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Finding Emotional Sobriety

Bo Brown
| February 26, 2018

Recently I attended a 12-step meeting and the topic of discussion was emotional sobriety. As I listened to many people speak about this topic, I began to wonder about my own self. Had I obtained emotional sobriety? Did I have it once and lose it as the years went on? After the meeting, I decided to read up on the topic to see where I feel on the emotional sobriety scale.

After reading many articles on the topic, I have managed to define emotional sobriety as “the transformation a person in recovery makes beyond attaining physical sobriety.”

It involves the ability to feel and cope with emotion. It particularly affects those who are attached to drug and alcohol use. It means accepting reality as it is today, in the moment, and not dwelling on past regrets or future wishes.

Could it be that I had achieved some semblance of emotional sobriety? I had always heard the phrase “happy, joyous, and free” in 12-Step meetings, but somehow, I could not really apply those words to what I experienced in recovery. Once I defined emotional sobriety (with a little bit of research), I learned that I can apply it to my recovery now.

There are signs that people like us (people in addiction and recovery) can look at to gauge the depth of our emotional sobriety. One of the signs is our ability to regulate our moods and emotions. When we face turbulence in our life, are we able to ground ourselves and look at the problems with a clear views and sound minds? Do we have the resilience to roll with the punches that life gives us? Do we have the ability to regulate our own behavior?

These are all skills that take time in sobriety. It is helpful to have a strong base and belief in a program that addresses these issues. Education and practice of principles are must-haves if we want to strengthen our emotional sobriety.

I have talked with many of my friends in recovery about emotional sobriety and asked them what helps them develop their strength. These are the top three responses I received:

  1. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of where we are, and what we are doing, without becoming overwhelmed by what is going on around us. During my addiction, I was totally consumed by my surroundings and was never comfortable in my own skin. By using certain techniques that I learned in my first year of recovery through residential treatment and an outpatient center, I became able to ground myself when I find myself becoming overwhelmed or out of control. Focusing on breathing, checking in on my senses, and meditation are just a few of the aspects of mindfulness I have used that have helped me get through particularly hard times.
  2. Keep a journal: Journaling was an integral part of my early years in recovery. It was a way to let go of my fears, resentments, and anger. There is something therapeutic about getting your feelings out of your own head. Write it down and let it go!
  3. Find like-minded people: I spend time around other people in recovery that have emotional sobriety. In recovery, we need to seek others like us that have what we want. It might be the knowledge, wisdom, or years of successful sobriety we seek, and it helps to have others to show us the way. We seek and are attracted to those that are working a good program. Success is an attractive attribute in any part of life!

So, after much reading and reflection, I believe I have obtained my own emotional sobriety. Our versions of emotional sobriety differ from one person to another. That is what makes us unique individuals.

Today, I am able to practice the skills I learned in the program to regulate my own emotions when confronted with personal and outside conflicts. Today, I do not run and avoid fear of the unknown. I face adversities head-on and do my best in those situations.

I am as strong as I believe I am. Today, I know that I am strong. Although there are days that I may not visually express my emotions as joyous, happy and free, my inner being carries these principles.

I thank those mentors in my early recovery that instilled those principles in me and gave me the education and tools to practice these techniques in my everyday life. My advice to other people who are in early recovery and seek emotional sobriety is to go out and talk to those people with years of success. Find someone that has what you want and listen and learn. We all have the will to give to others and we all have the ability to learn from others!

If you would like to share your story with Heroes in Recovery you can contact me at When you share your story, you help break the stigma associated with mental health disorders and addiction issues. Please comment and share my blog with others. You never know who you may be inspiring!

Much love,


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