What is Emotional Sobriety?

Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, mentioned emotional sobriety in a Grapevine article he wrote in 1958. He wrote: “I think that many oldsters who have put our AA “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA, the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.”

The book I believe helps us to find this emotional sobriety is the Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) Red Book. ACA/ACOA was started by The Laundry List written by Tony A. in 1978 in New York City. The Laundry List is a list of 14 traits commonly found in children who grow up in turbulent, hostile, and sometimes violent homes. Often times these homes have adults who are using drugs, alcohol, food, religion, power, money, control etc. as ways to control and manage the people in the household.

You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed, allowing it to wake up, to sprout and to grow.    ~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~

I believe emotional sobriety is build on these building blocks: (1) learning how to use your mind as an observer of the thoughts you have, (2) developing a toolbox of change techniques, (3) understanding relaxation tips when stress may be self-induced, (4) accepting our core issues and finding ways to change them, (5) increasing self-esteem, and (6) deepening our spiritual connection.

  1.  From Spiritual River: “Protecting Your Emotional Sobriety in Recovery“:

“Emotional sobriety is all about staying on an even playing field in your emotional life and not allowing yourself to go up and down on a huge roller coaster.  For many people this takes years of work in recovery before they can get to a place in their life where they are experiencing this emotionally smooth ride, as opposed to the chaos and the peaks and valleys that they used to experience during active addiction.”

“Some people are probably addicted to the emotional swings and the up and down ride that we used to experience, and so they sort of sabotage themselves in recovery in order to experience the roller coaster.  They want the peaks and the dips even though they say that it is driving them crazy.  Eventually they will have to step back and take an objective look at their recovery and see if they really want to live a better life or if they want to keep living in chaos.  Hopefully if they have been growing in their recovery then they will want to work towards a smoother life emotionally.”

“This may take real work and effort for some people.  In some cases though it is more about removing things, saying no, taking stuff away, and not taking certain actions.  Getting to a healthier place emotionally might be about the negative in a sense, because it might be more about what you are NOT going to do.  For example, if you have some crazy people in your life who bring all of their problems to you and expect you to solve them, or if you have toxic relationships in your life with people who are dangerous or still using drugs or whatever, then getting to a place of emotional stability might be about saying “no” to these people and these situations.  You may not have to do anything, other than to stand your ground and say no to the chaos.  You might have to build a little island of serenity for yourself and draw some firm lines and boundaries.  It is not selfish to fight for your sanity in this way and you may have to learn how to do so in order to achieve emotional sobriety in the long run.”

2. From  helpguide.org: “What is mental health or emotional health?”:

“People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have”:

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships
  • The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem

3. Emotional Sobriety links in the AA Grapevine are here.

Photo credit.


2 thoughts on “What is Emotional Sobriety?

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