On Adolescence Avenue

BY: WILLIAM G. | EL CAJON, CALIFORNIA

Wouldn’t it be great if emotional sobriety came with physical sobriety? Sort of package deal, a twofer—If you have one you get the other, no extra work, no sweat. Then I would be free from alcohol and automatically know how to act, how to feel, how to think and how to react in every given situation. I would be filled with insight and maturity. When I came to AA I was so filled with myself there was no room for insight or maturity. I was still an impulsive child banging my fist on my high chair, and challenged by the wonder of being sober and staying sober. Where was emotional sobriety going to fit in? Well, I was going to find out.

With the passage of AA time I heard this term “emotional sobriety” and asked, just like a child would, “What’s that?” Someone directed me to a letter by Bill W. on the topic of emotional sobriety—“ … much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows and with God.” When I read those words I knew that’s what I wanted and needed to harmonize my physical sobriety. But, more work was ahead for me, a lot more.

During my sojourn in the AA program I have come to accept that not only am I powerless over alcohol, but also powerless over my character defects, the likely impediments to my emotional maturity. Therefore I needed a power greater than myself to remove obsession for alcohol, and  that same power to coach me out of my defects, and guide me along and nurture emotional sobriety, to what Bill called maturity and balance in all relationships, in a word—humility. However, from time to time my self-centered and self-sufficient nature takes over and humility fades. When I admit to that behavior I realize that my emotional sobriety is perfected by doing God’s will, not mine. This is a daily lesson for me in the growing relationship with the God of my understanding. When left to my own devices I fall back on old thinking and old behaviors, ruin usually follows, pride being the chief architect of the calamity. During most of my life pride has blocked the door to understanding and humility. That door is now open. It has been opened by working the Twelve Steps and then living the spiritual principles they teach, especially for me—tolerance, acceptance, kindness and patience in all aspects of my life. I do not naturally seek the betterment of my fellow man without the guiding power and love of God. I need help.

I have found no humility in resentments, expectations, anger or pride. They are the kryptonite of my humility. When I harbor resentments, or act out in anger or pride my impulsive arrogant childish nature is operating. I can feel it. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have helped me abandon my resentments and manage my emotions, although not always consistently. Step Ten is a forceful aid in this area. When I continually take stock in myself and not others, admitting my responsibility and make amends I am restored in the certainty that this program works. This step of self assessment and introspection keeps me focused on improving my character qualities and then using them in all relationships. I believe the positive personal changes I have experienced as a result of the AA program have come out of acceptance, tolerance, kindness and patience with people and life’s circumstances. When I become lax in my spiritual journey, humility fades, my foundation weakens and emotional sobriety stops. I just thought, in the beginning, the Twelve Steps might help keep me sober. Little did I know the depth and breadth of the program? Emotional sobriety fits comfortably into my AA program. I am making room for insight, discernment and maturity.

I believe a component of my emotional sobriety has to be emotional sovereignty. That is neither aloofness nor lack of empathy or feelings for others. It is a conscious decision not to be controlled by what others say or do, or don’t say or don’t do. To be removed from the comments, and actions of others, and the annoyances and circumstances they create which spills over into my life. Even sober this is a major challenge every day of my life. But, it is there and I have to deal with it. When I succumb to the actions or comments of another person I have, in effect, turned over control of my emotions to that person. I learned, after years of futility, that I could not control other people (although I still try) so I focus on myself. I needed to change my emotional equation in order to get a different result, and I was the only factor in that equation I could change. I may not be able to completely control my feelings and emotions; they may be involuntary and just bubble up out of an emotional memory pool. But I can control my reactions to them. I have discovered by trial and error, and practice that if I simply pause, just stop, I give myself an opportunity to think and perhaps pray and then react in a balanced manner, things work out pretty well. Sometimes I need only a few seconds or maybe hours to sort through the emotional sludge in order to have prospective. Likely this Is God at work—doing for me what cannot do for myself—to always think clearly on my feet. During this emotional time-out I get to make a choice and not have a knee jerk reaction. If I take my time, I have a chance to cut the emotional umbilical cord and take control of my emotional life.

If I do not control my emotions some person, place or thing will have control. They get the control because I wittingly or unwittingly gave away the power to control my emotions, and therefore, sadly give away part of my life. I miserably become a leaf in someone’s emotional hurricane. Battered about and asking, “Why I am so upset at the person for making me lose my temper?” The truth is I pulled the emotional trigger. They did not. I gave into anger, and resentment was created. Any chance for emotional sobriety is lost at that point. But, I am not discouraged. We all will get another chance to struggle with and manage our emotions during our life’s journey. The daily turmoil I feel are bumps in the road of life, not road blocks anymore. The AA program has provide me the principles and God has give me the insight and the courage to accept the bumps and manage my emotions. This happens most regularly when I “ceased fighting anybody and anything,” and carry out the will of God to improve the lives of others around me, and in doing so help me along the road of emotional sobriety from childhood to adulthood. Currently I am at the intersection of Adolescence Avenue.

When I accepted that I was the only factor in my life’s emotional equation I could, with divine help, adjust or manage the outcome improved, and my life began to change for the better. Emotional sobriety became a vital part of my being. I finally realized that I needed to be accountable for my behavior, and my reactions to people, places and things one day at a time.

“On Adolescence Avenue”. www.aagrapevine.org. 2011. https://www.aagrapevine.org/magazine/2011/mar/adolescence-avenue. 5 Apr 2021