Signs of Emotional Sobriety

In this article, we will reveal some signs of emotional sobriety. To understand this phenomenon, continue reading. 

Everyone deals with stressful situations such as depression, divorce, death, or job loss differently. Self-medication is a common approach to tackle these circumstances for some people. Unfortunately, such a coping mechanism can soon progress into drug abuse and addiction. Addiction can severely affect how your brain responds to stressful situations and regulates emotions, making you dependent on drug use and making it exceedingly harder to become sober.

Many people become physically sober with the aid of rehabilitation centers, recovery, and support groups. However, it is imperative to achieve emotional sobriety to recover from addiction. It is a gradual recovery process, and years of effort go into attaining it. You may not be aware of having already accomplished it. So, here are some signs of emotional sobriety to help you identify it:

You Stay In The Present Moment

One of the most obvious signs of emotional sobriety is that you can keep your head in the present moment. You no longer fixate on your past or obsess over what the future might behold. Nor you have accepted your past and future uncertainties, which allows you to remain and thrive in the present moment. 

Being Grateful

You carry a sense of appreciation for your life, the people in it, and everything you managed to accomplish in it. Hence, you do not feel left behind in life. You don’t feel the need to chase after superfluous achievements in life. There is a unique profoundness to your life, and you are happy to indulge in it.

Having An Optimistic Mindset

A positive mindset makes you view yourself, your current life, and your future optimistically. You do not become blind to reality or your problems, but you are hopeful that everything will work out in the end regardless of what your life may look like in the present. Through this, you can see the best in every situation. 

You Display Humility In Your Attitude

This is real that you are not ashamed to admit that you do not know everything or when you are wrong. It can be hard to act humble when someone tries to discredit you, but you have learned to ignore it. Furthermore, You have managed to set aside your ego and become open to learning and gaining new experiences. You recognize and acknowledge your shortcomings and are committed to the path of self-improvement.

You Hold Yourself Accountable

Holding oneself accountable is challenging even for people who don’t suffer from addiction. It is exceptionally demanding. But when you are healing emotionally, it can almost feel effortless. Emotional maturity makes taking accountability for your actions a swift phenomenon. This becomes a reason you think more rationally and assess your situation without bias, which amounts to taking an honest look at your role in causing your demise. You are not afraid of doing so because no real change is possible by lying to yourself about your situation.

You Deal With Your Emotions In Stressful Situations

Life still throws lemons your way and puts you in emotionally draining situations, but you no longer run away from them. You acknowledge the negative emotions you feel in such circumstances, but you don’t let negative thinking take control of your mind. Emotional sobriety enables you to do so without suffering because you can appreciate the opportunity to grow and better comprehend your environment.

These signs of emotional sobriety help you find out whether you have already accomplished emotional sobriety or not, but how can you find out that you still have a long way to go?

Signs You May Lack Emotional Sobriety

You Take No Responsibility For Your Actions

You continue to blame other people for your actions. It is typically a result of overcompensating for the guilt you feel from sabotaging yourself. Your condition makes you feel shame, and you are now trying to minimize the emotional distress by denying and putting the onus of your action onto others.

Having A Negative Mindset

Sometimes, You develop a pessimistic outlook on life. You fail to see your past progress, strengths, and qualities. You are always imagining and expecting the worst possible scenario to occur to you while not even considering better and more realistic possibilities. One relapse can lead you to think that you will never get better in the future.

Recovery Feels Burdensome To You

You do not view your recovery as a means to get better. In the end, you fail to see its effectiveness and how it can help you to become sober. 

Avoiding Your Emotions

Usually, you refuse to acknowledge the emotional toll your condition has taken on you. It is painful taking out the time to understand your emotions and how they are affecting you and your life. You are afraid of looking vulnerable and pretending you feel nothing is more palatable to you.

Fretting Over Past Or Future

You haven’t let go of your past and keep replaying past scenarios in your head. And you keep wondering how a different course of action could have led to a different outcome. You also worry that your future will somehow be worse than your present. Stressing over the past and future makes you miserable in the present moment.

So, have you accomplished emotional sobriety yet? If you haven’t, this article will share some ways to help you develop emotional sobriety, but first, have a brief look at what emotional sobriety is.

What is Emotional Sobriety?

what is emotional sobriety

Alcoholics Anonymous first introduced the notion of emotional sobriety. It is a crucial concept in many recovery communities. Emotional sobriety is the stage of the recovery process when an individual goes beyond abstinence and deals with emotions that may initially motivate their desire to consume drugs. It marks an essential emotional developmental process.

Contrary to what many assume, people in recovery do not feel or deal with ‘happy’ or ‘delightful’ emotions. It is simply the act of feeling whatever emotions you are feeling in the present moment. You are not supposed to get rid of or distract yourself from feeling negative emotions.

John Welwood coined the term spiritual bypass for the act of masking or hiding from your emotions. Emotional sobriety is about staying sober while acknowledging that you are frightened, anxious, confused, and probably even hate your current situation, but it is not your fault or anyone else’s. It is difficult, but you don’t have to remedy it.

What is the Importance of Emotional Sobriety?

If signs of emotional sobriety weren’t able to convince you, let us look at why being emotionally sober is just as important as being physically sober.

People in recovery feel many extreme negative emotions such as guilt, anger, frustration, sadness, and even hate. Feeling this way is one of the emotional stages of sobriety for many drug abuse victims. These emotions are strong enough to push people into relapse. They don’t know how to deal with the pain and stress that results from these emotions, which leads them to resort to drug use to numb and suppress the negative emotions.

Developing emotional sobriety enables you to confront these negative emotions without getting sucked into relapse.

You face many challenges and hurdles in life that bombard you with many emotions and thoughts that can control and dictate your actions. Being emotionally sober enables you to process your feelings and prevents you from letting your emotions take charge of your life.

Emotional sobriety helps you to thrive in life without being held back by obstacles.

Emotional Sobriety vs. Physical Sobriety

What is the difference between emotional and physical sobriety?

Drug abuse affects the chemistry of the brain and damages your vital organs. When you achieve physical sobriety, your body reestablishes its homeostasis. When you stop consuming drugs and practice abstinence, your body becomes free of the toxic chemicals. Your physical health improves as a result of becoming physically sober.

Becoming emotionally sober liberates you from the feelings associated with drug use. When you are emotionally sober, you don’t turn to drug use to numb the pain upon finding yourself amidst a hardship. Learning to deal with negative emotions without relapsing is complicated but doable. However, physical sobriety alone does not warrant it.

How to Develop Emotional Sobriety

These are some measures you can adopt to face your emotions constructively:


It is a conscious technique to focus your attention and stay in the present moment. Practice mindful meditation, a type of meditation to feel your emotions, process them and release them. It helps you identify the distinction between you and your emotions, making you understand that your emotions don’t define you. Realizing the difference between you and your emotions lets you process intense emotions like stress, anxiety, guilt, and depression.


Writing down your emotions regularly in a journal helps you release repressed energy that can accumulate inside you due to the build-up of unexpressed and unacknowledged emotions. Journaling gives you a sense of relief and enables you to advance in your recovery.

Seek CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective way of achieving emotional sobriety. It is a psychotherapy treatment that helps individuals recognize and alter the destructive thought patterns that affect their behavior and emotions. The involuntary and spontaneous thought process gives rise to intense and stressful emotions like depression and anxiety and worsens them. A CBT therapist can help you better manage and regulate your emotions. 

Build a Support Network

Share your emotions and thoughts with your family, friends, and colleagues who understand your struggle. Join support groups and spend time with people who are also trying to become emotionally sober. It is a cathartic experience to be vulnerable with people you trust. It also feels relieving to discover that you are not alone in your recovery. You also learn new ways to face your problem. Your support group can provide emotional validation and reassurance to help you accept your emotions and reality.

Why Do Traumatized People Turn toward Drug Use?

Several scientific studies shed light on the link between trauma and addiction.

A 1998 study by Felitti and colleagues on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) demonstrated the connection between trauma and drug abuse.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) are the traumatic experiences a child may experience within the first 18 years of their life, such as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. ACEs also include witnessing the death of a parent, having a family member who has a mental illness, or a parent abusing the other parent in cases of domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV).

The study reported that the more ACEs a child experiences, the more their chances of developing drug addiction in the future. develop addiction into adulthood.

The human brain has a property called plasticity that allows it to respond and adapt to everything you experience in life. This property is also why the trauma experienced in childhood can follow into adulthood. Trauma can cause the human brain to rewire itself, affecting your cognition and behavior. About two-thirds of drug abuse victims have faced trauma as children.

The Ending Note

Life’s traumatizing experiences are overwhelming and even unmanageable, especially when faced as a child. You might have found your temporary solace in drugs, but it is not the right solution. Fortunately, help is available to stop using drugs as a coping mechanism. After becoming physically sober, achieving emotional sobriety is just as vital. It is a slow and continuous journey, but an important one.


What does emotional sobriety look like?

It is the ability to deal with negative emotions like frustration, anger, shame, and guilt from a stressful and traumatic experience without relapsing into drug use. Emotional sobriety is facing these draining emotions one-on-one, not trying to hide away from them or suppress them.

Why am I so emotional after getting sober?

People with addiction are used to suppressing and numbing their pain with drugs. After becoming physically sober, you experience a burst of emotions over your past actions, such as shame, guilt, and regret. No longer having drugs in your system to deal with these emotions can surge these emotions. You might also take pride in having accomplished sobriety and feel over-confident. Both of these emotions can lead people to relapse, which is why working on becoming emotionally sober is imperative.

How do you practice emotional sobriety?

Start by practicing mindful meditation that lets you stay in the present moment and zero in on your emotions.

Journal your emotions and reflect on why you are feeling those emotions. Be truthful.

Seek Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) that can help you manage the thought process that results in the manifestation of negative emotions.

Build a support network with trusted friends, family, colleagues, and people in recovery groups. Knowing other people like you who are undergoing the problem is a motivating factor to becoming emotionally sober.

How do I know if I’m emotionally sober?

You do not run away from your emotions anymore; instead, you face them regardless of how draining they are. You take responsibility for your actions, express gratitude for your current life, and are committed to staying sober and improving your life.

Can sobriety cause depression?

Depression can arise as a withdrawal symptom. You are used to numbing emotions with drugs; consequently, your brain’s chemistry becomes impaired with drug abuse. No external factor can induce dopamine production, and your brain’s reward system is in shock. Some studies also report how drug use can cause and exacerbate depression, and the residual effects can follow into sobriety.

How do you know if you have depression symptoms?

You can identify by following symptoms:

  • You do not enjoy socializing.
  • Your hobbies do not interest you anymore.
  • You have a low sense of self-worth.
  • You are constantly exhausted.
  • You feel guilt and remorse over your past actions.
  • You feel suicidal.

What does sobriety feel like?

Sobriety entails feeling a mixture of happy and sad emotions. One day you are filled with overwhelming joy because you are proud of your achievement. The next day, your mood is gloomy and depressed. Often people in sobriety are tempted to relapse, which can be challenging to deal with, but emotional sobriety keeps them going.

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