Communication In Recovery

Relationships in recovery are difficult, especially when we are in a continuing partnership that has been shaped, at least in part, by our addictive behavior. Remembering our part in the resulting mess and developing good communication skills are essential to our recovery, and that of the relationship.

Some questions to ask ourselves about our relationships.

First of all:

    • Am I using the tools of my recovery program to maintain a healthy relationship with myself?
    • Do I regularly check my behavior for fairness in my relationships with others? Do I evaluate them, and apologize when needed?
    • Do I further my recovery program by continuing to attend meetings, help others and share what I have learned and hope to learn about myself?
    • Am I using a relationship/relationships to replace another form of acting out — to “fill the hole” that I was trying to fill with substances or other behavior?

If I’m doing all of the above, living an active program of recovery, do I give the same attention to my personal relationships?

  • Do I treat my partner as an equal, or do I have to be the boss?
  • Do I apply what I am learning in my program, or do I continue doing things the same old way and expecting different results?
  • Do I expect others to see things my way?
  • Do I assume that because I’m finally straightening out my life, others should immediately give me a pass on my previous behavior?
  • Do I allow them the time they need to recover from my mistakes?
  • Do I show them that I am indeed changing, or do I use my addiction as an excuse for continued unacceptable behavior?
  • Do I respect other people’s right to communicate their feelings (especially my partner’s) without arguing or making excuses?
  • Do I listen to what they are saying and try to learn from it?
  • When I begin to “lose it” during a conversation, am I able to ask for a time out instead of attacking the other party?
  • Am I able to establish boundaries and accept the other person’s right to establish their own?
  • Do I understand what a boundary is, or do I simply set up barriers to protect myself?
  • Do I respect and observe boundaries, both mine and those of others?
  • Do I avoid trying to solve interpersonal problems or have discussions when I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (H.A.L.T.)? Am I aware of other people’s possible condition with regard to those things, and do I make allowances for their behavior?
  • Do I sustain the concept that we are “all on the same team?”
  • Do I express my feelings using “I statements” like an adult, instead of falling into the trap of telling others what they do? (“Well, YOU…always…say…do…want….”)
  • Do I say things like:
      • I hear what you’re saying.
      • Let me think about that.
      • I understand that it seems that way to you.
      • You have a right to your opinion.
      • That’s a good point.
      • Let me see if I understand (repeat back what you heard, word for word).
      • I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that. Let me get back to you.
      • I need to think about this.

Finally, If I was suddenly “outed” in my unacceptable behavior:

  • Do I take into account that my partner and others may have suddenly discovered that the person they thought they knew is in reality a partial stranger?
  • Do I consider that others, my partner in particular, may be suffering from the effects of post traumatic stress (PTSD) as a result of my behavior?
  • Do I understand that they have their own healing to do, and am I accepting of that, remembering that I was a big part of the cause?
  • And, once again, do I expect them to “get over it” and treat me the way I “deserve” to be treated, now that I’m in recovery?
  • Do I need to  try to understand someone else’s point of view for a change?

Relationships in recovery are fraught with pitfalls. Remembering these earmarks of healthy relationships can ease the trauma and help us set things right.

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