January 17, 2007
Physical Sobriety and Emotional Sobriety
In the course of my practice over the years I have worked with a fair number of people who have had problems with drugs and alcohol. Now right up front I will say that my perspective is rather libertarian about these substances. From my view, you are responsible for what you put into your body and also responsible for what you do when you put mind altering substances into your body. But as to the actual doing of it, that is your business and remains so unless your behaviors spill over into the public world and some intervention is required.
Having said that, I certainly have seen the havoc wrought by people who give themselves over to the use of alcohol and drugs to the extent that they allow their minds to be in an almost perpetual state of desire for the substances and then when having the substance, having their minds being fogged up and degraded cognitively by their usage.
I would talk then about two states that would be important personally and socially for each human being to consider. The first would be physical sobriety and by that I mean the ongoing state of having a clear mind, a well working cognitive perspective. To interfere with that obviously would put you into great difficulty in many important human contexts.
You would not be able to function in a work situation effectively or safely and thus the likelihood of you holding and advancing in a job would be imperiled. You would not be able to use machines like an automobile safely as the headlines almost every day attest to. You would not be able to be involved in workable and successfully intimate relationships with others. Not being clear minded certainly would make real and effective communication impossible and any relationship would likely fail over time.
In short, the options of a happy and meaningful life would be greatly reduced to say the least under such circumstances. All of which is to say that if you find yourself in such a situation with alcohol or drugs, you really want to consider doing something about it as soon as possible. The dread of being without the substance and the shame and regret that often accompany such a lifestyle can be great impediments to moving forward to get some help, but that is where emotional sobriety comes in. You have to look at how you want your life to play out, whether you really want your happiness and whether you are willing to do the admittedly difficult things that you have to do to make that possible.
So this is a call to all and any of you who may be in that kind of situation and are in a dialogue with yourselves about how to proceed. The first step is to reach down and find the resources that are there in each of us to reach out to those people and organizations that are around us in abundance to offer help and counsel. Have the courage to make that first step and others will undoubtedly stretch out a hand to help you with the next step. Do it and let me know what you think.
Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a licensed counselor, life and marital coach with a practice in Hampton Bays and Garden City. His views can be accessed at puttingmindsinmotion.com.