When someone is currently dealing with substance use, they often experience negative emotions, like guilt, fear, and shame. One may bottle up those feelings inside in hopes of hiding them from everyone—even from one’s self. But when powerful emotions fester, it only serves to perpetuate the addiction cycle.
Cultivating open communication with loved ones is vital in recovery. Being open and honest with a sober support network when encountering difficulties or setbacks gives that support system an opportunity to help. Learning how to communicate effectively with sponsors, family or a trusted friend can help prevent a relapse.
Importance of Communication in Recovery
For those in recovery, it takes time to repair relationships with people who were adversely impacted as a result of substance use disorder (SUD). Rebuilding trust with loved ones will depend on consistently doing what you say and saying what you do.
The recovery process is greatly aided by maintaining high quality of interpersonal relationships.
Learning to be open and honest is an essential skill that helps strengthen connections between those in recovery and their sober support network. Being forthcoming about feelings can help reduce the pressures of daily life and minimize the risk of relapse.
4 Communication Tips for Recovery
As part of the treatment plan for individuals with SUD, psychosocial education, including improving communication skills, play a pivotal role. Patients can utilize the life skills learned in treatment throughout the healing process to improve quality of life and enhance the odds of a successful recovery.
Counselors and therapists often incorporate interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) into treatment since this type of therapy focuses on improving family dynamics that may be contributing to an SUD. IPT can help individuals in recovery gain new insights about key relationship patterns, and improve relationships through more open and effective communication.
Consider these constructive communication tips:
- Become a Better Listener. One of the best ways to become better at communicating is learning how to engage in active listening. We’re often too focused on how to respond to what someone is saying than listening to what they are saying. To improve your communication skills, be attentive and focus on what the other person is saying. That way, when there is a natural pause in the conversation, you can offer your input.
- Check your Body Language. How you communicate is as important as what you communicate. While talking with someone, we send nonverbal messaging through our demeanor, posture, and body language. Become more aware of how people perceive you when you are talking. Are you avoiding eye contact with the other person? Are your arms folded in front of you? Is your posture signaling that you aren’t even interested in what they are saying? Examine these non-verbal cues and make a mental note to use more approachable body language.
- Avoid Being Defensive. It is natural to feel a little defensive when someone is critiquing something you have said or done. Nobody likes criticism, but in recovery it is helpful to try to avoid taking things too personally. Instead, hear the person out, take a moment to pause and reflect on what they are saying, and then respond in a calm, measured tone. This way, you can avoid conflict and have peaceful conversations with your loved ones.
- Be Open and Honest. Having regular meaningful conversations can go a long way toward restoring relationships and regaining trust. When you hit a road bump and find yourself struggling, being real with the people who care about you can lead to their invaluable input when you need it most.In recovery, communication that is open and honest can help cultivate strong sober support connections.
When looking to improve communication in recovery, remember that everybody involved has a shared goal. Those in recovery, their loved ones and their support network all want to ensure success in recovery—nurture these relationships through more effective communication techniques. Knowing that everybody wants the same thing makes the recovery process less daunting.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, and 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.