Emotional Sobriety: Living Authentically Sober

group of friends in recovery hanging outThe journey from addiction to sobriety is full of twists and turns. Although every person’s experience will be different, each journey shares some of the same crossroads. For example, as you work through your addiction treatment, you will need to recognize that you have a substance use problem and that you cannot overcome it on your own.

You’ll eventually also need to recognize the difference between physical sobriety and emotional sobriety and come to terms with the two. In this blog, we’ll look at the difference between emotional sobriety and physical sobriety, the importance of each one, and several outward signs of emotional sobriety.

What Is Emotional Sobriety?

Emotional sobriety is the ability to recognize current feelings and be emotionally present.1 This involves accepting the fact that you feel anxious, lonely, happy, or jealous, and understanding that although you may wish you felt a different way, you don’t. And that’s okay.

Emotional sobriety is also defined by having the ability to cope with these emotions in a healthy way instead of trying to cover them up with other addictive behaviors like obsessively shopping, exercising, or eating.

Unlike some people may believe, being sober doesn’t mean that you’re always happy or that life is always perfect. On the contrary, oftentimes it means life is complicated, difficult, and tempting. But if you are emotionally sober, you understand that feeling all those emotions is a part of living authentically sober and living any other way would be a sham.

Being emotionally sober is an important aspect of sober living because it keeps you from falling back into old habits or giving into cravings. Instead of letting your emotions control your behaviors, you learn to accept the things you’re feeling and use the healthy tools and strategies you learned in rehab to deal with them.

Emotional Sobriety vs. Physical Sobriety

Physical sobriety and emotional sobriety are two very different things.

  • When we talk about physical sobriety, it means to physically abstain from using drugs and alcohol. Many people would also define it as a state of mental, physical, and spiritual health.
  • Emotional sobriety, on the other hand, deals with the ability to feel and accept emotions instead of trying to mask them with drugs or alcohol.

These two terms are defined differently by many people in recovery, but it is a common understanding that the two are not one in the same.

A person can be physically sober without ever being emotionally sober. Although possible, this isn’t a healthy way to live life and it can easily lead to relapse. Emotions contribute to your overall quality of life, and if you can’t find a way to new cope with them without drugs and alcohol, you’ll inevitably be as miserable as you were back when you were using.2

How Do I Know If I’m Emotionally Sober?

People who are emotionally sober typically display it with outward behaviors and actions. Here are five clear signs that you are emotionally sober (or are well on your way to getting there).

  1. You no longer dwell on your past mistakes. Although it’s important to acknowledge and learn from our past mistakes, it’s also important to learn how to live in the present and focus on what you can do today. You accept that you made mistakes in the past and you make a daily effort to live a better life.
  2. You can accept temporary roadblocks without breaking down. Instead of letting your emotional reactions fuel your addiction, you can accept negative feedback, navigate a difficult situation, or maneuver through something that doesn’t go as planned with grace and dignity.
  3. You build meaningful and lasting relationships. You can talk to your sober living roommates and sponsor about the stressors and challenges of life and you spend time getting to know them too. Your relationships extend beyond your past with addiction and they are a consistent source of strength, hope, and encouragement.
  4. You don’t let negative feelings control you. Instead of flying off the handle and resorting to drugs and alcohol to numb negative feelings like you used to, you are thoughtful about your reactions to negative emotions and make a conscious choice about how you will respond to them.
  5. You aren’t a slave to your cravings anymore. Instead of heading straight to the bar or to your stash of drugs, you can say no in tempting situations. Even while enrolled in a sober living program, you are sometimes faced with the temptation to use, but you’re be able to recognize that you’re struggling and know when to ask for help.

Getting Sober: Physically and Emotionally

Just because you’ve gone through the ropes, completed treatment, and are now enrolled in a transitional housing program doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve mastered the art of being emotionally or physically sober. Achieving both types of sobriety is a process that takes lots of time, effort, and accountability.

Although you may not feel like you’re emotionally sober for months or years after completing rehab, enrolling in a sober living program can help you stay focused on your recovery and work with your peers to achieve that goal.

By regularly attending 12-step support groups, staying accountable to your recovery program, and investing in sober relationships and mentorships, you’ll eventually find fulfillment in experiencing all your emotions and you won’t feel the need to dull them with drugs and alcohol anymore.

Call the admissions team at Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today to learn more about the benefits of our sober living programs for men and women in recovery or use our online booking system to browse our sober living houses and book your stay today.



  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-sobriety/201107/what-is-emotional-sobriety
  2. https://www.thefix.com/what-emotional-sobriety-and-why-does-it-matter
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