Talking to Family and Friends About Your Recovery

When we are in pain, it can be difficult to find the right words to reflect how we feel. It can be especially tricky when we have suffered from a relapse along our mental health journey, but communication is the bridge between the whole of humanity. We can’t expect people to assume how we feel or force them to simply infer our needs from our actions. We have to be direct in our wants, needs, and boundaries, and the only way to convey those messages is through open communication. Where do we start when it comes to talking to our loved ones about what we are going through?

Healthy Communication Starts with You

         The pathway to open communication starts with you. First, you need to clearly know your needs. This may be tricky if depression and anxiety get in the way, but a great starting point is working through these feelings alone. Writing in a journal is a safe way to clarify your thoughts, feelings, and needs and allows you to literally get everything out of your mind and down on paper. You may surprise yourself when it comes to how you’re feeling. Writing helps us put words to our feelings and clarify our experiences. We can read our thoughts back and organize them accordingly.

         You can also practice working through your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or licensed mental health professional. Talking things out also gets those confusing feelings out of your mind and into the world. A listening ear can help us see our confusion by saying things back to us and asking clarifying questions. They can also help you prep for emotionally laboring conversations.

         If you are in recovery, you are probably working with a therapist or team who is helping you to become the best version of yourself. Use them in this process. Let them help you work through your feelings — your pain — and get you through to the other side of healing. Once you understand your journey, you can begin to share that narrative with others.

Finding the Right Words

         After you figure out what you need, there are a few ways you can communicate those needs. While an in-person conversation is always a better option to avoid miscommunication, writing a letter, email, or text can be a safe way to express your thoughts, needs, and boundaries. This type of communication gives you the opportunity to formulate your needs into clear, coherent, and direct messages. You also have the option of revising your writing into a final draft before sharing it with others. Additionally, you could take that written piece to an in-person conversation to keep you grounded and on track when sharing your thoughts. If you still don’t feel comfortable talking with your loved ones, you can also have a mental health care professional act as an intermediary. Having someone there to help mediate what could be a difficult discussion can make you feel safe and heard.

         The goal here is to open a direct line of communication to those around you regarding what you’re experiencing. Recovery isn’t easy, but external support is a vital component of healing. It’s important to be gentle with yourself right now about your personal path. Bring others into your life slowly and with grace.

Starting Points

         There are a few things to remember when communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs to others during the recovery process. First, you must be direct. This means saying it like it is and not sugarcoating anything to protect your feelings or the feelings of those around you. That doesn’t mean you need to be aggressive to get your point across. It means you can’t be afraid to say what you want, need, or experience. A good starting point is focusing on yourself. Talk about how you’re feeling, what your daily life is like, and what you need moving forward. Focus on yourself and your feelings. That’s what recovery is all about!

         Recovery looks different for everyone, and that might be an important point to relay when sharing with those around you. Remind others that your experience is your own, and ask that it isn’t compared to that of another family member, friend, or someone outside of your circle. Be direct about your experience and focus on your path.

Important Reminders

No matter how much work you’ve done to improve your life or how well you prepare before sharing your feelings, it’s important to remember that not everyone can hear you. There may be people in your life that simply can’t understand your plight and won’t be able to support you. That’s okay! This is where boundaries come into play. Some people may not be coming on this recovery journey. Just like you need people to respect your wishes, you must do the same for others. Don’t be afraid to walk away.; it’s nothing personal. More often than not, you’ll be surprised to find people who want to support you. They just didn’t know what you needed until you explained it to them.

Another thing to remember stems from the fact that people only know what they know. They are only aware of the things they have experienced. If they don’t struggle with addiction, if they don’t have trauma or other mental health issues, they may not be able to understand where you’re coming from. That doesn’t mean they can’t support you, but it does mean you will need to have patience with others while you relay your experiences. Remind yourself that some things might never be understood. Support doesn’t mean they have to understand every thought and feeling. It simply means they listen with an open mind and offer unconditional love.

The last point to remember is that you don’t have to share your journey with anyone you don’t want to, and you can choose to share only the pieces you personally want to share. The only person you owe anything to on this journey is you. Share what you need people to know for your boundaries and your emotional safety and leave the rest for your diary and your therapist.

Learning to communicate, especially in recovery, can be a difficult process. It takes time to work through your own narrative before you can share it with the world. If you or someone you know has been struggling with addiction and/or relapse and can’t seem to find the words or support groups to get to health and wellness, reach out to Burning Tree Ranch. Located in the heart of Texas, Burning Tree is here to offer compassionate support on your recovery journey. Call today to learn about our residential treatment programs: (855) 458-2797