by Cole Timonere, JD, MA, PhD Student
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.” – Johann Hari
As we roll into summer, movement restrictions have begun to cease, and many folks are planning to get out of the house and visit with loved ones all over the globe. While there may be significant excitement to travel and visit with friends and family, often times the actual connecting part can prove difficult. For folks with addictions, it can be especially hard. As eloquently stated by Hari above, addiction is the opposite of connection. It is a very solitary and lonely ailment with which to be afflicted, where disconnection is often the most familiar state. Thus, in addition to learning about addiction and abstaining from substance use, we must also learn to connect and experience intimacy in relationships.
Here are some tips to assist in your summer (and beyond) connections:
Listen. Allow the speaker to complete their thought before responding back. At times we try to anticipate what someone will say and then fail to hear to what is actually being said.
Ways to respond:
- Validate the person so they may feel heard. This assists in providing them with emotional relief. Examples might be, “I hear you,” “I’m with you on that,” “I hear how frustrated you must be,” “It sounds like you feel overwhelmed,” etc. This is a time for you to reflect on the person…this has nothing to do with you, so we don’t need to take it personal.
- Be clear.
- Identify your feelings.
- Express your emotions.
- Be specific.
- Accept accountability for your part…and you always have a part.
- As how you might be able to help.
In bringing up an issue that relates to the other person, it is best to avoid “you” in an accusatory way as much as possible.
For example, instead of stating, when you do or say ___, I feel ___. Try this: when I hear ___, I tend to feel ____. I realize we both have our roles, but I am concerned about ____. What are your thoughts about this? How do you feel? When this happens in the future, I wonder how we can be creative to come up with a solution for _____.
Here, we stated a problem, provided accountability, ask about the other’s thoughts and feelings, and then look for collaboration in coming up with a resolve.
Allow yourself a pause in conversations when needed. If you begin to feel completely dysregulated, try taking a few deep breaths or kindly inform the person with whom you’re speaking that you need a short break before returning to the conversation. Remember that there will be discomfort and that it is in that space that growth becomes possible. Furthermore, with growth and intimacy rekindled in relationships, we are afforded a new opportunity to find peace, value, and passion in our lives.