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Do you ever get the feeling that no one in your life really understands you? Maybe it feels like no one understands the challenges you are facing. Maybe it feels like no one you work with understands how valuable you are to the team. Maybe it feels like your partner or your children (or both) take you for granted and don’t understand that you are feeling overwhelmed.

All of this can feel even more frustrating and stressful if you are in recovery from a substance use disorder. The recovery journey can be stressful all on its own—and if it feels like the people in your life are failing to understand what is going on with you, that stress might multiply.

Increased levels of stress, of course, put your sobriety at risk, so as much as possible, it serves you well to address misunderstandings or vexations that may be undermining your relationships. That can be challenging, but if you employ good communication skills, you can make some real progress.

Let’s look at some key aspects of communication that can help you have conversations that can help lower your stress levels and protect your sobriety.

No One Can Understand What You Don’t Tell Them

Sometimes we think everyone should understand how we are feeling about a given situation. But it is unreasonable to expect others to understand your thoughts and feelings if you do not express them.

Speaking up isn’t always easy, but it is the only way to help others understand your point of view. So don’t fume in silence or complain to people who are not directly involved in the situation you are trying to improve. If you cannot overcome your reluctance to bring up difficult emotions, untested ideas, and the like, you cannot make progress toward mutual understanding.

Of course, what you say must be communicated in a way that your audience can successfully receive.

Kind and Calm Are the Way to Go

Often, we let resentments build up until we just explode at someone—and that explosion may well be an overreaction to the situation that inspired it. Actually, it almost certainly is an overreaction.

A much better approach is to address problems or concerns kindly and calmly. It is seldom helpful to accuse others of bad faith or unkindness or a lack of attention to your needs or challenges. It is far better to speak from a place of calm and with the understanding that others are more likely to hear what you are saying if you do not put them on the defensive.

To give yourself a better chance to stick to a positive, collaborative tone, it can be a good idea to write down what you want to say in advance and to practice. It might feel silly to rehearse a conversation with a co-worker or family member, but taking those extra steps can help the real conversation go more smoothly.

You Are Equally Obligated to Listen

Communication, of course, is a two-way street—and that means you have to be prepared to listen to the other person’s point of view. Again, a spirit of kindness and calmness serves you best when listening. Maybe the person you are talking to has a totally different perspective on a situation. Maybe they are facing challenges of their own that might be adding stress to their life. Maybe you have misperceived the situation in one way or another.

The person with whom you are speaking might say things that upset you—and you might say things that upset them (even if you are speaking thoughtfully). Remember that it can be appropriate to take a break and return to a conversation at a later time when one or both of you are feeling calmer and better able to have a productive talk.

Get Things Cleared Up Can Clear Up Feelings of Stress

Remember, we are suggesting this commitment to clear, kind, and calm communication because avoiding misunderstanding and grudges can reduce the level of stress you experience. Lower levels of stress support your ongoing sobriety. 

Our Message to You: We Can Provide the Help You Need

If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, it can feel like you are all alone. Our message to you is simple: You are not alone, and effective help for substance use disorders—and co-occurring mental health disorders—is available. 

At French Creek Recovery Center, which is located in Meadville, Pennsylvania, offers personalized treatment grounded in evidence, expertise, experience, and empathy. We can help you get sober and stay sober over time. When you are ready to get started on the project of taking back control of your life, we are ready and able to help.