The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Sobriety

 In Recovery

So many discussions on addiction treatment focus on the detox process and getting through the first stages of rehab. But more focus needs to be on long-term recovery and ensuing years of sobriety. Getting through detox is one thing, but successful treatment means being able to stay levelheaded and consciously avoid abusing substances in the future.

As our understanding of addiction and its treatment progresses, an increasing area of focus has been on emotions. After all, it is often emotions that drive us to use substances in the first place, and they play a key role in our ability to recover from them. And it’s not just about ourselves. By learning to understand and acknowledge the emotions of others around us, we can rebuild relationships that may have suffered from our substance abuse, and we can build toward a strong and healthy future.

It comes down to something called emotional intelligence. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and/or going through treatment, here’s what you need to know about this area of awareness and why it is so important when it comes to recovery:

What is ‘Emotional Intelligence’?

According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence refers to understanding and being able to manage one’s own emotions in addition to those of others. This stronger all-around emotional IQ helps us better relate to others, while also allowing us to be more lenient on ourselves. It’s all about understanding that we are all human, and we all go through a variety of emotions every single day.

There are several key areas of emotional intelligence:

  • Self Awareness – The ability to recognize one’s own emotions and understand how these emotions can impact our thoughts and actions.
  • Social Awareness – The ability to recognize the emotions of others and how they affect their own thoughts and actions.
  • Self Management – The ability to control our own impulses, behavior and feelings (or at least how we express our feelings).
  • Relationship Management – The ability to build and foster healthy, successful relationships with others and communicate effectively.

Even if you do not feel your emotional intelligence is as strong as it could be, the good news is that this kind of intelligence is learned. Sure, some people do seem to have a natural gift of being able to “read” others or be in touch with their own emotions. However, there are various steps that everyone can do to improve upon these skills or even build a foundation for them in the first place.

Tips for Developing Emotional Intelligence

Here are some ways that everyone can hone their emotional intelligence skills:

  • Learn and practice empathy, that is, relating to others’ feelings and acknowledging that they also have complex emotions.
  • Recognize stress/anxiety symptoms: body tension, headaches, changes in appetite, feelings of frustration, upset stomach, disruptions in sleep, etc.
  • Recognize signs of depression: loss of interest in normal activities, public avoidance, feelings of sadness and despair, lack of energy, negative thinking and “hopelessness”, etc.
  • Understand gestures and non-verbal communication cues.
  • Listen to others and wait for your turn to express yourself.
  • Learn different ways of conflict resolution and understand that it may mean having to compromise.
  • Practice mindful meditation and embrace who you are as a person.
  • Acknowledge that you cannot control everything in life, and you also cannot control other people.

Keep in mind that improving emotional intelligence doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time and effort. It can also help to talk with a therapist about emotional intelligence, especially as it pertains to stress, anxiety and depression. It is important to recognize that these can be serious disorders, and by not addressing them, they can have a negative effect on addiction recovery.

Applying Emotional Intelligence to Recovery

If you are going through rehab, you will start to work on your emotional intelligence with your therapist. Group sessions are an especially great way to build these skills, particularly when it comes to communication and understanding the feelings of others. However, it’s important to take these skills far beyond treatment and carry them through the rest of life. Individuals who practice good emotional intelligence are often better able to say “no” to drugs and alcohol in the future, and they often feel more secure with themselves and others.

As emotional intelligence skills build-up, it’s important to acknowledge that this will also mean learning to recognize toxic relationships vs. healthy ones. After all, the key to long-term recovery is largely about having a strong support network of family and friends. Sometimes, however, there are individuals who let us down repeatedly emotionally or via their behavior. In these cases, emotional intelligence can be used to assess the relationship and whether or not it is worth pursuing / if it can be saved.

Have questions about emotional intelligence and why it is important with addiction recovery? Contact Victory Detox Center to learn more.


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