When Emotional Sobriety is Not Enough

Not drinking or not using drugs may be your first step to lifetime sobriety, but it is not enough.  The concept of emotional sobriety was coined by Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1958 as he described his dependence on others (people or circumstances) to meet his needs. However, finding “the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand” (Wilson, 1958) and “surrendering” those demands still places the person with a behavior that has not been replaced by a healthier behavior. Additionally, some healthy behaviors, such as exercising, can become a new addiction.

Recovery comes from finding the balance in life where a person truly adopts a healthy lifestyle. It does not always mean overhauling your entire life but sometimes it is.  You need to expand the definition of healthy or being well to "...a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" (WHO, 2000).  There are eight dimensions of wellness: occupational, emotional, spiritual, environmental, financial, physical, social, and intellectual (SAMSHA, 2017), so addressing the “emotional” wellness is just one part of recovery; you need the address the seven other dimensions. Key to this balance is the awareness of where you are, and the ability to problem-solve.

 - Melinda D. Drake, LCSW (CA, NY, & HI), LISW CP & AP (SC)



World Health Organization, Pan-American Health Organization and Secretary of Health México (2000) Framework for Countrywide Plans of Action for Health Promotions, 5th Global Conference of Health Promotion. Retrieved from  http://www.who.int/healthpromotion/conferences/previous/mexico/en/hpr_mexico_report_en.pdf?ua=1

SAMSHA (2017). The Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/wellness-initiative/eight-dimensions-wellness

Wilson, B (1958). The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bdb7/5f3f1794280b51cb1b6249f3795dda44145f.pdf

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