Sep 30

What is Emotional Sobriety?

emotional sobriety

What is emotional sobriety? AA literature speaks to being “happy, joyous, and free” – a promise made by many who say, if you work a good program, you will achieve physical sobriety and become happy in the process.

However, emotional sobriety is not so much about feeling good, or bad; emotional sobriety is the ability to actually feel one’s feelings yet not be consumed by those feelings or driven to act out because of feelings – whether it is to start using again or to act out in other not-so-spiritual behaviors. Being restored to sanity isn’t about being “happy, joyous, and free” all the time, but it is about being in the present moment, whatever that happens to look like. It’s being able to be in the question: What am I experiencing right now? And how about now? Can I be present to all of my feelings without any one of them defining me?

Emotional sobriety sometimes is merely tolerating what you are feeling; it’s about staying sober no matter what you are feeling. Life can be challenging – having emotional sobriety means that you don’t blame yourself or your program when things get tough. And, it means that you don’t necessarily need to do something to make the feeling go away.

Emotional Sobriety vs. Spiritual Bypass

Often times you will hear this advice: pray about it, meditate on it, or do service work. And this can be good advice. However, if you are looking for ways to distract yourself from your feelings, then you might not be necessarily working such a good program after all. This spiritual distraction is what is known as spiritual bypass.

Now, it is normal to want to protect ourselves from our painful realities; in fact, as a defense mechanism, we are all susceptible to do this unconsciously. And using spirituality as a defense certainly looks a lot better than using drugs or alcohol. However, it is a defense mechanism nonetheless. The ability to access all of our feelings and being present to what is real is what enables choice, and choice propels us towards our most authentic and fulfilling selves in sobriety.

Bill Wilson on Emotional Sobriety

In a letter that was published in January of 1953, Bill W. addresses emotional sobriety, coming to the conclusion that his “basic flaw had always been dependence, almost absolute dependence, on people or circumstances to supply [him] with prestige, security, and the like.” He also recognized that his perfectionism and high expectations almost always led to “defeat,” which in turn would bring on another bout of depression.

Bill W. goes on further to say that the root of “every disturbance we have, great or small” is some sort of “unhealthy dependence and its consequent demand.” We must continually surrender our demands. It is then that “we can be set free to live and love: we may then be able to gain emotional sobriety.”

Emotional Sobriety and the Human Condition

So, give yourself permission to feel all of your feelings and just know that we don’t have the sort of surgical precision to only feel the feelings that we enjoy. As humans, we experience happiness and regret, joy and grief. That is just the human condition. And experiencing all of our feelings is true emotional sobriety.








Sources:  letter written by Bill Wilson, January, 1953


Mar 25

5 steps to de-stressing your day

5 Steps to De-stressing Your Day

5 steps to de-stressing your day

Chronic stress is hell on the body. Some studies even suggest that chronic stress can be more detrimental to your health than smoking. It causes your body to release cortisol, which is a natural steroid hormone. High levels of cortisol over a long period of time have been shown to negatively impact your immune system, causing insomnia, hormone imbalances, and many other negative reactions.  Here are 5 steps to de-stressing your day:

5 steps to de-stressing your day: Start the day with meditation

Meditation is a great way to calm the swirling thoughts in your mind. Sit on a cushion or on a chair. Get comfortable- sitting with a straight spine and your chin tucked in. Remove any distractions (especially your phone!) Sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing. Try starting with clearing your mind for 30 breaths. Focus your energy on a single point in your body and listen to your breaths. Slowly increase the time as your meditation practice improves.

5 steps to de-stressing your day: Laugh

Don’t take life so seriously. Take time to watch a funny movie or read a humorous column. Laughter is one of the best ways to distress your day. It releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals.

5 steps to de-stressing your day: Take a walk

If your reaching that time in your day when you just want to pull your hair out, sometimes it’s good to just get outside and away from the people and tasks that are causing you stress. Take a walk, get some sun, and get in touch with nature. Try to really notice what is going on around you and stay in the present moment.  It can be very healing to connect with nature.

5 steps to de-stressing your day: Get more sleep

One of the most common causes of becoming overstressed is lack of proper sleep. Stress causes insomnia, and lack of sleep worsens feelings of stress. It can become a vicious cycle. Getting a good night’s sleep can improve your mood, give you energy, and contribute to your overall feeling of well-being. The first step to a good night’s sleep: cultivate a relaxing atmosphere. You don’t sleep as well when you fall asleep in front of a TV or you are surrounded by clutter. Make your room an oasis and work on clearing your mind every night before you go to bed. Try to get at least 6-8 hours every night.

5 steps to de-stressing your day: Exercise

Exercise is so beneficial in so many ways. It is especially effective in de-stressing your day. Exercise, like laughter, releases endorphins, clears the mind, and helps you sleep better. It is also a great way to improve overall health and well-being.  One of the best forms of exercise for de-stressing your day is yoga. Yoga encompasses the body and the breath so it’s not only a great form of exercise, but it incorporates meditation to slow down and calm the body and the mind.