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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on February 15, 2023
6 min read

Emotional Sobriety

What is Emotional Sobriety? 

Emotional sobriety is a skill set that you can learn to avoid relapsing. While physical sobriety is all about not using drugs and alcohol, emotional sobriety is about self-control. It helps you maintain a sober life.

To achieve emotional sobriety, you’ll need to address your problems with addiction. You’ll need to understand the following:

  • Your negative emotions
  • Your relationship with drugs or alcohol
  • Your triggers

Emotional sobriety is all about freeing yourself from negative emotions that you associate with substance abuse. By staying emotionally sober, you can have an easier time focusing and maintaining sobriety. 


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6 Ways to Develop Emotional Sobriety

Once you finish treatment, you’ll need to work on maintaining sobriety. Establishing emotional sobriety requires: 

  • Dedication
  • Support
  • Resources and skills
  • Self-reflection

However, with enough practice and patience, you’ll be able to live a sober life comfortably. Here are a few ways to develop emotional sobriety:

1. Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapy is a practical approach to treating addiction. It can be applied via various techniques that focus on reinforcing desirable behaviors. 

Behavioral therapy aims to teach users new behaviors while minimizing the issues. There are multiple behavioral therapies to get rid of addiction, including:

  • Applied behavior analysis: A scientific approach to understanding behavior
  • Cognitive-behavioral analysis: Focuses on changing negative thoughts that can contribute to emotional difficulties
  • Exposure therapy: Psychological treatment that was developed to help people confront their fears
  • Motivational enhancement therapy: A form of therapy that focuses on improving an individual's motivation to change
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy: A type of cognitive behavioral therapy especially for people who feel very intense emotions 
  • 12-step facilitation: Designed to help people abstain from abusing substances
  • Addiction recovery program: Offered at rehab centers to help people recover from drug or alcohol addiction

2. Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness practices are mental training approaches that help ease the mind. It helps you let go of negativity and calm your mind and body.

It’s performed as a combination of meditation and mindfulness to improve mental health. There are many forms of mindfulness practices, but only evidence-based ones help develop emotional sobriety. For example, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) helps relieve stress.

These practices have proved to be effective in reducing anxiety, depression, and other syndromes. Recent studies have shown that users who meditate over the long-term attain sobriety quickly.

3. Learn How to Control Negative Emotions

Negative feelings can make it hard to achieve emotional sobriety. Feelings like fear, anxiety, depression, etc., can cause you to relapse. 

With that in mind, learning to control negative emotions is crucial. There are various strategies to control negative emotions, such as:

  • Stepping back to reevaluate your situation
  • Learning the difference between negative feelings and thoughts
  • Sharing your feelings with someone
  • Using meditation to ease anxiety and sadness
  • Practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, breathing exercises, etc.

4. Learn How to Overcome Challenges

Recovering from an addiction is incredibly challenging. Without proper guidance and support, you can relapse.

To achieve emotional sobriety, you’ll need to overcome the challenges of sobriety. These challenges can be everyday stress, triggers, or underlying mental illness. 

Here are a few ways that can help you overcome challenges:

  • Keep track of your alcohol use
  • Get support from loved ones
  • Follow strict guidelines
  • Think about the important things (friends, family, career, etc.)

With strong determination and dedication, anyone can overcome challenges.  

5. Build Social Connections

Building social connections is one of the crucial components of developing emotional sobriety. However, while developing emotional sobriety, users feel lonely. 

There are many reasons why you might feel lonely during recovery. You might feel like people can’t relate to your feelings. The sudden change can also affect your daily routine, which can be lonely.

To avoid getting lonely, you’ll need to build social connections. You can do this by:

  • Engaging in support groups activities or social gatherings
  • Communicating with the people who are recovering from addiction
  • Spending more time with family and friends
  • Changing your perspective about things around
  • Going to public gatherings to meet new people
  • Creating and following a schedule for every day

Building social connections helps in recovering quickly. It even improves health and lifestyle.

6. Journal About Recovery

Writing a journal can be very beneficial to you. It can distract you from negative feelings and give you an outlet for your thoughts.

While writing a journal, you might be able to understand your relationship with alcohol. You can also use it to cope with weak feelings and emotions.

Journaling your progress can also be motivating. You’ll be able to see your progress from when you started and how far you’ve gotten.

Connection Between Addiction and Emotions

Addiction grows and feeds on negative emotions. It can be hard to focus on recovery when you’re dealing with feelings of:

  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

On the other hand, positive emotions can be beneficial to your recovery. Positive emotions can help promote healthier choices and decisions.


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How to Know if You’ve Achieved Emotional Sobriety?

According to Alcoholics Anonymous, there are ways to analyze a person’s emotional sobriety. However, some people may have a hard time staying emotionally sober. This is called dry drunk syndrome.

People dealing with dry drunk syndrome will have difficulty adjusting to a sober life. Here are signs that show whether you’ve achieved or haven’t achieved emotional sobriety:

Signs You’ve Achieved Emotional Sobriety

Signs that help analyze whether you have achieved emotional sobriety include:

  • Maintains a positive attitude toward every situation
  • Enjoy living in the present moment without thinking much about the past or the future
  • Being self-protective rather than relying on others
  • Accepting things the way they are
  • Developing deeper and more meaningful relationships with other people
  • Substance usage to the extent that causes problems
  • Having a positive perspective despite the problems in the life

Signs You Haven’t Achieved Emotional Sobriety

The following signs help analyze incomplete addiction recovery:

  • Struggle to maintain a positive behavior
  • Find it difficult to deal with the challenges of life
  • Don’t live in the present moment and find themselves caged
  • Have anger and negativity about recovery
  • Feel antipathy towards friends, family, and loved ones
  • Develop jealousy towards sober friends
  • Experience negative thoughts against positive aspects
  • Find it challenging to build healthy relationships

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Emotional sobriety is about freeing yourself from negative feelings associated with substance abuse. It’s a skill set you can use to maintain sobriety and avoid relapsing.

Physical sobriety is only the first step of recovery. To maintain a sober life, you’ll need emotional sobriety. Fortunately, there are ways to practice and develop emotional sobriety over time.

If you ever struggle with emotional sobriety, you can always seek help. Consider reaching out to family, friends, support groups, or healthcare professionals.

Updated on February 15, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on February 15, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Drug Misuse and Addiction.” National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2020.
  2. Emotions Revisited: The Addiction Connection.” US National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  3. Early-life Stress affects drug abuse susceptibility.” National Institutes of Health, 2020.
  4. The Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness Practices.” National Institutes of Health (NCBI), 2020.
  5. Treatment and Recovery.” National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2020.
  6. Strategies to Promote Social Connections.” US US National Library of Medicine (NCBI), 2020.
  7. Alcohol Use in the United States.” National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2021.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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