people.
  • Social isolation.
  • Thoughts of using.
  • Behavior that causes problems with other people or problems with authority figures.
  • Jealousy of other people, especially those who struggle with substance abuse.
  • Resenting the process of recovery.

Anytime someone is reacting strongly to their emotions, they could be having a dry drunk.
During a dry drunk, they will frequently lash out at those closest to them. This is because they
are in pain. That pain causes them to behave in hurtful ways. They may damage other
people. They can also damage property. It is common for them to hurt themselves. They may
do this physically. It is also possible they will harm their life through dangerous actions. They
may break the law. They may quit their job. It’s possible they’ll spend money on things to
comfort themselves. The reason they behave this way is because they cannot deal with what
is going on inside of them.

To avoid dry drunks and the pain that goes along with them, it is important to work at
emotional sobriety.

How to Be Emotionally Sober

Being emotionally sober requires effort. Usually some effort must be done everyday.
Fortunately, there are many tools which can assist someone in controlling their feelings.
Some of these are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and/or other types of therapy.
  • Staying in contact with a helpful, healthy support system.
  • Journaling.
  • Exercise.
  • Having a healthy diet.
  • Sleeping enough.
  • Meditation.
  • Challenging negative thoughts and looking for reasons to remain positive.
  • Helping others.
  • Doing satisfying work.

Any healthy activity that provides positive feelings without doing damage can help maintain
emotional sobriety. Since each person is different, they must find what works for them. They
must also look for new ways to improve their mood. This is because sometimes a system will
stop working. When that happens, they must seek out different ways to stay emotionally

Finding healthy coping habits can be difficult. That's why it's important to get information from
others. A few good resources are:

  • A therapist or mental health professional.
  • The family doctor.
  • Self-help books, videos or audio recordings.
  • Support groups.

If You Need Help with Emotional Sobriety

Whenever someone is struggling with their emotional sobriety, they aren't thinking clearly.
Once this happens, it is important to remember you are not the only one suffering. Everyone
has difficulty with their emotions at times. Just know that during difficult periods, adding
substances will not solve the problem. Often, using substances will make your emotions
worse. When you use you’ll likely feel shame and guilt. You’ll also need to recover from the
harmful effects of the substance.

Emotional sobriety is difficult. If you try to maintain it alone, you’re likely to fail. Even if you
succeed, the process will be harder than if you have assistance. We are here to help. If you or
someone you know is having trouble managing their emotions, it is important to reach out. We
can suggest resources to assist you. Contact us and we can help get you on the right track.