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Understanding the Concept of Emotional Sobriety

According to a recent poll, 2/3rds of Americans have been affected by addiction in some way.[1] When you have a substance use disorder, your behaviors will negatively impact those around you. Oftentimes, addiction causes you to behave selfishly, become defensive, and lie to people that you love.

When you get sober, many of the negative emotions you were masking with substances will come to the surface. You will need to learn how to cope with uncomfortable emotions to prevent yourself from continuing to place strains on your relationships with loved ones.

The term “emotionally sober” describes being able to cope with your emotions healthily without needing to use drugs and alcohol. Developing emotional sobriety can be difficult, but there are many ways to do it.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What it means to be emotionally sober
  • How your emotions relate to addiction
  • How to develop emotional sobriety

What is Emotional Sobriety?

If you have recently completed an addiction treatment program, that is cause for celebration. However, there is still work to be done. Just because you achieved physical sobriety does not mean that you are 100% healthy.

A vital step in long-term recovery is achieving emotional sobriety. Being emotionally sober is all about knowing how to deal with negative thoughts and emotions healthily. Instead of resorting to negative behaviors or substance abuse, you should use healthy coping mechanisms to overcome your emotions.

Examples of emotional sobriety include:

  • Having a healthy and emotionally balanced life
  • Accepting your present circumstances as they are
  • Recognizing that struggles and negative emotions are a part of life
  • Being able to manage your emotions as they arise
  • Refusing to dwell on the past
  • Not letting other people dictate your self-esteem or impact your behavior

To make it simple, the term emotional sobriety is all about healthy emotional regulation. While it is possible to develop this while you are in treatment, it often takes a long time to truly grasp the concept and apply it to your daily life.

How Do Your Emotions Relate to Addiction?

Many people began abusing drugs to cope with uncomfortable emotions. They might be trying to mask the symptoms of grief, an underlying mental illness, or traumatic experiences. Unfortunately, once you begin using drugs to cope with emotions, they tend to become more difficult to deal with over time.

If you abuse drugs or alcohol, you might exhibit the following traits:

  • Having a hard time regulating intense emotions like anger
  • Acting in impulsive or risky ways when a situation is emotionally challenging
  • Struggling to have intimate connections with others
  • Being unable to “roll with the punches” in your daily life
  • Having a generally negative outlook on life

Once you get sober, likely, you will still deal with many of these issues. As a result, you’ll need to participate in behavioral therapy and make positive changes to your lifestyle. Positive lifestyle changes make it easier to develop a strong foundation of emotional sobriety.

Ways to Develop Strong Emotional Sobriety

Addiction recovery is about more than simply getting drugs and alcohol out of your system. Without developing emotional sobriety, you will not be able to deal with your emotions in a healthy way. Learning how to cope with emotions should always be a part of the process.

Try the following strategies if you want to develop emotional sobriety.


Talk therapy and behavioral therapy can be incredibly helpful in teaching you emotional regulation. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you how to manage your emotions by identifying them, accepting them, and then using coping mechanisms to change them naturally.[2]

Additionally, if you are dealing with childhood trauma or undiagnosed mental health conditions that are leading to uncomfortable emotions, therapy is the best way to overcome those types of struggles.

Healthy Life Habits

Another way to achieve emotional sobriety is to instill healthy habits into your life. For example, habits like exercise, regular sleeping routines, and eating healthy can play a role in making your emotions easier to manage. Eating, sleeping, and exercising well will lessen your stress and increase your natural energy.[3]

Building Connections

Lastly, building strong connections with your friends and loved ones will improve your emotional sobriety. First, connection with others is vital to a healthy mind.[4] Having close relationships will reduce feelings of loneliness, improve your confidence, and ensure that you always have support when you need it.

If you are struggling to make connections as a sober person, the easiest place to find real friendships is in a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous. These support groups allow you to learn about how recovery works for others, relate to people’s stories, and gain support from your peers.

Get Connected to a Top-Rated Drug and Alcohol Rehab Program

If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, it’s time to seek professional help. At the Mandala Healing Center, we offer evidence-based treatments and a focus on improving your emotional health. In other words, we will help you achieve both physical and emotional sobriety.

Contact us today to learn more about our drug and alcohol rehab center or get started with a confidential, risk-free assessment.


  1. Two-thirds of Americans Say Their Lives Have Been Affected by Addiction: Poll
  2. Cognitive strategies to regulate emotions—current evidence and future directions
  3. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Diet, Sleep and Exercise: The Keystones of Healthy Lifestyle for Medical Students
  4. Berkeley Executive Education: The Importance of Connections on Our Well-being