Emotional Sobriety

Topics related to AA Meetings - and alcohol addiction recovery
Posts: 310
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2005 2:34 am

Emotional Sobriety

Postby Tim » Mon Nov 30, 2009 2:40 pm

Emotional Sobriety is an important topic for discussion in an AA meeting. All of us are emotionally immature when we begin our sober journey. I think that one of the many reasons that a sponsor can be helpful is not only in working the 12 Steps, but in helping the sponsee to make progress toward emotional sobriety.

I have known people with many years in the program that still exhibit immaturity and a lack of good judgment. On the other hand, some of the most emotionally mature people I have known have been AA members.

I think we need to make the choice to change our actions and our thinking to achieve emotional sobriety. It is important that we work the Steps and that we grow up.

Bill W wrote about Emotional Sobriety as the next frontier in sobriety and wove this topic throughout the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Tradtions. It comes up frequently in Grapevine articles as well.

Your thoughts?

Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 3:05 pm

Postby MichalF » Mon Nov 30, 2009 3:50 pm

I am still having difficulties with recognizing emotionally immaturity in my personality, often mix up things like - temperament, enthusiasm, excitment ,courage, bravado, sensitivity, weakness ect.
I feel that emotional sobriety is mainly relate to taking decisions less to behaviour.

Site Admin
Posts: 4830
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:05 pm

Postby Dallas » Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:54 pm

Welcome to the site MichalF! I've read your message and I appreciate your participation on the site. Keep coming back!


Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:24 pm

Emotional sobriety and the ability to feel?

Postby seemslikelastnight » Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:49 pm

I am new to this board. Someone told me to look for online meetings and so I have. The woman who told me about them has 25 years in and knows from whence she speaks.

I'm coming up on one of THOSE anniversaries: 3,650 days without a drink on 1/14/10 (please God), not figuring in extra days for leap years. This one feels momentous enough for me to drive back from where I'm living now--Bristol, PA--to my old homegroup at the Jersey Shore for the celebration meeting next Sunday. My older son (age 31) likes to attend these anniversaries. He has said aloud how proud he is of me. I takes me awhile to compose myself after that.

I go on commitments and in the last year I've begun to say I have X number of years, but I have real sobriety amounting to maybe six months (that probably is an exaggeration to make myself look worse than I am). But I discovered I don't have to have vodka in my gut to behave like a p***k. I'm just a bit more aware now when I slip into old defect-ridden modes of action.

So emotional sobriety. Someone I heard speak at a meeting wonderfully encapsulated the whole journey for me. "The great part about sobriety is that you can feel again. The lousy part of sobriety is that you can feel again." I laughed but it wasn't funny: to me it was true. I went out of my way to avoid feeling. I hadn't cried from age 12 until 34, when I watched my first child being born--it had to be something that extreme for me to shed tears.

When I was going through my marital collapse in the mid- and late 1990s, I could go on retreat with my old pals Pierre Smirnoff and Captain Morgan, the dudes who never let me down until they did. When I began coming around and hearing what you guys were saying, I suddenly also felt these emotional rushes of both elation and upset. I became a defiant idiot. I almost went for suicide at the end of 2006 and had myself hospitalized. Then I decided I was too crazy to pay my ex any more alimony so I quit and shortly thereafter became a 13-hour guest of the County lockup. None of this stuff happened when I was out there. I was under the world's radar.

I recently extricated myself from a long-term relationship that had turned not just toxic but dangerous. I was in love for 14 years with a woman who would lose all emotional control. She would hurt me, physically. Okay, "What's your part, Ken?" A fair question--but while I'm answering it, I have had to get away from the situation that made assault possible.

Being alone can be very, very difficult.

Periodically anymore the ceiling seems to fall in. It's no worse than it was at the end of 1999 only now I can feel the crash and smell the plaster dust. I don't like it. I don't have to like it, do I? But I also don't have to drink over it, and only the grace of God and a several people I've met on the road have kept me on the rails, except for the third rail.

Site Admin
Posts: 4830
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:05 pm

Postby Dallas » Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:23 pm

Welcome to the site and thank you for sharing.

I've been on some emotional roller coasters. They suck. :lol:

Yep. I laugh at myself -- because, "why not laugh? I survived them!"

I understand about: the good news, I can feel again -- the bad news, I can feel again! :lol:

For myself... I learned that whenever I found myself on one of those emotional roller coasters -- the fastest way off of it, and the safest way, with the most predictable good results for me -- was to start at the very front of the BB, and go through it again, re-taking each of the 12 Steps.

I ended up doing it so often, that now, I can turn to certain pages and follow the instructions on those pages, and I'm off the coaster within minutes. And, if I ever get into a situation again, where those few pages don't work, I know what to do... Start at the front cover again.

For me, that's the good news. Because of the tools, I don't have to drink, and I don't have to stay miserable if I don't drink! :lol:

Another thing I discovered that "this too shall pass"... is true. However, if I don't wipe, wash and flush... some things pass so slowly that I might be dead by the time they pass! :lol:

I wish you the best.

There is a solution -- and, we already have it.

Once upon a time... well, more than once... :lol: ... the way I used the 12 Steps on my emotional roller coaster was: "I admitted that I was powerless over what I was feeling -- and my life was unmanageable as the result of it!"

Sure enough... it worked!

Keep coming back. Your experience as you get to the other side of your problem will help many of us as you share what you did to turn things around.

Best regards,


Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 9:11 pm

Emptional Sobriety

Postby knny913 » Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:41 pm

Welcome seemslike'
The old "feelings" factor, the very thing that I drank for over 39 years over. I don't know why, I guess I was afraid of them, or of the unknown of them. They were never part of my corriculm. I never studied them, or had anyone to teach me about them, so I fled from them, only to find that if I was caught off guard, they would reappear. I didn't look at my drinking as a problem, only as the solution. Near the end of my drinking career the problem was that I kept running out of feelings, so I had to to drink more to make some up.
Emotional sobriety is a subject that I can relate to, being careful not to become a "near beer". As my sponsor always says "pray about it!", I still hate those words, but I find that it really does work. In my life today I look at emotions as a merry-go-round, and if I stay in the middle the problems, fears, worries , and daily crap, will fly off the sides, provide I stay "spiritually fit".
Today I have the best teacher of all to guide me through them. I owe it to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book, the rooms and these forums. My everyday roller coaster rides are, in my program, daily tests from my Higher Power. It is He, She, or It, that has the answers for my present and future, so I leave it up to Him (referenced for convience). My job is to stay sober (in the middle), and to help others.
Happy Anniversery this week, I think you will make it!
Keep in touch.
Your Friend

Posts: 29
Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:05 pm

Postby Rain » Sun Aug 29, 2010 1:51 am


I can't find a reference to emotional sobriety in the 12x12. It maybe me my memory or the concordance I'm using.

Can you help me out and tell me where you found that? Or one of the Grapevine articles?


Posts: 132
Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 8:07 am

Postby Bensober » Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:52 pm

Hi Rain & All,
This is a big read but it has had great impact on my life in referrence to Emotional Sobriety!

This is the substance of a revealing letter, which Bill Wilson wrote several years ago to a close friend who also had troubles with depression. The letter appeared in the "Grapevine" January 1953.

"I think that many oldsters who have put our AA "booze cure" to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA, the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.

Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance, urges quite appropriate to age seventeen, prove to be an impossible way of life when we are at age forty-seven and fifty-seven.

Since AA began, I've taken immense wallops in all these areas because of my failure to grow up emotionally and spiritually. My God, how painful it is to keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover, finally, that all along we have had the cart before the horse. Then comes the final agony of seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get off the emotional merry-go-round.

How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result, and so into easy, happy and good living. Well, that's not only the neurotic's problem, it's the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all of our affairs.

Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That's the place so many of us AA oldsters have come to. And it's a hell of a spot, literally. How shall our unconscious, from which so many of our fears, compulsions and phony aspirations still stream, be brought into line with what we actually believe, know and want! How to convince our dumb, raging and hidden ‘Mr. Hyde' becomes our main task.

I've recently come to believe that this can be achieved. I believe so because I begin to see many benighted ones, folks like you and me, commencing to get results. Last autumn, depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long chronic spell. Considering the grief I've had with depressions, it wasn't a bright prospect.

I kept asking myself "Why can't the twelve steps work to release depression?" By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer ... "it's better to comfort than to be comforted". Here was the formula, all right, but why didn't it work?

Suddenly, I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence, almost absolute dependence, on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.

There wasn't a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away.

Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so starkly revealed. Reinforced by what grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed upon any act of circumstance whatsoever.

Then only could I be free to love as Francis did. Emotional and instinctual satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love, and expressing love appropriate to each relation of life.

Plainly, I could not avail myself to God's love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others, as He would have me. And I couldn't possibly do that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies.

For my dependence meant demand, a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me.

While those words "absolute dependence" may look like a gimmick, they were the ones that helped to trigger my release (because I can see my beast for what it is "absolute dependence" and the conscious conflicting good is to LET GO!!!) into my present degree of stability and quietness of mind, qualities which I am now trying to consolidate by offering love to others regardless of the return to me.

This seems to be the primary healing circuit: an outgoing love of God's creation and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is most clear (bright, lucid, unclouded, and parted from the world so I could rejoin the world in this state) that the real current can't flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is.

If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependence and its consequent 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 gain emotional sobriety.

Of course, I haven't offered you a really new idea --- only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own hexes' at depth. Nowadays, my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine"

Bill Wilson

Attitude is Everything

Posts: 68
Joined: Mon May 31, 2010 5:15 pm

Postby RichC » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:53 pm

Good subject Tim.
I started drinking heavily when I was 14 and it took me 28 years to become truly sober.
One thing I noticed once I was actually sober and fell off my after treatment pink cloud is where I was emotionally and maturely.
I pretty much picked up at 14 again and started forward.
Sure I had matured in my social actions over the 28 years but inside I was still 14 in many ways.
I think that the social actions were more because I was expected to act that way. What went on in my mind was not what my peers were thinking like.
They were obviously more secure with their decisions, and opinions of situations then I was. And their reactions were more what would be expected of someone my age. Good or Bad.
They also deal with situations in a more mature fashion than I do.
At least in my mind anyhow.
Things that bug me to no end would not phase them in the least.
I still deal with this to this day.
But I have also noticed I am catching up quickly. Making up for lost time you may say.

Site Admin
Posts: 4830
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:05 pm

Postby Dallas » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:10 am

Below is a link to the Emotional Sobriety discussion in the Recovery Topics section of the forum:

You'll find additional messages, discussion and content on Emotional Sobriety at that link.

Return to “A. A. Meeting Topics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest