Addiction and Emotional Maturity

Handling Emotions

Even without the problems that substance abuse brings, life can be a real struggle for an individual that is unable to handle their emotions. Without emotional maturity, it is virtually impossible to find real happiness. Adults who don’t mature emotionally are also more likely to engage in substance abuse. They turn to chemicals as a means to escape the pain caused by their emotions. It becomes a catch-22 situation, because addiction arrests further emotional development, and they become stuck.

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When an addict decides to enter rehab facility and finally gives up alcohol or drug use, they will need to once again focus on their emotional development. If they fail to do so, they will struggle to build a comfortable life away from their addiction.

Emotional sobriety doesn’t mean that the individual escapes unpleasant emotions; it means that they are no longer a victim to their emotions. People develop emotional maturity through living life and facing problems. But many addicts begin to abuse alcohol or drugs while they are still young, so they fail to mature emotionally.

Emotional Sobriety

Sobriety is usually thought of as simply quitting the addicted behavior that led to addiction. For instance, the recovering alcoholic may not drink a drop of liquor, beer or wine. Similarly, the gambling addict may never step foot again in a casino or online gaming room, or even play a scratch-off lottery ticket. Yet, true sobriety isn’t just behavioral — it’s also psychological. Sometimes, sober addicts can still struggle with emotional sobriety.

What Is Emotional Sobriety?

Think of emotional sobriety as the feelings-related component of sobriety. Someone is sober when they are abstaining, but they may not really feel sober. This isn’t to say that recovering addicts should never be tempted again — any recovering alcoholic will tell you that it’s important to follow a one-day-at-a-time mantra. However, the addict should be committed to the emotional angles of his or her sobriety.

What are some of these emotional signs of sobriety? They include:

  • Contemplation and moral inventory-taking involving their addiction.
  • Forgiveness of self for addictive behaviors.
  • Ability to take responsibility for poor choices made.
  • Willingness to make amends with those who were negatively affected by the recovering alcoholic’s addiction.
  • Belief that there is a better life ahead.

When emotional sobriety is not present, the recovering addict may slide into a no-man’s-land filled with fear, resentment and anger. Even if the bottle is never touched again, or a drug is no longer taken, sobriety has not comprehensively been achieved.

Why Is Emotional Sobriety Necessary?

Florida SkySome people feel that emotional sobriety is a choice, rather than an essential element for addiction recovery. We, and other professionals in the field, disagree. Emotions are very powerful, just as powerful as behaviors. The recovering addict needs to learn that just saying “no” to drinking, pornography, drug abuse or another addiction doesn’t equate to sobriety.

Additionally, emotional sobriety provides a much-needed sense of relief from the addiction. Think of it as someone who gets a divorce but never accepts that he or she is divorced. In the eyes of the law, the divorce is final, but the divorced person can never move past the experience. It’s easy to see in this context that without acceptance and the feelings that go along with acceptance, the individual could never hope to make strides in his or her life.

Getting to a Point of Emotional Sobriety

In order to get to a point of emotional sobriety, it is essential for the recovering addict to be willing to fully embrace the difficult process of taking a self-inventory. This means re-living and accepting what happened during times of addiction — this can be a painful journey. However, there is always hope when the addict works with a rehab center and specialists.

Living a life of holistic sobriety isn’t just about leaving an addiction behind — it’s about leaving feelings behind as well. Though it takes time for some addicts to work through the process to achieve emotional sobriety, it’s a journey worth taking.

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Emotional sobriety can be described as the ability to deal with feelings positively. An emotionally-sober individual not always be bursting with joy, but they will no longer be such a victim of their emotions. This type of sobriety can be defined as the ability of to “feel their feelings.” The individual who is emotionally sober no longer has the urge to escape their feelings by climbing into a bottle or sticking a needle in their arm. They are willing to deal with whatever comes their way, because they have a deep inner strength that they can rely on. Emotional sobriety is closely linked to serenity, an unshakable sense of inner peace that recovering substance abusers can find in recovery.

Physical vs. Emotional Sobriety: The Dry Drunk Syndrome

When people are sober but have not achieved any level of emotional sobriety, they can be described as a “dry drunk.” Alcoholics Anonymous talks about people who have not touched a drink in years but have still not managed to get sober. Those in the midst of a dry drunk syndrome find life without alcohol to be similar to serving a prison term. They may be full of anger and resentment, and their behavior can be almost as bad as when they were abusing alcohol and drugs.

Recovered Substance Abusers Who Have Not Achieved Emotional Sobriety Will:

  • Hardly live in the present moment
  • Struggle to regulate their own behavior, which means that they do things that harm themselves and other people
  • Have difficulty with the challenges of life and may resort to negative coping strategies, such as work or exercise addiction
  • Become a victim of their own emotions
  • Feel like they are living on an emotional rollercoaster
  • Experience a great deal of negativity
  • Find it hard to develop healthy relationships

At 12 Keys Rehab, one of the most important tasks of early sobriety is to assist a recovering substance abuser to develop healthy coping strategies in order to learn to handle his or her emotions. Our experienced and emotionally-sober counselors utilize a variety of tools that encourage an individual to focus on the present moment and observe how emotions rise and fall away again. Emotionally immature individuals begin to understand that their emotions aren’t permanent, and that they have a choice to react differently to them – that they are no longer a victim of their emotions.

If you or a loved one are ready to move past a reliance on drugs or alcohol to cope with emotions, take a positive first step toward serenity, emotional maturity and sobriety–contact 12 Keys today.

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The Addiction Blog