Healthy communication skills is one of the most vital aspects of a relationship. The manner in which we communicate amongst our family and each other often contributes to how relationships are developed and strengthened.
Healthy communication skills can allow for growth and greater trust, while poor communication can trigger strain, feelings of mistrust, and distress in a relationship. What about families who have a loved one in addiction recovery? How does this challenge relationship bonds, and how can healthy communication unite a family during this challenging time?
How Addiction Breaks Communication
To begin, it is important to understand the nature of addiction and the manner in which an individual is changed as a result of being addicted to drugs or alcohol. By nature, addictions are isolating and segregating mental illnesses.
As an individual becomes subdued by their addiction, they are often affected in multiple ways:
As a outcome of these changes, men or women struggling with an addiction can no longer function in a manner to healthily sustain any relationship.
Addictions commonly place heavy burdens on the family unit, as relationships are strained by the consequences of substance abuse. If your loved one has suffered with an addiction, you may have experienced first-hand the difficulty in communicating with an addict and attempting to maintain an addiction.
Having realistic expectations is an important place to begin when repairing relationships and looking forward toward recovery.
The First Step is Treatment
Whether your loved one is a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a child, or an extended relative, it is crucial to understand that you cannot begin to restore a relationship while an addiction is still active and present.
If you try to force a relationship with your loved one while they are engaging in their addiction, you will only find yourself frustrated and discouraged. The restoration of familial relationships begins when an addict makes the decision to get treatment and begin the recovery process.
Throughout the recovery process, there will be many opportunities for families to work on communication, and this will bring out a deeper understanding of how to support a family member who is overcoming addiction. A family therapist may be a helpful partner in the recovery process, particularly as they can mediate many conversations that are difficult to help and teach effective communication tools.
As your family works together through the recovery process from addiction, keep these following points in mind, which may help improve communication amongst all members:
- Think Before Speaking: In the heat of the moment, it is easy to say the very first thing that comes to mind. Your initial reactions may not be the most helpful thing to communicate if you are feeling angry or upset. Avoid saying something that may be detrimental to your loved one by thinking through what you are trying to communicate. If you are having an intense conversation, take a break to collect your thoughts, take a deep breath, and think through what you are trying to say.
- Use “I” Statements: Learn to express yourself by starting your statements with “I”. This tactic can help you better convey how you are feeling without making the other person feel as though they are being attacked. For example, saying, “I feel upset when I see you act this way”, or “I do not understand what you mean when you say that.” By asserting yourself in this way, your statements may be better received by your loved one.
- Create a Safe Moment to Talk: Many conversations are better received when the environment is relaxing and soothing. If you are trying to have a conversation in a chaotic environment, this will likely only cause confusion, misunderstanding, and frustration.
Plan a time to talk with your loved one when you are both calm and in an environment that makes you both feel safe and open to communicating.
- Get professional help when needed: Addictions are complicated and can trigger a myriad of emotions. If you are finding it far to challenging to communicate to your loved one while they are recovering from addiction, do not give up. Involving a counselor or therapist can be an invaluable asset and help you overcome any obstacles along your way.
The recovery process from addiction is a strenuous process, but through the challenges, you will find that your family will grow as relationships are restored.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What are some of the tools you have found helpful for successful communication?
About the Author:
Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.
As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 31, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com