Emotional sobriety can be a difficult concept to understand. It essentially means to be able to face and deal with all the negative emotions that were ignored or covered up when using alcohol or drugs. These feelings can potentially act as triggers with may lead to relapsing. Therefore, it is really important to be able to manage these feelings in order to remain sober.


Individuals recovering from addiction can often feel stuck in the negative experiences of the past. When we are stuck in the past and can’t deal well with what is going on in current reality, we cannot achieve emotional sobriety. Many experts claim that to have true optimal recovery, you have to achieve emotional sobriety. Here are some examples of when emotional sobriety comes into play in everyday life in order to better understand it.



Emotional sobriety helps you stay connected during times of trouble. For example, when someone is telling you that you hurt their feelings, you may sit down and discuss with them very openly and honestly how they feel and what you can do to make them feel better. If you are not emotionally sober, you might make them feel bad about talking to you about their feelings, or may take it personally. You could do a number of things to make them feel worse about opening up to you, like gas-lighting the situation, or dismissing and not dealing with the situation or the person properly. When you are emotionally sober, you are able to communicate with integrity. You would respond to the person in a very non-threatening, open and honest way, in the hopes of having a positive outcome and resolution and be willing to hear some things that you might otherwise not want to hear. It’s not about taking things personally or feeling resentful.



When you are emotionally dependant, you can feel like everyone is out to get you. A perfect example would be road rage. When you are on the highway and someone cuts you off, you may shout, honk, yell profanities and basically assume that that person that cut you off is purposely trying to ruin your day. This is taking their actions personally. If you were emotionally sober in this situation, you may assume this person who cut you off has nothing against you, are stuck in their own experience, or have an important meeting to get to and they are stressed out for being late, or maybe they have to get to the hospital because of an emergency. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Instantly, you feel better, calmer, more balanced and less stressed. It is not about you, and it is not something you can control.  



Recovering from the traumas of our past can be very daunting. In active addiction traumas are often not responded to in a way that allows healing. They have not been properly digested and learnt from. In order to work towards emotional sobriety, you may need to work through past traumas, and slowly begin to resolve them. With the right support it is possible move beyond trauma, to find resolution, and begin to grow. Then we can eliminate the rest. Having guidance from a professional is the best way to go through this, you do not have to go through it alone. Emotional sobriety can feel like you are truly feeling everything in the “raw”. There is no shield from the feelings that are faced. It is about staying sober no matter what you are feeling. You don’t have to do anything to make the uncomfortable feelings go away, you can learn to process and live with the full range of your feelings in a more integrated way. Many people learn to cope in healthy ways with their feelings. They might meditate, pray, practice acceptance, gaining new perspectives, or work through their feelings with a therapist – to name a few.



Now that you have a good grasp on the concept of emotional sobriety, here are 3 tips and tricks on how to get started in working towards it:

Being mindful: do not focus on the past or future, just take every day as it comes without judgement or pressure. Focus on getting through one day at a time, and that each day is a new opportunity to make positive change.

Having someone to talk to: managing any sort of negative feelings is a lot easier when you have someone to talk to. Either a friend, partner, parent or therapist, it will help you deal and cope better with life’s struggles and pressures.

Confronting feelings: it’s very important to be in tune with the way you are feeling about any situation. When something is uncomfortable, try to sit with the feelings and face them. When you are having anxiety for example, you can listen to what it is try to tell you rather than will it away. It is more likely to pass when you are welcoming it into your life and confronting it. If you’re angry about something, live with the feelings. Get out some paper and write everything out. You don’t need to escape your feelings, you can face them head on.


Emotional sobriety can be difficult to understand and for some people it is hard to achieve. It is definitely a process. Achieving perfect emotional sobriety is impossible. Nobody is perfect, but constantly working on having more balance, being more aware about your feelings and emotions and using healthy ways of dealing with the feelings and emotions are putting you in a great path to success.