What is Addiction?
Addiction is inherently a chronic disease with a high risk of relapse. When you are in an addictive state, your brain functioning changes; much like it’s been hijacked. This affects emotional responsiveness, communication, and behavioral choices. During addiction, a behavior is altered considerably off ‘norms’, however, natural behavior patterns typically remain. We capture these in our DISCflex™ Report. Usually, addiction involves dysfunctional stress-response and a corruption of motivation systems. It effects reward and impulse-control processes, as well as behavioral stressors, which we address in DISCflex™ A Report About Me.
What is Sobriety?
We all know the basic meaning of sobriety as the state or quality of being sober; as in not intoxicated, high, or drunk. Did you know the word actually comes from Latin and Old French? In fact, the meaning of sobriety comes from the concept of being respectable, decent, and neat in appearance. Sobriety also incorporates the intent of ‘ethical sobriety’; as in being honest, free from fraud, respectable, virtuous, honorable, decent, truthful and trust-worthy. Looking at sobriety in these terms, living with a focus on sobriety is a big deal!
Behavioral Sobriety™ is based on the actions you take and the habits you form; guiding your behaviors. If you are ‘behaviorally sober’, you consistently exhibit self-control or ‘sober restraint’. People might perceive your overall nature as calm, subdued, quiet, or sedate, not allow yourself to be overcome with emotion, especially not negative ones. Situationally, if you act in a sober manner, you’ll be seen as serious or solemn, composed, reserved, or prudent; with reactions that are measured, reasonable, moderate, or controlled.
If you lack Behavioral Sobriety™, you might over-react – leaping to judgment, making decisions that run against recovery efforts, or those that harm relationships. In terms of the Love-Hurt-Anger Cycle, you might overreact; going from deeply caring, to hurt, to highly upset, at warp speed. It takes you a nanosecond to roar. When this happens, you are typically unable to self-regulate. You’ve already launched! Most disturbing, you lose your ability to fine-tune your actions. In terms of DISCflex Factors, you’ve lost the ability to ‘dial up’ or ‘dial down’ your behavioral components; getting them (through self-regulation) to a place where they are behaviorally appropriate for the situation.
The first step of Behavioral Sobriety™ is physical sobriety – giving up addictive substances. The second step is behaving in a way that shows the traits of sobriety.
Why do we focus on the Early Stage of Behavioral Sobriety™
Most experts agree that the best advice to give folks in the earliest days of recovery is: ‘Don’t think and don’t drink’. This means that you would focus on your BEHAVIOR over your FEELINGS and EMOTIONS. This doesn’t mean forever, but it does mean that your behavior should be top of mind in your recovery efforts.
The foundation of Behavioral Sobriety™ is your actions, not your feelings and emotions. Here’s a good parallel to this way: You can be absolutely livid, fuming, furious and ready to tear someone’s head off their shoulders, but if you don’t ACT on your emotions; and you remain calm and self-controlled, your behavior is appropriate. This is Behavioral Sobriety™. You can crave drugs, want a drink in the worst way; but if you restrain yourself, by whatever means, you are exhibiting Behavioral Sobriety™.
Emotional sobriety is defined as living a life in which wisdom, resiliency, stability, steadiness, calmness, and balance guide your emotions. Emotional sobriety is a cornerstone of recovery because those who succumb to addiction are often very good at ignoring their feelings by masking them with substance abuse and/or addictive behaviors. It is a concept which calls for people hoping to stay sober over the long haul to learn to regulate any negative feelings that can lead to discomfort, cravings, and potential relapse. Emotional sobriety means something a little different to every person in recovery. In general terms though, it means you are able to maintain a healthy emotional balance, including your ability to handle negative emotions and feelings like fear, anger, and hurt, in a constructive way. Achieving emotional sobriety is vital. Initially, those in recovery may feel that detoxing is the most difficult step, but research shows that there are underlying emotional issues that have to be addressed for long-term recovery. In fact, the odds are stacked against people who achieve Behavioral Sobriety™ but do not continue working on Emotional Sobriety.
Tackling Emotional Sobriety Before the Foundation of Behavioral Sobriety™ has Been Laid has Risks
Most people aren’t ready to tackle Emotional Sobriety right out of the gate. Most research points to the fact if you were in an addictive state, if you don’t yet possess adequate knowledge and coping skills, the more you think about what you’ve done, the worse your chances of staying sober in the earliest days of your recovery. Logically, if you can’t stop drinking or using as a first step of your journey (abstinence behavior), your ship isn’t going to get out of the harbor anyway. Understandably, the primary focus has to be on behavior. There will be plenty of time after those first steps of Behavioral Sobriety™ are laid – the rest of your life – to focus on Emotional Sobriety.
Remember, Recovery Programs (The Book About Me and The Report About Me) teach skills that might lead to Behavioral and Emotional Sobriety™. Why? Most people, regardless of whether they were addicted or not, simply don’t have a familiarity with emotional or behavioral skills. Additionally, they don’t have a clue about how their natural behavioral pattern plays into recovery efforts.
Changes in the Mind Cause Changes in Behavior
One of the things that is most disturbing about addiction is that it causes changes in the mind. The person in this state might exhibit erratic and bizarre behaviors. Behavioral Sobriety™ involves ‘good’ decision making and making appropriate choices for your recovery program. Your natural behavior governs how you achieve Behavioral Sobriety™. Your natural behavioral preferences are engrained over your lifetime. These set the foundation for appropriate actions and encounters that ultimately, create good habits. When you achieve a state of Behavioral Sobriety™ you consistently take actions that steer you toward maintaining your recovery efforts. Often doing so means that you have to cultivate new mental processing skills and new ways of thinking about your perceptions.
Attaining Emotional and Behavioral Sobriety™
Life isn’t free of issues and that means recovery doesn’t mean anyone will be free of problems. However, attaining emotional and Behavioral Sobriety™ demands that you learn how to live life, on life’s terms, rather than continue to think that life should conform to your expectations. Emotional and behavioral sobriety’s primary goal is to uncover better ways of dealing with any problems that do surface, instead of turning to addiction – with a focus on balance. Many swap one addiction for another. This isn’t the path to Emotional Sobriety.
Chicken or the Egg? Which should come first: Emotional or Behavioral Sobriety™?
Typically, emotional change takes MUCH LONGER to occur than stopping or starting actions. This stopping or starting means that behavioral change can happen instantly. Think about it. You can make the decision to start a treatment program, but does your craving go away, just like that?
The result of not focusing on Behavioral Sobriety™ as a first step is that recoveree, in early-stage recovery, often relapses due to decision-making deficiencies. If you know that Emotional Sobriety takes a long time to attain and that you need to be sober to get there, it’s logical that Behavioral Sobriety™ has to take precedence.
Acting Like You’re Already There
There is a huge body of research that says that if you ‘act as if you’ve already attained your goal’, your emotions will follow suit. If you consistently work your program, your emotions and behaviors will ‘come out of the fog of addiction’ and follow your consistent actions. This is far easier to achieve if you focus on your behavioral strengths and mitigate your natural ‘behavioral soft spots’. Taken to another level, from what we’ve learned about habits, it stands the reason that if you ‘act as if’ consistently, your habits will change to what state you are acting. This affects emotions and behavior simultaneously.
Reconciling Actions and Emotions
Emotional and Behavioral Sobriety™ occurs when your behavior and emotional thinking match. This is called reconciliation. Your view of who you want to be has to match your thinking and behavior. What are the alternatives to this? Fighting it or fleeing from it (refusing to deal with the situation). Both take energy and cause stress. The goal is to get to a place in your head where stress goes down, you have to reconcile with yourself by resolving your actions and recovery goals, but this is difficult without the appropriate tools and skills. Treatment programs, meetings, peer groups, and counseling sessions can provide help in this endeavor. They can provide a ‘safe place’ where you can explore and come to a place of reconciliation. The result? The melding of Emotional and Behavioral Sobriety.
For many, addiction starts early and leaves part of the mind in a state of immaturity, and catching up on emotional development is definitely a necessity. Striving for Emotional and Behavioral Sobriety™ is a lifelong pursuit. You need certain knowledge and coping skills to ‘re-train your brain’ to get to a place where you are consistently in a state of emotional and/or Behavioral Sobriety™. Since those addiction-based brain changes are profound, they can take months and often years to normalize. Using the new models and skills takes practice