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One thing many of us struggling with addiction have in common is that we have a very hard time in relationships because of our lacking communication skills. We find it impossible to resolve conflicts amicably. Our interpersonal interactions are full of turmoil and misunderstanding. We struggle to find our voice and to speak our truth. Often we don’t feel clear on our truth within ourselves, which makes it doubly hard to express it to the people we’re in relationship with. Learning healthy communication skills is not only important for the health of our relationships. It’s also vital for our recovery, because when we are in unhealthy, toxic relationships with poor communication, we suffer more. We feel more depressed, more anxious, more worried. We feel angrier and more stressed out. We use our drugs of choice to escape the conflicts we feel overwhelmed by and don’t know how to resolve. We drink, use drugs, gamble or go out partying instead of talking to our partners when we have an issue. We avoid our partners, we shut them out, we build a wall around our hearts. We use all kinds of unhealthy coping and defense mechanisms instead of learning healthy communication skills. 

Two important communication skills we want to practice in our relationships are mindful listening and intentional clarity. When the other person is speaking, we want to be truly, actively listening to them and trying to understand them. We want to patiently and calmly wait until they’re finished speaking. So often we get into the habit of rushing them to finish, interrupting them, speaking over them, assuming we know what they’re going to say, and insisting on responding right away. We do these things especially when we’re in the midst of a conflict, and they often exacerbate the heightened emotion, tension, anger and misunderstanding already present. Similarly, we often will speak out of anger and reactivity, and as a result, we won’t be as clear with our words as we could be. We might be dishonest. We might speak in circles. We might not have taken the time to get clear and intentional within ourselves about how we think and feel. Intentional clarity helps us to say what we mean and mean what we say, eliminating further misunderstanding and miscommunication.

When we do learn healthy communication, we set ourselves up for happier, more fulfilling relationships, more peace of mind, and more calm and ease within ourselves. We enable ourselves to be more successful in our recovery. When we’re more at peace, we’re more likely to be able to withstand our addictive urges and stop turning back to our drugs of choice for relief from the stress of our conflicts. We’re more likely to be able to offset a depressive episode or breakdown. We’re also more likely to be able to enjoy the longevity of happy, healthy relationships, setting us up for more joy in our lives.

Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you uncover the issues fueling your addictions. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.