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Speaking to your loved ones about addiction recovery

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Image of a lotus - Speaking to your loved ones about addiction recovery

Speaking to your loved ones about your addiction recovery isn’t easy.

However, it is important to be honest with your friends and family about your sobriety. When they understand your situation, they’re in a better position to help and support you.

A little preparation can make these discussions much less stressful. In this article, you’ll learn skills for having difficult conversations and coping with potential triggers.

Mental Health Counseling and therapy at New Horizons Medical in Massachusetts
Mental Health Counseling and therapy at New Horizons Medical in Massachusetts

Challenges of Speaking to Loved Ones About Addiction Recovery

People in addiction recovery often face judgment from their relatives, colleagues, or friends about their struggles.

There’s a lot of stigma and misunderstanding out there about addiction and those who struggle with it, and many people put off having meaningful conversations because they worry about being judged.

When you do decide to have a discussion, there’s also a chance that you may become overwhelmed or triggered.

Your loved ones might mean well, but accidentally say something hurtful during your conversation. Some people may also be downright harsh, especially when speaking about how your addiction may have affected them.
It’s easy to let the fear of these responses stop you from seeking to have conversations in the first place.

How to Have Open and Productive Conversations

You can’t control what other people say when you talk to them about your addiction recovery. All you can control is how you respond and manage your own thoughts and emotions.

With this in mind, here are some tips that can help you have more open and productive conversations that benefit you and your loved ones:

Practice Active Listening

Give your loved ones space to share their thoughts and feelings. When someone else is speaking, listen to what they’re saying – don’t just think about how you want to respond.

Being an active listener shows that you genuinely care and want to understand; it can also encourage others to show you the same courtesy.

Remember Your Loved Ones Aren’t Mind Readers

Remember to be transparent about what you need – your loved ones can’t read your mind.

During your discussion about your addiction recovery, you may need to ask your loved ones for specific kinds of support. For example, you may request that they don’t invite you out to happy hours or bars on the weekends because those situations are triggering.

Use “I” Statements

Avoid blaming others. For example, instead of saying, “You make me feel XYZ,” say, “I feel XYZ.”

People are more likely to respond positively when they don’t feel attacked. Take ownership of your feelings and thoughts, and remember that you are in control.

How to Manage Stress and Cope with Triggers

Talking to loved ones about your addiction recovery can be stressful and, in many cases, triggering. You might not be able to avoid these feelings altogether, but you can take steps to mitigate them and prevent them from taking over.

The following are some suggestions to help you manage stress and cope with triggers during difficult discussions:

Notice the Signs

Pay attention to how your body feels when you get triggered. Does your heart start to race? Do your palms start to sweat?

Take note of when these symptoms arise so you can cope with your triggers before they get out of control.

Name Your Feelings

Sometimes, it helps to name your experience. Saying, “I’m feeling triggered,” or “I feel sad about X,” can help you feel more in control and make it easier to figure out the appropriate coping mechanism.

Breathe Through It

Your breath is one of the most powerful tools you have – and it’s always right there with you. When you start feeling triggered or upset, try using a breathing technique like box breathing or 4-7-8 breathing to calm down your nervous system. The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. The box breathing technique is breathing in, holding, then exhaling, and holding again for 4 seconds 4 times.

Box breathing technique to manage stress and anxiety
Box breathing technique to manage stress and anxiety

Take a Break

It’s okay to take a break during intense or difficult conversations.

Giving yourself a two-minute “time out” and stepping outside to take some deep breaths can help you get centered and avoid lashing out or saying something you later regret. It helps those you’re speaking to regain their composure as well.

Final Thoughts

It’s rarely easy to have open discussions with your loved ones about your addiction recovery process.

Remember, though, that having these conversations can be healing and empowering as you continue your journey. You may also inspire others in your life to take a closer look at their own habits.

You’ve already made significant progress by acknowledging your problem and seeking help. Don’t let your fear of speaking to loved ones hold you back.

Follow the tips and guidelines shared above, and you’ll have a much easier time having a productive discussion.

Mental Health Counseling and therapy at New Horizons Medical in Massachusetts
Mental Health Counseling and therapy at New Horizons Medical in Massachusetts

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