April was recognised worldwide as Alcohol Awareness Month. I was not aware of this! Were you? But surely every month should be alcohol awareness month, don’t you agree, especially if you are in recovery, or thinking of not drinking!
What is the month of May for you? For me, May is International Biodiversity Month. This means a lot to our existence on earth, sober or not. This means a lot to our futures and our pasts. It is also a good day to break away from the constant human focus to a more compassionate focus on Mother Earth. Why not forget your drinking for one day, and do something wonderful for your environment?
Connection Makes us all Human
Life is about relationships – I mean, one of the basic human needs is social interaction, not so? But what then about our earth? Our relationships with our life source? None of us would be here if it were not for the soil, water, air and sun? None of us would be here without our gardens, the ocean, the forests and the mountains? How many of you have loved island and safari holidays? Immersing yourself in nature and forgetting all your troubles?
Humanity is completely dependent on natural resources for all our greedy needs: water, food, medicines, clothing, shelter, energy and technology. We take so much from Mother Earth and never give back. There are mines to make our cell phones, factories spewing out smoke to make our cars and gadgets. Do you ever consider that all the plastic blocking up the rivers and oceans is also clogging up our veins, our babies’ brains?
Mental Health and Emotional Sobriety
This brings me to the next theme in this blog – emotional sobriety. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. During this month, we take note of those who are struggling with addiction, with depression, with personality disorders and stress issues.
No Matter What Recovery created a resource page to educate people and provide them with support during Alcohol Awareness Month: https://nomatterwhatrecovery.com/alcohol-awareness-month/ .
But we can all agree that alcohol awareness is a lifelong thing, like growing up and discovering the joys of trigonometry, geology and the inside of a cell! Being intelligent is not all about physics, maths and knowing who Hitler was, is it?
Intelligence is a multi-faceted being and we all learn later on in life that emotional intelligence is what makes us human. Many researchers agree that emotional intelligence is far more important than your IQ is – Kandra Cherry on VeryWellMind wonders what it would be like in a world where no one could understand emotions, or how to manage and perceive them?
Imagine the Scenario
Imagine that you are invited to a workshop on sobriety. You feel nervous and excited. You are newly sober, and you want to meet like-minded people who you can connect with. You walk into the room, and you immediately start to perceive the emotions of those around you: you subconsciously look for nonverbal clues such as body language, facial expressions and dress codes, hairstyles, and manners.
The workshop starts and you use your emotions to reason – to think and decide. You choose who you want to pay attention to and listen to. You choose who you will react to and who appeals and who does not appeal to you.
There could be a lot of contradicting emotions in the room during the workshop: sadness, happiness, anger, shame, guilt, indecision, and humour. You gauge these emotions from your own sense of emotion that day (you may feel anger, loss, guilt and loneliness too). You try to establish why people are feeling these emotions. You start to piece together the reasons that people are at the workshop, just like you.
The fourth dimension of emotional intelligence is the management of emotions. This is the highest level of emotional intelligence, so it comes easier to an adult who is able to perceive his or her emotions more deeply than others. Children and teenagers will still be learning about emotions and how to manage these.
“Regulating emotions and responding appropriately as well as responding to the emotions of others are all important aspects of emotional management… higher levels require greater conscious involvement and involve regulating emotions.”
So, back to the workshop! You are there and you are feeling all of these emotions. When you start to share how you feel, you see people’s eyes light up with relief. You see their body language change and relax. You are all there, connecting, with similar reasons for being there!
Little did you know it, but you have attended the workshop, like everyone else, to reach a state of emotional sobriety. This is when you have managed to stop drinking for as long as it takes to call yourself sober and you are starting to feel happy about this decision and happy in your life again.
Depression and Sobriety
This state of awareness can be very difficult, however, for non-drinkers who are depressed. There are also those abstainers who feel a sense of melancholy daily when they stop drinking.
Renewal Lodge by Burning Tree puts it clearly: “Alcohol abuse creates a complex imbalance of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine release is triggered when you engage in activities you find pleasurable, such as eating chocolate or playing sports, and it teaches your brain what actions to repeat, and eventually, to crave. Alcohol use overloads the brain with dopamine, while also reducing the brain’s dopamine receptors in the process. When you first quit drinking, the lack of dopamine and diminished receptors can lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Both excessively high and abnormally low levels of dopamine can have adverse effects, but over time your brain will begin to normalize dopamine levels as well as your brain’s response to the chemical without the intrusion of alcohol.”
But there is hope, of course. Strive for emotional sobriety. There are several steps you can take to get there and we found these on an amazing website called No Matter What Recovery:
Emotional sobriety generally involves:
- Maintaining emotional balance and health
- Being present and live in the present
- Accepting that suffering and grief are natural parts of life that enable us to grow as individuals
- Not dwelling on the past
- Be mindful of others’ expectations and perceptions, and don’t let them influence your self-esteem or negatively impact your behavior.
Build Your Emotional Intelligence
Getting back to emotional intelligence: you can be aware of your emotions and how to read other people’s emotions. You can also learn how to manage your emotions and to walk away from the hugeness of your emotions if need be.
Many people are trapped by their egos in their own heads which rules their emotions. When you give up a substance like alcohol, you can reach a sense of calmness, of emotional equilibrium. You can tune into your emotions and what you have been numbing behind the alcohol for so long. You can learn to meditate and accept your emotions, allowing them and then moving on. The main reason you want to sit with your emotions is to overcome the triggers that could lead to a temptation to drink again.
Life is challenging. Everyone has a story to share and a struggle in their life. We can all connect listen, empathize and remember that you are not alone. There is nothing that alcohol can do for you, except make things much worse.