“Emotions refer to a state of feeling  that arises in relation to something happening. An emotion may involve a number of different feelings. A good example of this would be the emotion of love which is made up of the feelings joy and trust .”

Generally the main aim of an addict is either to get drunk or get sober.  The majority if not all individuals do not want to be an addict; it is destructive illness, destroys lives, relationships and prospects for the future.  The biggest mistake that can be made is to assume that getting sober is the only hurdle to be overcome.  Unfortunately true recovery is not that simple and there are a range of issues to consider when getting sober; an issue that can be easily overlooked is our emotions.  While it may seem quite obvious that people can live a happier, fulfilled life being sober, it’s important to understand that much of the emotion that has been avoided for so long will flood over the addict.  It is because of this that relapses can often occur.

As part of the process of recovery a range of emotions can be expected, sometimes they can overcome the individual and the easier option is to return to their vice and abandon sobriety.   Drugs and alcohol are often used in order to block out painful emotions, this is a temporary fix and does not prove effective in the long term.  The emotions experienced while sober are still present and in order to become a well-rounded, capable individual these emotions must be embraced and dealt with.   Therefore it is not the demon of addiction alone that must be overcome. The processing of a person’s thoughts and emotions are central to their journey and truly dealing with such emotions is often a pitfall in overcoming addiction.

While under the influence of a particular substance the reality of one’s emotions is often dulled and the feelings that may have led to or exacerbated the addiction in the first place are allowed to be hidden and ignored.  The danger of not recognizing these emotions, the part the play in your life and the affect they have on you is either relapse or what is referred to as ‘dry drunk syndrome’.


Plunkett’s Theory of Emotions

Plunket's Theory of Emotions

“Emotional sobriety can be defined as resiliency, wisdom and balance. It is a metaphor of sorts for addicts who develop emotional intelligence over the course of their journeys in recovery.”

To avoid relapse it is important that an addict reach a state of ‘emotional sobriety’.  There are several ways in which to work towards this, none will be easy but all will most definitely be worth it.  The main and most important result of emotional sobriety is not feeling the need to use or abuse a substance in order to escape feelings or emotions. There is a difference between abstinence and recovery and it is when the crutch of drugs or alcohol is gone that the real work begins.   Due to the nature of addiction and the behavior undertaken by the addict there will usually be a path of destruction left behind.  Once sober having to address the issues created while using can prove to be too much for some.  While a sober life may be desired actually facing life sober can sometimes be overwhelming and this is where the importance of emotional sobriety becomes crucial.  In order to achieve ‘emotional sobriety’ an individual must work on their ‘emotional intelligence’ to increase their ability to express and control their feelings and ultimately experience genuine happiness.

Some emotions that are commonly experienced by those in recovery:

  •  Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Disappointment
  • Guilt
  • Boredom
  • Excessive joy (pink could syndrome)

“Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

These emotions are not unique to recovery or getting sober and were most likely present before and during the addiction.  Though they are not pleasant and may be challenging to handle, they do not have to jeopardize someone’s recovery.  The first and most important step is to recognize, accept and face these emotions, once an individual is honest about their feelings they can begin to work through them.  As an addict therapy is a proven aid in getting and staying sober.  Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous work to help its members develop ‘emotional sobriety’ through working the 12 Step Programme.  This encourages living day to day and taking each issue or emotion one by one as they may arise.  There are other methods of therapy that prove to be extremely effective in coping with emotions experienced in recovery.  An increasingly popular meditation technique is mindfulness, this requires the individual to live in the moment, encourages self-awareness, accepting thoughts and emotions, as well as working through them calmly and positively.  Another powerful technique in coping and dealing with emotions is keeping a journal, this will allow the individual to reflect on their experiences, how various situations make them feel and what their triggers maybe.  Through this awareness they will have the ability to address their reactions and behavior and cope better with the emotions they experience.

Another positive step in achieving ‘emotional sobriety’ is by surrounding yourself with people who are emotionally mature; positive individuals who are logical and sensible in their expression of their feelings, these people will serve to be a positive influence and enhance your skills on a personal level.  Understand that your feelings and emotions do not have to be debilitating; regardless of how painful, they can be addressed, they can be overcome and you as an individual have the ability to rise above them.  Sobriety should not mean sadness and pain, you deserve to live a happy and sober life.