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Our struggles with addiction and mental health issues can have a profound impact on our close interpersonal relationships, and specifically on our communication within those important relationships. We have a hard time expressing our feelings, our thoughts, concerns, needs and desires. We struggle with feeling good enough and worthy enough to be able to speak up for ourselves. We haven’t learned the communication skills or developed the self-awareness necessary for healthy relationships. We’ve been in relationships embroiled in toxicity, mistreatment and deception. We’ve been practicing communication styles that are destructive and damaging, and the more we practice and perpetuate them, the more they become ingrained in our patterns and behaviors. We often distance ourselves and push people away rather than opening up to them. We keep our distance and don’t confide in people or share intimate details about our personal lives. We will shut down during an argument. We haven’t learned how to process our thoughts and feelings in healthy ways. We don’t know how to express ourselves in ways that are conducive to healing and to maintaining a strong relationship. We feel disconnected from ourselves and from our loved ones. We don’t know how to bridge the deep divides that our years of silence, avoidance and denial have created. Similarly, we don’t know how to repair the broken trust that comes with our reactive, hostile, unkind communication styles. Many of us give up and are never able to mend certain relationships because they’ve sustained too much damage. We retreat inwards, isolate ourselves and avoid getting close to people because we’re afraid of communicating, both with our inner selves and with other people. We might give up on relationships altogether. The thought of having to express ourselves, or have difficult conversations, or deal with a confrontation or argument, is simply too overwhelming for us. We can feel totally unable to articulate our thoughts and feelings in order to be able to communicate with people.

For many of us, our negative communication styles were learned. We grew up in environments where it was not a priority to learn how to communicate in healthy ways or to be able to speak about our emotions. We might have grown up witnessing adults’ interactions that were full of anger, misunderstanding, confusion and silence, rather than healthy communication and self-expression. We might have inherited family patterns of interacting and communicating. We might have had relationships that stifled our voice and abused or controlled us, preventing us from feeling safe or comfortable enough to be able to express ourselves.

Examining our communication styles, and looking at why it’s so hard for us to communicate, is part of the recovery work we must do if we want to have healthy relationships with ourselves and with other people.

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