How can something so simple – communication – affect the outcome of addiction treatment and the recovery process for both patients and their loved ones? Because there’s nothing simple about communication (but you already know that). Think about the many communication channels we use today: smart devices, computers, social channels and that scary phenomenon, a face-to-face conversation. Until those addicted to drugs or alcohol undergo treatment for the disease of addiction, effective communication is near impossible. Just ask an addict and his loved ones. The right communication helps addicts acknowledge their powerlessness to the disease, commit to recovery and rebuild personal relationships.
Emojis Can’t Repair Hurtful Words
Ever received a text or email and, once read, it felt like a virtual slap in the face? Have you ever sent one of these (on purpose or by accident)?
Text Message Example: “I don’t care”
As the recipient of the message, you emotionally shut down and don’t respond. Depending on your state-of-mind at the time, you could feverishly hit the keyboard, writing a response that is just as harsh as the one initially sent. Whether you are at the receiving end or the author of the communication, the virtual culture has taught us to put a bandaid on bad communication by sending an emoji. What a cop-out. We can do better and as civilized people, each of deserves better. Here’s how to get there.
The Meaning of the Message Gets Us in Trouble
Let’s take it to the moment you received that insulting communication, “I don’t care.”
Generally speaking, there are two different ways that the message can be perceived:
- I’m disinterested.
- You don’t matter.
Either perception (1 or 2) is hurtful. But there is another option that many people don’t even think about or due to personal insecurities are afraid to ask. When you receive a message from someone that puts you off in any way, instead of jumping to a conclusion or assuming you know what they meant by the comment, ask them. Just respond with: “What do you mean by that?” Then add a smiley-emoji to show you’re not asking from a place of defensiveness or anger. This way, it gives the sender the opportunity to clarify the thought behind the message. minimizing miscommunication.
It’s Not What You Say But How You Say It
When you are initiating the conversation, try and formulate your message in a way that is concise and illustrates the real emotion that is meant to go along with it. Something as small as using an exclamation point “!” can be taken as anger or excitement. In addition, consider the people you are sending the message to. If you know them and understand what makes them tick, use that knowledge to communication in a tone that they are more receptive to. They will more likely respond from a positive perspective and assume you had the best of intentions instead of the worst.
Heightened Emotional Sensitivity Presents Hurdles
Drug addiction and alcohol use disorder will take a toll on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. As the process of recovery begins, the body and the brain are in a constant state of flux adjusting and readjusting to the chemical detoxification to reestablish a healthy balance. Often, emotions can run high and low, making reactive communication the norm.
In order to rebuild relationships through trust and positivity, thoughtful and proactive communication is key. Sure, not everyone can maintain control and interact calmly – especially in a moment of stress.
Three Days Makes All the Difference
We’ve all been guilty of it. Responding to your partner, your child or your friend in haste because you’re in a hurry, annoyed, juggling too much at once or feeling tested. You bark, yell or say things you don’t mean. It starts a fight between you or worse yet, that awkward silence. Try as we might to avoid these scenarios, we’re human, it happens.
One habit that will help your recovery and enhance your relationships is what I refer to as The Three Day Rule. Not to be mistaken by the three-second rule, the Three Day Rule puts distance between negative emotions and careless responses.
Reflect on a time that a friend said or did something to you that was upsetting. You could have responded with anger but for some reason, you didn’t. You waited and sat on providing an answer or rebuttal. After a couple of days, your negative feelings diminished some allowing you to look at the issue differently. It is this delay, through willful patience that helps transcend negativity in the moment to respond from a healthier place. Try it the next time someone communicates to you in an inappropriate manner. Give it time and space. If the other person pushes you for a response, just let them know you’ll “think on it”. There’s a possibility that they’ll think on it too.
Communication Tools to Get Through Recovery and Enjoy Life
There’s a reason that addiction recovery is referred to as a process. Through drug rehab, patients remove the numbing elements of their lives and begin to feel again. It can be wonderful and uncomfortable all at the same time. As self-awareness becomes more evident both patients and their loved ones will have to retrace old behavioral patterns and form new ones.
Communication Tools for Everyone
The following guidelines, when put into practice, will help strengthen the relationships you already have and foster new friendships more easily.
Effective Communication Tips:
- Say what you mean and mean what you say, with tact
- Think before you speak
- Avoid being reactive
- Listen more
- Use compassion when possible
- Practice the Three Day Rule
- Ask for clarity
- Don’t assume anything
- Ask for forgiveness sooner than later
- Choose face-to-face interaction over texting
You may want to cut and paste the above list or send this to someone who you think might benefit from the information. If you or someone you love could use more foundational tools to get back on track by removing drug or alcohol addiction from everyday life, give us a call.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.