When an addict first enters recovery, the primary focus is not on emotional wellbeing or mental health, but the raw reality of abstaining from using more drugs or alcohol.
However as you progress through the stages of recovery and get a handle on the physical triggers for relapse, the next phase is to get your emotions stabilized and in balance. Without emotional balance and coherence, maintaining physical sobriety is nearly impossible.
In comparison, physical sobriety is simple. To abstain from using drugs or alcohol, you can isolate yourself and put restrictions in place to keep it out of your system. Emotional recovery however is much more nuanced and complicated. There are plenty of “dry drunks” out there who may be sober but continue to exhibit destructive behavior and emotional instability because they never worked out the emotional health side of the equation.
Emotional sobriety means a balance of conflicting emotions and an overall calm to your emotional state. This can be achieved in a number of ways and is very important for a successful long term recovery and a balanced, healthy life.
Meditation and Breathing
The most common way to calm the emotions and focus the mind is to practice meditation and deep breathing. This doesn’t mean standing on your head singing mantras, it’s simply a method of closing your eyes, taking deep breaths, and focusing your awareness on a specific thought or state. This can be a word, an image, an idea, a statement, or nothing at all. What matters is you take control of your mind and slow your breathing.
Talking to another human being about the innermost thoughts and feelings is an essential part of mental and emotional health. Religions practice confession for this same reason and today we have a whole industry of qualified professional counselors whose sole job is to listen to your thoughts and feelings. Counseling can help to iron out the kinks in your emotional landscape so you don’t bottle them up and drive yourself mad.
In addition to professional help, it’s important to maintain contact with a close network of supporters who understand your struggle and can offer guidance on not just abstinence but also the trials and traumas of getting through life as a recovering addict or alcoholic.
Stay Grounded and Mindful
The emotions are a roller coaster that can jerk us back and forth so it’s important to counterbalance this with practical daily actions that keep you rooted in the here and now. Be mindful and aware of the present moment, focusing your energy on staying still and centered, unmoved by the sea of emotions that tries to drown you.
The emotional landscape is a large factor in sobriety and addiction. If you don’t get the mind and heart in balance, they will quickly lead the body astray and into the realm of relapse.