Introspection and Emotional Intelligence in Recovery

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Many people view drug rehabilitation as a process that rids the body of harmful substances and sets a person on a path to physical sobriety, but there’s much more to it than that. Maintaining sobriety requires more than just becoming physically sober, they must become emotionally sober as well. This means that an addict needs to learn to address and manage their emotions without the use of addictive substances. Increasing emotional intelligence as part of rehab will help those in recovery to become both emotionally and physically sober.

The emotional element is important to address because a lot of the underlying reasons for addiction are actually rooted in the mental side of things, which is why it is so hard to treat. Indeed, most of the reasons that people avoid getting help and going to rehab is because of self-esteem issues that make them believe they are beyond repair. A key aspect of recovery needs to be recognizing these emotions and working to not let them control you.

Recognizing Emotions in the Self and Others

Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to assess their own emotions, and the emotions of others, and to be able to manage and control their emotions. People who are suffering from addiction usually have reasons for their addictive behaviors that existed before they turned to substance abuse. One of the most common reasons for substance abuse is an inability to deal with emotions, or a lack of emotional intelligence. 

Many people who suffer from addiction have a hard time expressing themselves with words, so they rely on an addictive substance as a form of self-medication to relieve tension, dull their problems, or as a catalyst to express their emotions. Once they enter rehab, they are able to detox and provide sobriety for their physical bodies, but unless they are able to increase their emotional intelligence, they will have a very hard time staying away from addictive substances in the future. A person in recovery must learn to deal with and express their emotions without assistance from addictive substances, or they will find themselves falling back into old habits as a way to cope later on.

Putting Emotional Intelligence to Practice

Emotional intelligence encompasses a skill set that includes self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management. Emotional intelligence is all about recognizing your own emotions and responding to them appropriately. It is also about recognizing and validating the emotions of those around you and managing them properly, as well. Here are some of the areas of focus when working on increasing emotional intelligence:

  • Identify Stress: Know what your individual triggers and symptoms of stress are, especially for those who feel stress on an almost constant basis.

  • Deal With Stress: Discover through trial and error what healthy methods of stress relief work for you. Exercising, talking with others, relaxation techniques, and many other options can be used to reduce stress. (Stress can also be helped by developing good physical habits that improve overall wellness.)


  • Recognize Emotions: Many times, those who are lacking emotional intelligence mistake one emotion for another, or fail to recognize their emotions altogether. They may feel hungry when they are sad, so they eat instead of solving the problem. Recognizing their emotions will help them to skip the destructive behavior, and go right to work on the problem.

  • Understanding Others: Being able to empathize with another person and try to understand why they are feeling a certain way is an important skill in order to reserve judgment and keep communication open.

  • Listen: Shifting the focus from yourself to another person in order to really hear what they’re saying takes practice. Picking up on their non-verbal cues, such as body language, is even more complex, but will go a long way towards understanding one another.

  • Introspection: Those seeking to increase emotional intelligence are encouraged to participate in periods of meditation where they can gain self-understanding, This is a time to recognize feelings and to understand their temporary nature.

  • Perspective: We can’t control life or the things that happen to us, but we can control our emotions and our reactions to situations. Accepting that life is unpredictable and being able to have a sense of humor about it is part of increasing emotional intelligence.


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