Getting emotionally sober

Often, when people quit booze it becomes a numbers game as they focus really hard on clocking up days.

Longer term, the physical side of achieving sobriety will look after itself if you keep your focus and accept you shouldn’t drink at all. If you’ve admitted your relationship with alcohol is broken, this isn’t about doing deals; you can’t just have one or water down wine. Stop trying to cheat! You need to surrender and accept you can’t drink. Not any, not ever.

When you’ve accepted that, your physical cravings will eventually subside. You tuck weeks and months under your belt, pass your first year and if you’re like me, you stop counting. Brilliant!

That doesn’t mean you’ve cracked it, unfortunately. Life likes to keep us on our toes and you’ll find another challenge still lingers – achieving emotional sobriety.

How difficult you find giving up drinking and sticking with sobriety can often depend on how messy what lurks underneath is. For many hardened drinkers, alcohol isn’t about fun at all; it’s about trying to control the troubled, turbulent inner world.

Starting to take hold of the reins on this is a process that runs parallel to remaining physically sober.

This is about finding and maintaining emotional equilibrium, regulating moods, maintaining perspective on life’s challenges and living in the present. Essentially, it’s an ability to roll with the punches while remaining Zen-ish.

Sometimes you purely have to tolerate today; it’s unrealistic to think you’re always going to be leaping around marvelling at how fantastic life is. Sometimes life sucks and you’re allowed to dial it down and go quiet.

Let’s be honest, the hardest thing about giving up booze long-term is all the crap you’re left with. The tangled knotted emotions, wounds from long ago, and often, an underdeveloped ability to cope with rocky times. Achieving emotional sobriety can be much more complicated than the simple process of physical abstinence. But, it’s crucial for long-term success.

When our skills of self-regulation aren’t well learned, it’s common to reach for outside ‘solutions’ to restore our sense of calm – alcohol, food, gambling, whatever your poison is.

While you’re a work in progress, your emotions are out of control and your thinking can run away with you. The trick is to recognise and accept there’s still work to be done. Don’t punish yourself for not being perfect.

The goal is to endure intense emotions without knee jerking and acting in dysfunctional, compulsive ways.

When you have achieved emotional sobriety you can bring yourself back into balance when you fall out of it. Until that comes naturally, focus on pressing pause, don’t panic, don’t react, sit with your emotions and let the world spin around you. Remember bad days won’t last forever.

Getting emotionally sober comes with practice.

In the meantime, simply not making things any worse is a good start.

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