Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it means you’ve likely achieved success in the recovery process, and you’re continuing to look for ways to improve. When we’re trapped in the cycle known as active addiction, we tend to let many important aspects of our lives slip away. We stop focusing on areas of our lives, such as clear communication with others, spending time with our friends, and making the little moments alongside our family count.
Our primary objective is always for that next score or that next alcohol purchase until it gets into our system and keeps us from being sick one more time, until the next time. Fortunately, you’re past all that now and want to improve specific areas in your life. The importance of clear communication in recovery cannot be stressed enough.
One thing you learn in recovery is not to isolate yourself as it could be a sign you’re about to relapse. Surrounding yourself with others who understand your journey is the best option to keep you sober. Attempting to forgo the recovery process without having someone to talk with is challenging. Whether you’re giving advice or on the receiving end, communication is vital to ensure the right messages are being heard. In fact, your recovery depends on clear communication. The ability to express yourself openly and honestly and have a real conversation will be a significant difference.
Improving your communication skills and becoming clearer in what you’re proposing will ensure you’re conveying the messages you want so that others understand you. Words are powerful weapons in the fight toward lasting sobriety, as well as your tone of voice and body language. When you combine everything, it allows you to improve your communication and engage positively with your loved ones and peers throughout your recovery. Remember, there is no perfect formula, and each of us will react differently. However, learning about the challenges and how to improve on those is your best bet.
Below, we’ll discuss some of the challenges that you’ll face, as well as the best ways to overcome them.
The Challenges of Communication
Just because you’ve achieved sobriety doesn’t mean your fears have magically disappeared. For whatever reason, we like to pretend that a sober state of mind means we’ve completely changed. No, we’ve removed a part of our life that caused great pain, and now we’re spending time focusing on making what we already had better, even though we’ve elevated ourselves.
With that being said, fear is a huge challenge when you’re trying to communicate with others during recovery, especially when you’re trying to overcome it. Our guides in treatment can help us do so much with the tools they equip us with, but they can’t change how we feel inside. This fear could potentially stem from feeling judged by others, relapsing, or you fear feeling like a fraud if your communications are misunderstood. How do you adjust? You might not communicate.
It’s important to keep in mind that all of these emotions are normal. You’ve spent the last months, years, or decades numbing these emotions with drugs and alcohol, so there is a period when you fear how you feel. Fortunately, the longer you stay sober and the more you lean on others, the easier it’ll get. Those who go the other way and isolate themselves will lose their ability to communicate well. Articulating your feelings is a skill you lose during addiction, so putting yourself out there, despite feeling bad, will get better with time.
Improving your communication during your recovery helps you work through your fears. It allows you to talk about your real problems and concerns with real people, meaning you’ll get real answers. The ability to speak with family members, friends, or loved ones is a vital component in prolonged sobriety and happiness.
Being Honest with Yourself and Others Is Important for Trust
It’s very rare to hear about an addict who never had to lie at one point or another during active addiction. Whether it was lying to yourself or others, you had to lie to get drugs or alcohol, cover up the fact you were using drugs or alcohol, and deny the consequences to yourself. You may have told people you only drink on the weekends, which turned into a daily affair. Maybe you took opioid painkillers for an injury that blossomed into a heroin or fentanyl habit. You told yourself today was the last day, but it wasn’t, and you knew it wasn’t. Improving your communication throughout recovery means you must be honest with yourself and with others to build trust.
You have to bear in mind that those around you are tired of the lies, and they’re ready to trust you. They’re putting everything behind them because they’re encouraged with your newly founded sobriety, which means you have to be honest with them. Tell them you’re hurting. Sobriety isn’t sunshine and unicorns when you get there; it’s hard work to maintain, but it still beats the alternative of being trapped and tethered to a substance for balance.
Communicate that you’re tempted to relapse, about a time their words or actions hurt you, or a sincerely held belief you must convey. Without knowing, they can’t understand what’s going on and help you.
Listening Is Part of Clear Communication
One of the most valuable skills anyone can have is being an active listener. However, it’s even more important for someone early in their recovery. We often find ourselves feeling defensive during a heated conversation, and it’s common to stop listening or develop a counterargument while someone else is speaking. Learning to pivot from these unhelpful behaviors toward something more constructive is key in communicating.
All it takes to become a better listener is to pay attention to what someone else is saying. Prove to them you’re engaged in what they’re discussing by smiling and nodding. Don’t interrupt–wait until they’re finished with what they’re saying before you respond. By following these tips, it can immensely improve your listening skills.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Addiction causes us to be more sensitive to criticism, partly due to fear at the root of substance abuse. Many group sessions during the recovery process focus on learning how to pause when listening to getting critiqued, pausing for reflection, deciding what to change, and avoiding thinking of statements like personal attacks. In most cases, they’re not, so deciphering between them is important.
By taking stuff too personally, you focus on the wrong parts of the conversation. You feel that someone is mad at you, or you believe they think you mess things up. In reality, family and friends don’t want to tear you down. They understand this stage in your life is fragile, and they’re likely just concerned. When you separate yourself from these statements and think logically about them and not emotionally, you give others the benefit of the doubt, thus improving communication and trusting in yourself.
Staying Calm and Not Overreacting
Early on during your recovery, it’s easy to fly off the handle. This is especially true when you’re under the influence of drugs and alcohol. However, early in recovery means you’re experiencing a host of emotions you’ve suppressed while you were using substances. These emotions are intense, and learning to experience them without lashing out is an ongoing journey we face after treatment.
By prioritizing your relationships and focusing on positive communication, it means you can start making amends for questionable choices you made during the days you used drugs. It can also mean staying calm when tempers flare. You can’t expect everyone you encounter to be happy you’re sober immediately. There is still a lot of pain and hurt that you’ll have to work through before earning their trust back. With that being said, learning how to hear them out and staying calm is a huge step in your journey. If you encounter a scenario like this, make sure to take deep breaths and remind yourself about what you want long-term. If you feel you might say something you regret or fly off the handle, walk away, collect yourself, then respond.
Recovery is about more than sobriety. It’s developing positive habits that last for life. It’s also learning how to care about yourself, accomplishing new goals, and interacting with others. It takes time, so don’t feel disappointed if you don’t meet them right away.