How to Practice Better Communication Skills Throughout Recovery
When an addict arrives at a treatment facility for help, every relationship that was once present in their life has changed. After long time use of drugs or alcohol, addicts lose sight of who they really are. They say or do things that hurt those around them without even realizing it. Apathy replaces the once healthy family bonds and lifelong friendships. During treatment, an addict will crawl out of the haze that substance has created and realize what is really important in life, and what they have done. At this point, relationships can be addressed. Working on better communication skills is a vital part of the healing process for addicts. Once communication skills are improved, they can reintroduce healthy relationships back into their daily life.
Reasons for Negative Communication Skills
Often times, an addict and family members have integrated negative communication skills. Changing these behaviors will promote a positive environment. It takes effort from not only the addict but also loved ones of the addict to establish trust once again. An addict’s problematic communication skills are often derived from:
- Low Self-Worth: An addict with low self-esteem is especially hard to encourage. They may feel ashamed and unworthy of love or affection. This causes addicts to run away from beneficial relationships and cease communication.
- Dishonesty: Addicts will lie to get what they want; whether it’s money, drugs, or a place to sleep. Chances are that if you love an addict they’ve lied to you. Lying helps an addict stay in their perpetuating cycle of addiction. Practicing dishonesty removes trust and is very damaging to relationships.
- Shame: When an addict eventually realizes the damage that they have created in their own lives during recovery, they experience shame. Shame can lead to feelings of hopelessness, which may cause communication barriers between the addict and loved ones.
- Lack of Proper Boundaries: Addicts have a way of getting what they want, even if that means overstepping boundaries. Crossing lines makes effective communication between an addict and a loved one more challenging.
- High Expectations: In early recovery, addicts strive to right their wrongs. This leaves them with nearly impossible expectations for themselves, instead of acceptance of who they are. This can cause strained communication between a recovering addict and loved, due to a lack of full honesty and disclosure.
- Anger: When high-stress situations arise, frustration sets in. Addiction not only harms the addict but every surrounding relationship. This anger can translate into a conversation through tone, body language, and language. Practicing anger-management is essential for improved communication.
Incorporate Better Communication Skills In Recovery:
- Contemplation: Especially in an anger-fueled interaction, it is easy to say the first thing that comes to mind. Practice contemplation before reaction. Like your mom has probably told you; if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. Take time in choosing the words for your responses. Be sure to tell the person this is what you’re doing though! Few things are as frustrating as being met with silence in a conversation, let them know you are carefully considering your words.
- Environment: A soft environment and graceful approach are a good way to have a conversation that has the potential to turn south. A relaxed attitude will allow both parties to have a clearer mind and improved chances of reacting in a healthy way.
- Support: Especially in early intervention and recovery, it is best to have a therapist or counselor guide the conversations an addict has with loved ones. This practice allows for a controlled environment where the focus is solely on the discussion topic. This focus keeps the discussion from meandering to old arguments or blame for events that are not the subject of the current conversation.
- Empathy: practicing empathy is the most important communication skill to master in addiction recovery. Trying to understand how another feels is the only way to genuinely acknowledge another’s emotions. Once an addict grasps the concept of empathy, relationship healing can begin. Of course, this skill is beneficial to the family member as well. It can be difficult to understand the stresses and guilt that come alongside addiction. Their understanding of the disease will help them be patient and understand the addicts perspective.
- Balance: No relationship can be healthy if only one member is putting forth an effort. Beneficial mutual relationships foster respect and have a better chance of flourishing.
- Self-Communication: The most important relationship for an addict to work on during recovery is the relationship with oneself. If one constantly puts the self down, there will be lack of self-respect. Self-esteem allows an addict to be comfortable with his or her own self and in turn comfortable with relationships with others.
Benefits of Better Communication Skills in Recovery
Implementing family or close relationships is a good idea during recovery. Rehabilitation is not only about learning to stay away from drugs or alcohol but is also about an addict finding who they are once again. Relationships play a large role in how we see ourselves. Implementing positive communication skills throughout recovery will give an addict the tools to attain healthy relationships post-treatment. It will also help to recover relationships affected prior to treatment. Because relationships are not a one-way road, family involvement is optimal. Family and friend education on addiction and positive communication skills will give individuals the means to provide healthy support for their recovering addict. Practicing better communication skills gives an addict a higher chance for success in recovery.