It doesn’t seem like the kind of sentence we would struggle to say to our loved ones, but as we approach a largely religious holiday in April, it’s a subject that might come up in discussion. For many, the family has endured an incredibly tumultuous ride while we struggled with and ultimately sought recovery from substance use disorder; and that ride didn’t end the moment we walked into treatment. It’s fair to consider what the family experiences on the other side of sober as well. Many of us complete treatment having had our perspective and outlook on life dramatically shifted. We are often softer, calmer, and eager to build anew with the tools we’ve been learning to use. Those that are close to us must get to know parts of us all over again. This process is often undertaken with much doubt, as we may have made promises of change in the past. Many in recovery pick up the tool of a connection to a god of their understanding or, less specifically, a power greater than themselves. We’re encouraged in the recovery space to lean into a higher power of our own choosing or design; and for some of us, this isn’t the same one we were raised with or the same one our families choose to follow. For others, there may have been a lifetime of denying the existence of any need or desire for spirituality at all; we may have been combative and brash in communicating these thoughts. Talking with your family about any changes to the nature of your spiritual life can be an uneasy and uncomfortable task.
Dinner Table Conversation?
When we complete treatment and continue to experience positive growth and victories in recovery, we often feel a certain level of excitement that we want to share with others. When we are close to our family or they have worked alongside us while we battled substance use disorder, we may find ourselves wanting to let them in on the details of our journey to healing. Those who knew us before we reached recovery may desire a better understanding of how priorities, coping mechanisms, and our outlook upon life has changed; and when this is possible, it’s an opportunity to build healing and trust. There are aspects of recovery that those who do not personally struggle with a substance use disorder may struggle to understand, however, we should always undertake these connections with thought and care. While it is important for those in our lives to have the chance to learn about us and our recovery, it is our responsibility to consider how some things might bring about an emotional response and to treat conversations mindfully.
Observing the Pause
It is important to be mindful when it comes to conversations with those we are close to, such as our family. One thing to consider is how we behaved and communicated around the topic prior to reaching recovery. Spirituality is a topic that can incite heated debate when discussed, as people feel passionately committed to their belief systems. Adding to the potential for tension, we may have behaved contemptuously or ill-mannered regarding the spirituality of others in the past; and for these reasons, it’s important for us to utilize one of our most valuable recovery tools, the pause. Pausing to consider the feelings of others is not something many of us were capable of doing before recovery. Observing the pause before or during a conversation about your spirituality is a form of respect many of us did not practice with our family members in the past.
When and if you choose to communicate about your new principles with your family, you will have to navigate their feelings and reactions in the moment, again making the ability to pause vital to a positive outcome. For example, if you came from an upbringing that was largely not spiritual or religious, the subject might be one they have difficulty taking seriously; or they could treat your preferences with exasperation or a desire to debate, which could draw an emotional reaction from you. As it’s nearly impossible to anticipate the reactions of others nor the response it will bring about in us, being able to pause when agitated can help keep lines of communication open and respect in our interactions.
Boundaries to Build Bonds
While we must practice our principles and seek to treat our loved ones with respect, it is also important to respect ourselves and our spiritual beliefs. If your family holds very specific religious or spiritual beliefs and the changes to yours could be difficult for them to hear out or understand, consider seeking the advice of a support group before undertaking the conversation. People in your support group, such as a sponsor, a spiritual teacher, or friends in recovery that may have relevant experience, can help you decide what needs to be communicated and how to be firm yet understanding. We may have lacked the respect we now seek from our families when it comes to spirituality, and this needs to be rebuilt with care in order to set new boundaries for both you and those in your life. If you feel dedicated to a system of beliefs and wish to have them recognized and honored, you must also learn to extend that to your family, learning how to build that from the ground up.
Continued or rebuilt relationships with our families are one of the greatest gifts of recovery. We can show gratitude for the opportunity to keep our loved ones in our lives by being thoughtful and kind when we share with them about our journey. Not every person that loves us will understand all of the changes we undergo as we grow in recovery, but with patience and love, we can seek to introduce them to who we are today.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at 800-799-4673.