How to Avoid Being Misunderstood in Early Recovery

Posted on May 4th, 2011

“Be not disturbed at being misunderstood; be disturbed, rather, at not being understanding.” – Chinese proverb

It’s time we give ourselves a break. After all, we’re just new to recovery, having gone through treatment (or gone through withdrawal and tried self-help groups to recover on our own) and now beginning that uncertain journey in recovery. Sure, it feels scary and confusing. It’s the same for everyone new to recovery. But we also share another trait that’s common and that is that we’re often misunderstood in the early days, weeks, and months of our sobriety.

How can it be otherwise? Haven’t we been consumed by our addiction for so long that we sought no other counsel than our own admittedly false advice? We may have fallen into a habit of not even talking with others or mumbling our comments as if no one could possibly be interested, let alone understand what we are talking about. Maybe we’ve just cut off communications entirely. This often happens when we reject the demands and attention of family members. We resent them telling us what to do, and fear that they can’t possibly know what it’s like to be in recovery.
That may be true. But they don’t have to be in recovery themselves to be affected by our recovery – just as they were affected by our addiction.

Maybe – and we’re going out on a limb here by broaching this subject – just maybe we should stop and think about what we’re not doing right now. What we’re not doing is giving ourselves the opportunity to avail ourselves of the support and encouragement that’s vital to our continued sobriety. We need people in our corner, people who know and care about us as well as people in the 12-step groups that know what we’re going through – because they’ve been there before and can help guide us.

When we confide to our 12-step sponsor our fears and concerns, we don’t need to worry about being misunderstood. Anything we say is probably akin to an experience he or she has had before. There’s no right or wrong way to speak about what’s going on in our lives. We need unbiased, nonjudgmental, caring advice and counsel – and we get that tenfold with our sponsor.

Listening to the accounts of others in the rooms will also help us in our goal to speak more clearly so that we’re understood by our family members, co-workers, neighbors, friends, and the world at large. It does take practice and we won’t feel accomplished at speaking clearly right off the bat, but we will get there in time. For now, accept that we are not perfect – and we are trying. Understanding this will help go a long way toward learning how to be understood – and accepted for who we have chosen to be in sobriety.
 

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