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Five steps you can take towards emotional sobriety

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Written by Mercedes Miller


As you’re moving through recovery, you might find yourself facing the negative emotions that you used to numb with alcohol or drugs.

This new challenge of confronting and coping with these emotions, rather than ignoring them, is referred to as emotional sobriety.

Facing these feelings can be triggering, but with the right supports and resources emotional sobriety can help prevent relapse in the future. Here are 5 steps that can move you forward on your path of emotional sobriety:

1) Identify and accept your emotions

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This first step can be difficult because when we’re growing up we’re not often taught about emotions and how to identify them. Taking a mindful pause to label your emotions, and accept them as they come up is the first step towards emotional sobriety.

If labelling emotions is tough for you, here is a list of emotions that could help put words to your feelings.

2) Learn your triggers and deconstruct them

Notice if there is a pattern in your emotions - do you always feel angry/upset/sad in similar situations? These situations could be your triggers. Learning them and beginning to deconstruct them by asking yourself why they are triggering is a valuable process.

3) Let go of the "shoulds" of life

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We live a life full of expectations and “shoulds”. Living life on life’s terms and letting go of any “shoulds” about ourselves, others and the world can be freeing.

4) Claim your experiences, don't let them claim you

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Reclaiming experiences in your life and realizing that you can begin to have a choice of how they affect you can be an empowering process.

5) "Learn from the past and get the hell out of there." - Tom Rhutledge

It’s important to understand and process our past, but it can be dangerous to get stuck in the past. Post-traumatic growth is a phenomenon that can occur when we properly process our past emotions and grow from them.

These steps can seem daunting, but they aren’t meant to happen overnight. Emotional sobriety is a continuous process of learning and growth, and it can be exciting!

Some of these steps can be painful, so it’s important that if you feel you need to seek the help of a counsellor throughout this process that you do so.

If you want to learn more about emotional sobriety, you can read a more in-depth article here.

Mercedes headshot

Mercedes Miller is a Masters' student in Counselling Psychology at Adler University and recently completed her Social Justice Practicum with Avalon Recovery Society for the 2019/2020 academic year.

Mercedes has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and volunteered at ANOVA, a shelter for women experiencing domestic violence in her hometown of London, Ontario. She says her experiences have led her to be very passionate about feminism and supporting all women.

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