That’s what most of us think when we look at sobriety, as author Kelly Fitzgerald writes on The Fix blog post titled, “What Is Emotional Sobriety And Why Does It Matter? “ I knew, however, that my life was unmanageable based upon my emotional state while NOT drinking. Maybe it was due to the recovery work I had done during the last year in a marriage to an addict. I knew there would be more to do than simply not pick up a drink. On that Monday morning in August, when I woke up out of a dead sleep with the question, “why did you drink last night?” echoing in my head, I knew it was time for me to put down the bottle. But I also realized that putting down the drink was just the beginning of sobriety…both physical and emotional.
Sure there were the practical issues of handling “not drinking” in situations that historically speaking had called for a cocktail. I remember asking my first sponsor (a former business colleague), “what will I say when people ask me if I want a drink?” and “what will people think if I’m not drinking?” I was surprised when she suggested that I answer the first question with a simple “no thank you,” and I was shocked (and humbled) when she bluntly addressed my second question by asking “do you really think people are paying that much attention to you?” That smarted.
Beyond the practical implications of being un-medicated at events that in the past required a drink, the physical part of sobriety…putting down the bottle…was not a challenge for me. The challenge came as I began to apply recovery principles in my business dealings, when frozen emotions began to thaw, and I had to manage them effectively.
Emotional sobriety for a business person is not a solo venture. It takes support to acknowledge and sort through the feelings that emerge. What type of support?
Here are the most valuable supports that an executive needs in order to attain (and maintain) emotional sobriety:
1. Therapist/Counselor – clinicians trained and experienced with treating addicts, alcoholics and codependents provide a necessary service to a recovering person. Many recovering people utilize their services at different points of their journeys. Mental/emotional health is the goal.
2. Sponsor – in a 12-step program, this person familiarizes the recovering alcoholic, addict or codependent with the process of recovery and shares their experience so the knowledge can be applied to life in real time. Abstinence and spiritual growth is the goal.
3. Coach- this confidential resource supports the executive by helping him/her apply recovery principles within the context of the person’s professional role keeping the focus on self-awareness and acceptance. Assimilation and personal growth is the goal.
4. Recovery Peers – it’s important to build relationships with people who have found physical and emotional sobriety who can serve not just as role models but share a common commitment to sobriety. Identification and support is the goal.
Kelly Fitzgerald says “emotional sobriety means that you’ve accepted reality as it is today, at this moment, not how you wish it could be.” A wise person once said, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” Emotional sobriety does require acceptance, but if you’re an executive wired to strive to make things how you “wish it could be,” how do you get there? You begin with willingness; willingess to accept help from a trusted and capable resource.