Your recovery is directly dependant on your honesty and to some degree your ability to be vulnerable while still communicating effectively.
This, for many people and for any number of reasons can be especially scary.
Although, I don’t have to fact check to tell you that being emotionally vulnerable won’t kill you.
Sure, it’s uncomfortable and difficult, but definitely not deadly.
I guarantee there has never been a “Cause of Death” line filled in with
- “Well, they opened up about how they felt hurt and scared of new things and then they just shriveled up and blew away.”
It’s never happened.
There are lots of things that aren’t deadly though, and they terrify people every day, so I understand that knowledge doesn’t take the fear away. That’s where you’ve got to put in a little elbow grease and go to work.
Honesty really is the best policy, but most people don’t know how to be honest without being brutal.
For some reason, in this society, it’s ok to be utterly brutal in your honesty in regards to someone else’s behavior, but not your own. It’s not our fault no one is teaching us how to communicate effectively and constructively with others.
More importantly, no one is teaching us that when we find some sort of our life we are unhappy with, we have the tools to dig it up and change it at the root of the cause.
Open Communication = Honesty = Vulnerability
I have found personally, throughout my recovery that I had grown to expect certain things from certain people, who had no idea what I expected from them. I built up what they ‘should’ be doing but didn’t effectively communicate what it was that I wanted from them. This inevitably angered and frustrated me. In my fly-off-the-handle frustration, I said a lot of things that really hurt and upset people who were really just doing the best they could in the only ways they knew of or could think of to help me. (Still working on this and I like to think I’m getting better, I suppose time will tell.)
When you are in recovery, there will most certainly be times where you feel people aren’t being as supportive as they should be or as they could be. Really, ask yourself, is it through any fault of their own, or have you been expecting things unspoken; only to be left feeling disappointed when those expectations aren’t met?
So when you talk to your support system, try to stay away from the definitive, “you always,” or “I never” because those are instant conversation changers. If you want to reach a place of agreement, and understanding, YOU as much as the other person need to be flexible and ‘always’ and ‘never’, like stiff wood boards, don’t like to bend too much.
Instead, use words like:
- “I feel,” or “in the past, this has left me feeling—–“
- “My experience of this has been (or is) —–“
- “These feelings/experiences have affected me in the way that—–“
Here are the beautiful things in these statements,
- You take ownership of these feelings and can sit in them processing the emotion as it has affected you, and with acknowledgment, you can begin to heal.
- If you are honest about your feelings, hurt, disappointment, helplessness, overwhelmed, no one can argue those are your feelings, and you are entitled to feel them without anyone else being offended. (YOU have every right to feel overwhelmed, or powerless to change -fill in the blank- without upsetting someone else.)
- When you take ownership and reflect on how it has affected your emotional state, it’s easier for the person to meet you halfway, as opposed to feeling attacked with “you never help me” it will feel like you are begging for intervention without letting go of the reigns (don’t be stiff as a board, remember?)
Vulnerability has an amazing way of turning a conversation from a point of contention to a point of fragile, emotional understanding. We are all human, and unless you are completely heartless, if your loved one comes to you and says, “I feel broken” a part of you feels crushed and broken, too. This often is when the conversation begins to switch from anger to one of understanding.
I have to say, there was something very liberating about owning up to my addiction that has given me some empowerment in my recovery. For so long I had spent running from the shame and hiding the addiction. Really, over ten years of my addiction the least offensive thing I have ever done is be honest about my behavior or my emotions.
Although, like a lot of things in the recovery process that we are still feeling our way through, social interactions are NO different. It can become challenging to express your own pain and hurt without offending someone in your support system who feels like they are doing all they can think of to help you.
Well, with those key phrases I gave you earlier, and a clear understanding of what you are asking of someone, your communication will be effective.
No, I don’t mean what you are asking of someone like, “Hey man can I crash on your couch?” I am talking about the difficult conversations you don’t want to have.
- “I am scared to take this new step into recovery,” (just an example) -first be honest with your feelings; own it! I’m scared, that’s the honest vulnerability– “and please be patient with me because this is new and scary. Please let me know I’m not completely alone in this next step; that I can call you to talk when I feel I need to drink.” -and be honest about what you are asking for, when I need you, please pick up the phone.
I can not tell you how many times in very early recovery where my mom would say, “tell me how to best support you, because I don’t know what you need unless you tell me.” It’s so simple and so true.
We expect people to know exaclty what we expect from them, when we have never spoken exaclty what it is we expect.
-and then get mad that we have to tell them something they should have magically known without any real communication.
If that isn’t cuckoo for cocoa-puffs, I don’t know what is.
So let’s go back to basics.
“Scout’s honor” your way through life. Even if it means being vulnerable sometimes. Those moments won’t kill you.
Should you feel close to lashing out, first whip out your phone, very angerly click away into the text screen and say every mean and hurtful thing you want to say to the other person and then, send it to yourself.
Not only to look back and go, “Man, maybe I should cool my jets before I get that angry” but also because you might wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “boy, I’m REALLY glad I didn’t say that in the heat of the moment.
Brutal honesty isn’t the best policy, nor is it the only policy but if you practice compassion, honesty is a great tool to open up your communication.