Giving up an active addiction is a vital first step. Still, it is not usually enough to ensure future happiness for the person because there will usually be a reason why the person began to engage in substance abuse in the first place. Among of the most common motives for resorting to the abuse of alcohol or drugs is an inability to deal with emotions, which occurs because the individual merely lacks the skills to enact emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence Defined
Emotional intelligence can be defined as a person’s ability to assess and manage the emotions of themselves and others. This form of intelligence is measured using an emotional quotient (EQ), which is not wholly unlike the intelligence quotient but measures different aspects of a person’s intellect.
Emotional Intelligence in Recovery
A typical issue for persons with the disease of addiction is finding it challenging to deal with their emotions. There are commonalities between substance abuse and a condition in which individuals cannot express their feelings in words, also known by the Greek term “alexithymia.”
This inability of a substance abuser to cope healthily with their emotions makes life difficult for them, and therefore, they self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Their lack of emotional intelligence propels them toward active addiction, keeping them trapped in this misery. If this individual achieves sobriety, they can still be in turmoil unless they develop emotional intelligence.
Skills Required for Emotional Intelligence
It is suggested that emotional intelligence involves numerous different skills, including the following:
- The individual can control and self-manage their behaviors, feelings, and impulses.
- Those people who are emotionally intelligent are socially aware and can empathize with the emotions and needs of other people.
- The individual can recognize their own emotions and understand how this can impact their thoughts and behavior. This ability is known as self-awareness.
- The person has solid skills in relationship management, meaning they can develop healthy relationships and communicate effectively.
For the individuals to be considered emotionally intelligent, they need to be able to effectively do the following:
- Recognize and manage their emotions
- Be able to reduce their own stress levels quickly
- Be able to resolve any conflicts positively and confidently
- Have mastery over nonverbal communication
- Effectively use humor, when appropriate, to help deal with life challenges
Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Sobriety
When a person stops using alcohol or drugs, they will become physically sober. This ending of active addiction is a positive step, but it may not be enough to ensure happiness in sobriety. This is because the person will still be expected to cope with their emotions, and now they will not have a chemical to fall back on.
By making a determined effort to develop emotional intelligence in recovery, the person can become emotionally sober. This can take months or years to achieve and be characterized by many ups and downs but ultimately lead to greater fulfillment in life.
8 Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Recovery
The following are a few tips as to how people can improve their emotional intelligence during the recovery process:
Learn to Empathize with Others
Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s circumstances and try to put oneself in their shoes. It differs from sympathy in that this involves trying to understand things from the other person’s perspective. Sympathy is more about feeling sad for the other individual, which requires less understanding of what turmoil this other person is actually going through.
To be empathetic is essential to not jump to judgments. Even if the other individual’s behavior is wrong, they may have reasonable or at least explainable justification for their actions. Empathy is vital for good communication because it leads to greater understanding, and the other person feels that they and their issues are being heard.
Learn to Recognize Stress
Some people experience stress so often that they are unable to even recognize it. This is concerning because it means that the person could be suffering the consequences of chronic stress without even being aware of it. Common symptoms of stress include the following:
- Inability to think clearly or concentrate
- Frequent episodes of an upset stomach
- Frequent headaches
- Physical symptoms in which there does not appear to be an apparent medical cause
- Body tension
- Insomnia or sleep disturbances
- Evidence of an ineffective immune system, such as frequently+ contracting colds and infections
- Loss of appetite or comfort eating
- Rapidly reacting to a situation with irritability or agitation
- Lack of energy
- Excessive negative thinking and frustration
- Reduced libido
- Feelings of being “on edge”
Develop Effective Strategies for Coping with Stress
Once individuals are aware they are experiencing significant stress, they need to learn to deal with this. There are many options for how this can be achieved. Some people find that relaxation techniques are helpful, but talking to other people, exercising, and spending time in nature can also be beneficial.
Understand Non-Verbal Communication
There is more to communication than just words. It is possible to learn a great deal about others by reading their body language—also known as nonverbal communication. A failure to interpret body language may mean that the person is missing out on essential information in their communications.
Learn to Listen
Learning to listen is another critical skill for anyone who wants to develop emotional intelligence. Those who are somewhat self-obsessed will only pretend to be listening to the other individual. When they are not speaking, they are often planning what they will say next. Listening involves being entirely focused on the other person’s words and what they are trying to convey. It also means giving another individual the space to say what they want to without interruption or judgment.
Learn to Identify Emotions
Learning to identify emotions is another skill with which many people struggle. Persons should learn to recognize their feelings by closely examining how they are feeling at the time. There are often physical sensations in the body that can help individuals identify their current feelings. For instance, when the individual is angry, they may experience tension in their abdominal area.
Willingness to Face Life on Life’s Terms
People need to be willing to face life on life’s terms to develop emotional intelligence, meaning they do not attempt to run away from unwanted circumstances or try to identify an easy way out. Life is full of challenges and figuring out how to healthily overcome them will lead to personal development and growth. To overcome obstacles in one’s path, one must develop techniques that will increase one’s emotional intelligence.
Getting Help for Addiction
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer integrated, customized programs that feature multiple therapeutic activities and services essential for the recovery process. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Group Support
- Relapse prevention
- Art and music therapy