Knowing When to Apologize: A Mini Guide for Active Recovery & Loved Ones
Recovery is fraught with physical, emotional, and ideally spiritual, transmutation. Often this transitory period, which can last for years (as addiction is a complex disease) forces us into difficult territory inwardly, causing us to lose footing within the realm we feel most secure in- but which is detrimental. As we attempt to work through the deluge of emotions, we may not always be the easiest people to be around. The truth of the matter is, confusion, depression, and inner turmoil can manifest themselves outwardly- causing us to absent mindedly lash out at the people we love.
This can happen for a multitude of reasons. Many suffering from substance use disorders have poor communication skills, and are unable to express themselves freely until finally overwhelming feelings boil over. There are as many communication complications and personal deficits as there are people in recovery (millions!). While conflict is typical, and should be expected among your family circles under strained circumstances, knowing how to forgive, and say “I’m sorry” is just as important as sticking to your recovery plan.
Sometimes we forgot the people we love most are the ones who take the brunt of our frustrations. According to the Journal Current Directions in Psychological Science we are most aggressive to those we love. The reason has yet to be scientifically proven, but it’s assumed those we hold strong relationships with are less fragile than those of strangers- therefore, we feel more secure in expressing ourselves aggressively.
If we can remain conscious of this propensity for hostility, averting conflict is become second nature. The Huffington Post quotes Deborah South Richardson, professor of psychology at Georgia Regents University, “We ourselves aren’t always conscious of what we intend to do.”
“Direct aggression with siblings,” for instance, “either vernal or physical, might be a safety issue. As in, I can confront my sibling, and I”m safe when I do it. I don’t need to be indirect. I don’t need to be passive. My sibling will always be my sibling.” The same may be said of significant lovers, and perhaps close friends. Although the study cites passive or non-direct aggression.
We know it happens, but what about afterwards? We all say things we’d rather not have during emotionally charged arguments- even if we meant everything we said, we often look back and wished we could have worded our retorts constructively to prompt a conversation for resolution, as opposed to an unnecessary shouting match.
Learning how to apologize is essential in maintaining close bonds with family and friends, despite what may have been earth shattering arguments. All you have to ask yourself is if your pride is more important than the relationship in question. Apologizing for your part in an argument does not automatically ascribe full blame to you. It is a willful acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and should expresses a genuine interest to remedy the conflict at hand.
If you have issues openly apologizing, try sending a text message or electronic message on the internet to broach resolution. Whether or not your sentiments are returned, you can at least attest you attempted to rectify conflict.
But be prepared to wait in some cases. Sometimes the words we say wound more than we realize. In many events the other party needs to recuperate to deal with the situation at hand. Sometimes, they may not want to revisit or revitalize the relationship at all.
Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do in that instance, but wait and hope for the best. Yet be warned, if you frequently find yourself in the situation with the same person, and you’re the only one apologizing- there may be more than meets the eye. it takes two to tango. Don’t allow others to walk all over you emotionally or physically.
The same rules apply to those on the other end of recovery: loved ones, friends, and frustrated family members in which recovery takes its toll. Being supportive is a full time job, and it’s easy for harmful things to slip out in the heat of the moment. Letting go of animosity and being open about wrongdoing on your end is just as essential to your loved one’s recovery as it is your mental health.
The next time you have an argument with someone in recovery, or your loved one, remember the initial tides of negative emotions will eventually pass, and can give way to forgiveness if you’re both willing to try.
Someone just has to start the conversation.
About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.