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Emotional Sobriety

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"People in good moods are better at inductive reasoning and creative problem solving." Salovey, Mayer, Goldman, Turvey, and Palfai.

Simply ceasing the use of alcohol or illicit drugs for many people recovering from addiction is not enough to fully recover from the “hopeless state of mind and body” of the afflicted is in.  Emotional Sobriety is the positive regulation of our emotions.  During the recovery process individuals that are or have been addicted to drugs, alcohol, or both and or those that have relied on their use tend to have significant emotional incapacities at times.  Flying off the handle at situations that frustrate them is commonplace.  As they gain strength in their recovery they begin to recognize that their emotions have a tendency to control them rather than vice a versa.

"My father used to say to me, 'Whenever you get into a jam, whenever you get into a crisis or an emergency…become the calmest person in the room and you'll be able to figure your way out of it.'"
– Rudolph Giuliani

The recovery process that an individual chooses to implement for their recovery should include the integration of exercises to enhance their emotional sobriety.  Failing to address the regulation of our emotions leaves us susceptible to negative consequences and potential relapse.

Meditation is one practice that is suggested as a technique to maintain emotional stability.  Taking time in the morning to pray and or meditate to allow our brains the opportunity to refresh and become centered is a positive step in the direction of emotional sobriety.

One method of recognizing how to deal with stress is to recognize and utilize the I/E (I over E) Intellect over Emotion formula.  As a youngster my mother would “Count to Ten” out loud in order to refrain from anger.  The “Big Book” suggests restraint of tongue and pen as well. A technique utilized by Abraham Lincoln was to sit and write a scathing letter when an individual in his charge failed to follow direction or orders.  But, much like the “Count to Ten” method, President Lincoln would not send these letters, they were tools for him to express his emotion and then let it go!

When it comes to negative or stressful events, staying calm is serves us best.  In early recovery we may find ourselves getting frustrated easily and quite possibly failing in our goal to control our negative emotions.  When these times arise and we fail to act in an acceptable manner we must not beat ourselves up.  Once we are back in control of our emotions it is best to make a direct amends to anyone we have harmed in our anger or frustration.  Additionally, it is important to shake off the mistake and utilize the experience to grow and not to create additional harm.  For example, this has the potential to be expressed in a poor attitude and a poor choice to relapse.

Emotional Sobriety is essential in our pursuit of happiness.  Challenges have a tendency emerge in our lives.  Never, ever, ever allow them to be the reason we give up!  Life is good…

Dan Callahan, MSW

Dan has been a human service professional since 1983 and specializes in addiction treatment and recovery.    Dan studied social sciences and received a Bachelors of Science at the University of Stony Brook and completed a Masters in Social Work program at Fordham University School of Social Welfare, New York City in 1997.

Dan is the author of two addiction recovery works: A book of recovery essays, titled, “Recovery Thinking, 90-Days to Change Your Life” and a recovery workbook “Freedom Recovery, 90-Days to Recover” that is utilized as an out-patient recovery guide and an inpatient addiction treatment workbook.


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