Emotional sobriety a term first coined in 1953 by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) co-founder Bill Wilson in a letter for AA’s publication the Grapevine, Wilson wrote that if we look very closely at every imbalance we have, big or small, we’ll find at the root of them some form of dependence. Yet, by giving up and surrendering these dependencies “we may then be able to gain emotional sobriety.”
Tian Dayton author of Emotional Sobriety: From Relationship Trauma to Resilience and Balance, explains that emotional sobriety refers to a person’s ability to self-regulate, to discover and maintain emotional balance when they get out of sync, to re-adjust his or her “feeling regulator.”
Whether viewed from Wilson’s spiritual and philosophical perspective or Dayton psychological lens, emotional sobriety is essentially defined as a person’s ability to adjust their emotions, and in the process avoid harmful substances and behaviors. Dayton believes in order to achieve emotional sobriety people must:
- Develop strong self-regulation skills
- Regulate their mood and strong emotions such as rage, anger, despair
- Maintain perspective on circumstances in life
- Regulate potentially harmful substances or behaviors
- Live in the present moment
- Regulate their activity levels, avoid being chronically under or overactive
- Learn to live with both social and intimate connections
- Become resilient, roll with the punches
- Regulate their personal behavior
- Develop skills for emotional mind and body self regulation
- Resolve wounds from childhood so they don’t sabotage their self regulation efforts
- Learn healthy and effective self-soothing strategies
- Learn how to manage stress
- Maintain a healthy body, exercise, rest, proper nutrition
- Process emotional ups and downs as they occur, live in the moment and consciously shift their feelings
- Learn to live comfortably with intimate relationships
As a guide I find this list handy, but be careful.
It is a somewhat impossible list to adhere to. As AA found out early in its history to live by the four absolutes of the Oxford groups; Honesty, Unselfishness, Love and Purity was too difficult to even try. Alcoholics do not do anything absolutely except drink. And we do only one of the 12 Steps absolutely – we stop drinking.
As I heard an AA member say “I had to stop musturbating myself.”
The AA slogan ‘Easy Does It” is always applicable.