Emotional Sobriety

By Patrick O’Neil

Emotional Sobriety

When someone is working toward getting sober their main focus is maintaining a program of recovery and staying sober. But after years of using and drinking they come to realize that they have been stuffing their feelings, and are detached from their emotions—and without the drugs and alcohol their feelings and emotions are suddenly all over the map. One negative encounter and it’s a sensory overload. Early sobriety can be a time of puzzling emotional responses and the real and dangerous consequence is usually relapsing. 

Learning what sobriety really means

For the recovering addict and alcoholic learning to address, live with, and regulate their emotions is crucial—and that’s where emotional sobriety comes into play. “ONE of the cornerstones of alcoholism recovery is a concept called emotional sobriety,” states scientific journalist Wray Herbert. “The idea is that alcoholics and other addicts hoping to stay sober over the long haul must learn to regulate the negative feelings that can lead to discomfort, craving and—ultimately—relapse. Doing so is a lifelong project and requires cultivating a whole new way of thinking about life’s travails.”

Sober lifestyle

The reality is that life’s ups and downs are not going to go away just because a person gets sober. With emotional sobriety the recovering addict and alcoholic works toward acknowledging this. Finding this acceptance gives them the ability to deal with their feelings in a positive and healthy manner.  “I’ve often referred to emotional sobriety as the missing link in achieving full addiction recovery—or what I like to call optimal recovery,” writes Dr. Allen Berger. “It helps us reach a place in our lives where we truly feel emotionally whole.” Dr. Berger further defines emotional sobriety as, “keeping our emotional center of gravity within, learning to hold on to ourselves without letting other people’s limited perceptions of us or our addiction define us or impact our behavior, pressuring ourselves to change, and seeing struggle as beneficial and grief as necessary.

How do I stay sober?

When our emotions are out of control, so is our thinking,” writes Dr. Tian Dayton, “and when we can’t bring our feeling and thinking into some sort of balance, our life and our relationships feel out of balance too. The ability to self-regulate, to bring ourselves into balance, is key to emotional sobriety.

So of course the big question is how does one achieve this emotional sobriety. The recovery experts recommend CBT therapy, learning and practicing recovery skills such as conflict resolution, attending support groups, and not using. All of which sounds feasible, yet how does someone in recovery schedule the time and place to do all that? Finding treatment that incorporates all of those elements would seem the key to success. 

Treatment to help get sober

CAST Centers CAST Alignment Model (CAM) works with the addict and alcoholic to build a strong emotional foundation for living a meaningful life. Explore fundamental beliefs and how they shape and impact life experiences (e.g., interpersonal relationships, self-identity). Gain emotional freedom through understanding past trauma, maladaptive behaviors, and other causes of pain, and use that knowledge to heal and recover. Commit to passionate involvement in life that incorporates a new awareness of personal goals. Develop nurturing and loving relationships Live in alignment with a core belief system that balances relationships, work, wellness, intellectual pursuits, and spirituality.

The CAST addiction treatment program is structured, but also flexible to accommodate the needs of individual clients. The duration of a client’s participation in the program can extend from a brief period of four weeks to a more extensive involvement of eight weeks (or longer).   


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