Opening the Doors of Communication During Recovery
Recovery is a beautifully disconcerting; those in recovery are on the path to rejuvenation, but they’re not quite there yet. Recovery has no bounds, for one in recovery may have just suffered a relapse, or has been clean for many months, but still struggles with the thoughts of returning to addictive substances. What is recovery if not the perennial journey to self acceptance? Isn’t that what recovery is all about?
Some would disagree- but subscribing to others’ ideas of what recovery should be may completely regress your particular method of healing. Some people find solace in the divine, others immerse themselves in art. Recovery is an intimate process unique to everyone- but there is one unifying aspect of recovery transcending each spectrum of individual recovery, and that’s opening up.
Many in recovery have difficulty sharing their thoughts and feelings to their families, friends, and loved ones because they’re not content with who they perceive themselves to be. If you’re like many in recovery, you may not think communication should be a key focus of your healing process- but you’re wrong! And here’s why:
If you cannot learn to communicate, not only will you be unable to reach out to your support group, but you will be unable to maintain personal relationships, not only of a romantic nature, but those you would call on for comfort in times of despair (easily fomenting relapse without relief).
But how do you do it? How do you let people inside of yourself if you can’t stand who you are?
There aren’t any easy answers, but like with any skill: practice, practice, practice. As someone who is guilty of having a difficult time opening up to others, the following three techniques helped me overcome my anxiety, and downright inability, to share myself- and my thoughts- with my loved ones:
1. Forgive Yourself
One of the most basic concepts we often forget about when we’re dealing with others is the perception of ourselves. Our self identify governs everything we do- and that includes communicating with others! If you are not in full agreement with yourself, or are embarrassed about who you are (even going as far to say, that you hate yourself) opening up to other people will be exceedingly difficult.
You must remember that you are worthy of merit, recognition, and love. Despite the roots of wherever your negative feelings stem from, you must attempt to rectify them in your mind, at least to the point where you feel at ease to allow yourself verbal expression of everything you keep pent up inside. Understanding communicating will help you move past your negative feelings will help in your recovery, not only in a group treatment setting, but reconnecting with your loved ones.
2. It’s Okay to Be Imperfect
No one is expecting you to be 100% recovered- not even after rehabilitation. Recovery for some takes a lifetime- others are able to graduate and never look back. Wherever you are on the spectrum, don’t belittle your accomplishments and make yourself feel worthless if you’re not exactly where you would like to be. Emotional relapse is just as concerning as physical relapse- so don’t discount your own feelings, and deem them “unworthy” or “unimportant.”
You must triumph over the barrier keeping you in the stagnation of the perception of “perfection.” It does not exist. Not anywhere. Even if you believe it lurks, or is attainable, you’re wrong! Accept yourself for who you are, and acknowledge your trials are important, and have shaped you into the person who will carry out your future. YOU define your future. Your future does not have to be defined by where you think you should be.
Celebrate where you are, and who you are. Let people know how you’re feeling, allow them to share in your facet of the human experience. If you’re concerned about opening up because you’re insecure about your position in life, tell them.
3. Remember People Aren’t Mind Readers
If you’re frustrated because no one knows how to reach you, because no one seems to know how to get you to open up- or comfortable enough to talk to them, you must speak balming words to yourself. Those who have not struggled with the misery explicit to self odium will not understand your inability to speak- in fact, many will propose this is of your own volition; and in part this is true, but we both know the matter is far more complicated than that.
The ones who love us want to help, but often don’t know how to break down the barriers we erect around ourselves- cut them a break, I doubt many of them have PhDs in psychology. But how can we do that, when it’s so terribly hard to communicate what we’re feeling?
Write it down! Sometimes you have to work up towards being able to verbally communicate. If you write all of your feelings down in a letter (I’m a fan of Facebook messaging) and send it to the person you’re trying to open up to, this gives you a vehicle to begin the conversation, without actually having to be in front of them- which may be helpful at first. If you’re serious about building up your communication skills, let them know!
Simply telling your loved ones you have trouble opening up can help clarify a lot! Others who don’t have communication barriers, just don’t understand what you’re going through. Instead of writing letters back and forth, ask your loved one to respond verbally. It’ll make the conversation easier since you got most of the hard part out of the way already. When it comes to learning how to communicate, taking baby steps is key. Push yourself. Going outside of your comfort zone may terrify you, but think of opening up as growing pains. When your relationships are healthy, you’ll be happy you did.
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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.