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Emotional Sobriety Explained

For some, the term emotional sobriety might bring images of a ‘happy’ individual, healthily coping and well-adjusted to sobriety. However, even those who are emotionally sober experience the same difficulties and mental anguish that many of us do, often exacerbated by the aftermath of addiction.

In this guide, we explore what emotional sobriety is, and the steps that can be taken to begin down this path of healing.

The Definition of Emotional Sobriety

People in the throes of addiction tend to deal with feelings and emotions in a negative or self-destructive manner.

Emotional sobriety, by contrast, involves dealing with those same feelings and emotions in a positive, healthy and constructive manner. It empowers addicts to take back control of the power their emotions held over them, going from being a victim of them, to a survivor and advocate.

In lay terms, emotional sobriety can be described as the ability to ‘feel’ their feelings in a healthy way, and to cope with them in a manner that doesn’t involve sticking a needle in their arm or nosediving into a bottle of alcohol.

Those who are emotionally sober have reached a sense of inner peace and acceptance, as well as a willingness and resolve to embrace their emotions, understand them, and work through them in a positive way.

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What Are the Signs of Emotional Sobriety?

The following are some of the indications someone has achieved emotional sobriety. Keep in mind emotional sobriety isn’t a destination, it is a journey.

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Sober But Not Emotionally Sober

‘Dry Drunk’ Syndrome Explained

Sometimes, people achieve physical sobriety but remain emotionally unsober. What does this mean? Sometimes referred to as ‘Dry Drunk Syndrome’, this syndrome is used to describe someone who has remained off of substances but is still not emotionally sober.

They remain a prisoner to the throws of addiction and the mindset that goes along with it, often full of resentment, anger, and other overwhelming emotions that are detrimental to their physical and emotional health.

Signs of Dry Drunk Syndrome Include:

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Recovery: a time of emotional challenge and danger

Sobriety is an emotionally charged experience. One that is amplified by the influx of emotions that were dampened or suppressed with the use of substance abuse. This can lead to an intense and overwhelming surfacing of emotions when sober.

Learning how to manage and cope with these emotions in a healthy way is paramount to the recovery process.

Emotions That Pose a Risk for Those in Recovery:

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How to Develop Emotional Sobriety

Habits that individuals in recovery can employ to work on developing emotional sobriety.

Mindfulness and Meditation:

Meditation and mindfulness exercises are a highly effective tool to help establish and develop healthier relationships with emotions. This practice encourages focusing on the now and present, embracing and managing emotions as they ebb and flow. The practitioner, through this practice, gains insight and control, and understanding that emotions are temporary and that they can choose how they affect them as well as their reactions to them.

Intentionally Facing and Overcoming Difficulties:

No one wants to deal with challenges, especially ones that bring up negative or overwhelming emotions. Yet working through those, even small ones, allows the individual to put a ‘win’ on the board and brings them one step closer to emotional maturity and control.

Maintaining a Recovery Journal:

Journaling provides individuals with a window into past emotions, reactions and situations, allowing them to closely examine these and the ways they reacted. Journals are useful in therapy as well, and also in giving the individual a way to track improvements over time.

Spending Time with Emotionally Sober People: Not only do these people act as a support system, they often provide inspiration and motivation, influencing those on the path to emotional sobriety to stay the course.

Recovery Programs:

Programs such as the famous 12-step program provide a proven framework that gives those in recovery a game plan and needed structure.


Therapy is a must for many individuals in recovery. It allows them to explore their feelings, emotions and concerns in a safe place and under the direction of a professional who can help them with positive ways to cope.

Coping Strategy Toolbox:

Having a pre-planned set of healthy coping mechanisms to use when faced with emotional struggles can help ground individuals in the moment and give them the confidence they need to maintain control. Over time, these coping mechanisms become a habit and foster emotional sobriety.

Realistic Expectations:

Unrealistic expectations is a surefire way to sabotage one’s recovery. Achieving emotional sobriety isn’t something that happens overnight. Each small victory should be celebrated, but with the understanding that backsteps do happen and that this is ok. The journey is as (or even more so) important than is the final destination.

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Are You Or A Loved One Struggling With Emotional Sobriety?

Reach out to Zen Mountain Sober Living for Women today and connect with a caring and compassionate team dedicated to helping you overcome obstacles and achieve your life’s purpose.