Friday, February 6, 2009

Emotional Sobriety

I sat in a meeting last night and listened to a wheelchair bound man talk. He didn't talk about how much it sucked for him to be handicapped, which he has been for over 17 years, or how much harder it is to stay sober without the use of his legs.
No, he spoke in depth about emotional sobriety.

That's the thing: life without drugs and alcohol is great, really it is. But without a solid program of recovery and spirituality in place, it simply will not be all that it can be. In fact, it may be downright miserable. Recovery is not about putting down the drink or the drug. That is only the beginning. Recovery is about getting inside of yourself, finding out what plagues you and dealing with the issues that make you want to run from reality. Once you can look at those issues and start to walk through them, leaving guilt, anger and blame along the path as you go, the real healing begins. Without a good program of recovery, an addict is left with themselves, and they are still suffering from the sickness. The substances are merely a symptom of the problem and left untreated, that problem will rear its ugly head again and again.
As I listened to "X" speak about emotional sobriety it dawned on me, as it has before, that if this were just about drugs and alcohol, 12 step meetings would be sparse, but they are not. You can walk into a meeting of AA or NA or the like and it will likely be packed. It will be packed with some people who are struggling to stay sober. The majority, though, are people who are struggling with regular life problems. As addicts, we behaved in ways that were shameful, bitter and unhealthy. As addicts in recovery, we are given the option of living differently. We have the choice to use the same survival mechanisms that we used in our addiction or use new ones where we don't get to hurt other people in the process.
That is what emotional sobriety is about. Being clean and sober isn't enough. Being clean and sober within one's heart and mind is more than enough. Getting there demands honesty and hard work.
This same man who was speaking last night once told me: "AA is not for people who need it, not for people who want it, but for people who are willing to work their ass off to get it."

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