Emotional Sobriety: Are We Really Supposed To Be Emotionally Almighty?

Some of us have fought to be seen and understood since the moment we were conceived. We’ve waited and waited for the moment in which we will finally be free from the prison that is to be invisible and out of place. We crave the sensation of being at home. Comfortable within our own skin and soft as a feather. I don’t know exactly why so many of us go through this experience. Whenever I look around me, it’s what I see the most. People suffering, only because their being has been denied since day one. No one really feels comfortable within their skin and no one dares to be fully alive.

The best gift someone can give us is the gift of empathy. Carl Rogers described empathy as the ability to enter into someone’s private emotional world and be at home with it. It’s in that sacred space that we can heal and care for each other. Few people seem to be able to help us co-create this space though. It requires maturity, compassion and a certain dose of vulnerability from oneself. We all crave this sort of connection, and we look for it in every relationship we step into. We want to reclaim our humanness and soothe our wounds.

In the process of facing my codependency and food addiction, I stumbled upon something that Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholic Anonymous, wrote about emotional sobriety. Wilson identified the root of his addiction in codependency and he sought emotional sobriety as the key to deal with it. In his words, emotional sobriety is about giving without expecting to receive in return. I recognise this thought but it’s a hard principle to follow. It has been hard to grow up without comfort and without a sense that I matter and that I’m seen. At what extent am I supposed to work on myself to let that go? Aren’t we all deserving of care?

It’s not that I give to get it back. I’m giving my time and energy to strangers all the time and I don’t expect them to return me the favour. In my relationships, however, I do expect a fair emotional exchange. I no longer expect it from my mother, but I do expect it from my friends, the people I choose to have a deeper connection and be intimate with. Do I have to find different friends? Where are the people who are willing to be vulnerable and help you navigate through your storms? Either I have a lot to learn about emotional sobriety or something hasn’t been quite right in my relationships. Probably both.

I do know I feel like being much more protective of my energy. I’m going through a lot internally and there is no one else around to guide me through this, except God. I’m being tailored to become stronger and eventually breakthrough. I know it gets darker before the dawn and all this inner work will eventually pay off. Until then though, it’s a constant struggle between the right amount of self-compassion and the right amount of kicking my ass. I need to remind myself that I must live not one day at a time but a moment at a time. I don’t know why I chose such tasks in this lifetime but if I did so there must be a good reason for it and it must mean I’m able to overcome all these struggles.


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