Different Phases of Recovery
A person in recovery goes through a great many changes on the journey from newcomer to long-term sober individual. This blog discusses the emotional experiences and transformations that are a significant part of this journey.
Experience has taught us that the first 90 days of recovery from substance abuse disorder often are centered on becoming physically stable with developing habits that support , i.e. clean, sober, and healthy through abstinence from alcohol and drugs with the beginning of patterns before emphasizing can be placed on spirituality, mental health and what is commonly referred to as emotional sobriety. .
What is Emotional Sobriety?
Experience has taught us that for an alcoholic/addict the first 90 days of recovery from substance abuse disorder often are centered on detoxifying while remaining abstinent from alcohol and drugs. During this early stage, the length of which will vary from person to person, the focus is on becoming physically stable through medical treatment (if needed) and improvement of one’s diet, sleep, and exercise habits. Following this time of body stabilization, more emphasis can be placed upon spirituality, mental health and what is commonly referred to as emotional sobriety.
The term, emotional sobriety was coined by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, in an article that he wrote over twenty years into his own recovery. In this article, titled “The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety” (January 1958 edition of the AA Grapevine) Bill Wilson describes what it means to grow emotionally and spiritually in recovery. As he states, during his or her years (and in many cases, decades) of substance abuse, the alcoholic/addict is hindered from emotional and spiritual development. Consequently, a central aspect of his or her recovery is emotional and spiritual growth that the non-alcoholic/addict is likely to experience in their teens and twenties.
Bill Wilson further describes the potential for the recovering alcoholic/addict to develop new dependencies on outside, non-chemical things for happiness. It is clearly common for people in recovery from substance abuse disorder to find that they have shifted their dependencies from alcohol and drugs to people, shopping, jobs, relationships, hobbies, and/or countless other diversions. Because true sobriety is found not in dependency and expectations on people, places and things that are external sources of distraction but instead in acceptance and surrender, the emotional growth of the recovering individual can be a challenging undertaking. But the 12 steps of recovery programs suggest that members place their dependency upon a higher power rather than on things of this world.
Bill Wilson’s sums this up at the end of his article:
“…if we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand. Let us, with God’s help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love; we may then be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety.”
To someone new in recovery, the concept of living life one day at a time is brought up often. The idea of long-term abstinence and sobriety can be daunting and hard to conceptualize, especially to the newcomer. Yet millions of alcoholics and addicts put together days of sobriety that turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years, having learned to live their lives one day at a time. These people would certainly tell you that the journey of long-term sobriety – physical, mental and spiritual – includes lessons in acceptance and surrender throughout. They also understand that the lessons – and the joy that one derives from learning them – never end. This is the life that awaits the alcoholic/addict who achieves abstinence and continues the work that it takes to grow emotionally and spiritually. May all of you find this joy.