For those entering recovery, family can be a tremendous source of support and comfort for the road ahead. That said, the relationship you have with your family needs to be strong and healthy. One of the best ways to improve that connection is through open and honest conversation.
During your early recovery, your family members may feel a bit apprehensive — wanting to trust and believe in you while the memory of your previous behaviors is still fresh in their memories. By learning how to better communicate with your family members, you can begin to heal those relationships while solidifying their support.
Benefits of open conversations
As you begin your recovery process, your family members and close friends will be paying close attention. They want to feel confident that you are taking responsibility for your substance use disorder, and open conversations can help to put them at ease. Your willingness to discuss your recovery, such as the continuing care efforts you are engaged in or the challenges you’ve encountered, shows them your level of commitment.
Some of the benefits of having open conversations include:
- Rebuilds trust: When we are authentic and real in our conversations with others, we cultivate a mutual sense of trust. Slowly but surely, we can work to regain any lost trust.
- Repairs relationships: It’s very common for relationships to suffer when someone is engaged in substance use. While in recovery, we can work to repair those broken bonds by making sincere amends through open and honest conversations.
- Nurtures healthy relating: Instead of silencing negative emotions and letting them simmer, having open and respectful conversations to discuss those feelings can result in much healthier relationship patterns.
Tips for having open conversations
While it may seem that having open conversations is an easy thing to do in theory, some people might find it very difficult to be vulnerable in front of others, even with the people they are closest to. Open conversations aren’t about just spouting off about whatever comes to mind. Here are a few tips to have meaningful conversations with your family members while you’re in recovery:
- Practice active listening: If you tune out the person who is talking while you plan your response, you are really not engaged in a real conversation. Instead, maintain eye contact and really focus on what the person is saying before responding to it in a meaningful
- Learn to accept criticism without overreacting: Our pride can get the best of us when someone criticizes or disagrees with us, causing us to overreact in anger. Use self-control to hear them out before responding, and if you still want them to know you don’t agree, do so without attacking them personally.
- Express your thoughts and feelings better: You might assume that your family member knows exactly how you’re feeling or what you’re trying to communicate, but they aren’t mind readers. Ask them questions, clarify, and check in to see if they understand what you’re saying or not.
- Learn how to resolve conflicts: When we have disagreements, we can feel some intense Learning how to settle a dispute without resorting to outbursts, name-calling, or raised voices is key to maintaining a healthy, productive conversation. Practice saying “I feel angry” as a matter of fact, if and when this emotion arises, to help your family members explore that emotion with you in a positive way.
Conversing openly with a loved one is the foundation of an honest, trusting relationship. Cultivating more effective conversational skills in recovery improves your relationships with family members and can help you build an even stronger support system.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.