What is emotional sobriety?


During a recent outreach call, I was asked, “What is emotional sobriety?”

In its essence, emotional sobriety is composed of  “self-examination, meditation and prayer.” It is living in steps 10, 11, and 12: practicing prayer, meditation and being of service to others by practicing these principles in all our affairs together with daily inventory or self-accounting.

This best illustrated in the following passage from Bill’s essay on Step 11:

There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation and prayer. Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically interrelated and interwoven, the result is an unshakable foundation for life. Now and then we may be given a glimpse of that ultimate reality which is God’s kingdom. And we will be comforted and assured that our own destiny in that realm will be secure for so long as we try, however falteringly, to find and do the will of our own Creator (p 98).

When facing critical decisions, the 4 absolutes are a useful tool to determine whether the actions or inaction we are considering are self-inspired or G-d inspired. They enable us to determine whether our actions or proposed actions are examples of where we are driven by self-will or if we are being guided by G-d’s will.

The original core spiritual practice of self-examination through the 4 absolutes did not make it into the official conference approved literature of AA.  The concepts were incorporated into the 12 steps, but rather than in the positive of : purity, love, selflessness and honesty they were described in step 4 as the 4 core character defects that block us off from G-d and fuel resentments: selfishness, self-seeking, dishonesty and fear.

Underlying steps 10, 11, and 12 however, is step 2 and step 3. Step 2: acknowledging that our self-will has failed to relieve us of our addiction, and only a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. And step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understood Him.  So, to use an architectural analogy: the keystones of emotional sobriety are prayer, meditation and self-examination built on a foundation of trust and faith in a Power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity. The willingness to believe and the practicing of the tools relieve us of our ego and bless us with conscious contact with the G-d of our understanding.

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