One of the most difficult things I had to admit to myself was that emotional instability constituted the primary reason why I drank. Naturally, I had a wide array of different excuses for gorging on impressive amounts of whiskey, vodka, and beer, including that it helped me sleep better, it relieved stress, it stimulated my conversational and interaction skills, etc.
However, the underlying reason behind my addiction had always been that I was lacking the emotional maturity to cope with problems while sober. Whether it was related to the unfair practices at the office, my shallow friends above whom I always placed myself or minuscule things like getting the wrong change at the supermarket, inside I was steaming in my stew. And the worst part is that I was never assertive enough to confront any of these issues at the right time. Instead, I would just cling to the bottle for relief, without realizing that my frustrations and grudges were growing deeper and deeper.
What Being Emotionally Stable and Sober Implies
In rehab, I kept hearing about this concept of emotional sobriety, although at that time its meaning eluded me completely. The association between the two concepts did not make sense to me. I mean, doesn’t sobriety just signify not drinking? A bit further down the road, when I was just starting to acknowledge my feelings and deeply imbedded frustrations, fears and negativity, I actually understood what it meant.
Emotional sobriety, and its opposite, “dry drunkenness” as well as the gray middle ground between the two, cover the possible states of mind of a recovering alcoholic who managed to stay clean. To put it simply, an emotional sober person is one who managed to let go of the fears about the future, bury the shadows of the past, live exclusively in the present moment, and still have a positive outlook on life.
He has accepted his memories and dealt with his emotions and the consequences of his actions instead of burying them deep, where they would continue to haunt him for the rest of his life. All of this, although once you become sober, there’s nothing to suppress the emotional pain and everything comes swarming in at once.
What About the Dry Drunkenness?
On the opposite pole of the emotionally sober recovering alcoholic we find the dry drunk. In rehab I was told that this state of mind can persist for years, maybe decades after the last drop of alcohol. A short description would be that a dry drunk is resentful, anxious, prone to maladaptive coping strategies, emotionally unstable and very, very pessimistic.
For him, sobriety and being liberated from the clutches of alcohol is not freedom, but rather a different type of prison. His loved ones and friends along with all the people who helped him break loose from the addiction, are his jailers. Unable to accept the new chance he’d been given, the dry drunk clings onto the past and his former ways, but now he doesn’t have booze to dim down all the negative emotions that are resurfacing.
If you find yourself in this situation, then I urge you to seek therapy and/or the help of support groups, because it’s a truly terrible state of mind.