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Interpersonal Coping Skills: The Inner You

It’s hard facing the struggle within yourself when you’re trying to achieve and maintain recovery. Coping skills are ways you can meet your own personal needs without using drugs or alcohol. We’ve already talked about intrapersonal coping skills, which help you deal with the issues within yourself. There are also interpersonal coping skills that you can use to work through situations in dealing with other people.

Knowing How to Say No. There are too many people in your life who will continue to ask you if you want a drink or whatever your drug of choice is, even after you’ve begun the recovery process. Many recovery programs include group therapy practice sessions in which the group members learn how to refuse a drink or drugs.  It might seem silly the first time you do this, but you will be surprised how it helps. Repeated practice makes you sound convincing to the people around you when you say no.  As many times as someone can say “Come on, just have one drink,” you can also say, “No, I’ll pass.”

Refusing All Kinds of Requests. People with addictive behaviors and the loved ones around them often share codependent or enabling relationship dynamics. That means that your loved ones depend on you to behave a certain way to validate their own sense of self-worth. They may be fearful, even, that once you have stopped using you will no longer love or need them. But you do have to make changes in your life, including those negative family dynamics, and so you have to learn to refuse requests when friends and family ask for favors. You will learn to tell the person that he or she is important to you, and you know how he feels, but you just cannot say yes. Sobriety means you are back in charge of your own world, and learning how to turn people down—gently—is a coping skill you need. It is okay, however, to offer compromises, as long as you are comfortable with them.

Accepting Criticism.  It’s natural for people to bristle when someone criticizes them, and the addict becomes riled even more quickly because he knows he has earned some criticisms. Your addiction treatment counselor can teach you how to respond without getting angry so that you can effectively ask the critic to define exactly what he expects from you or at least to explain his purpose. You can also learn to take care with your own criticisms of others so that you don’t offer hasty, unwarranted criticisms.

Building a Social Network. Many people in recovery report that they are lonely. They can’t hang out with the people they were socializing with in the past, and it’s difficult to make new friends.  Attending a variety of 12-step meetings until you find one that fits your personality is important. Don’t be too quick to write people off as incompatible with you; your social skills are rusty and you need to give relationships an opportunity to develop. Church or neighborhood groups also make great ways to get out there and meet new people.  

Intimacy. When you were actively using, you were not able to provide much of genuine worth as a partner to someone else. Now that your head is clear, it’s time to practice both giving and receiving the emotional intimacy that makes life so worth living.

Many residential addiction recovery centers take their clients through a series of exercises that enhance their ability to share intimacy. Movement classes, massage therapy, yoga, and meditation are all excellent ways for a person to regain experience in opening himself up once again. You cannot share yourself with someone else if you do not know how to explore your own inner feelings. Learning how to admit your feelings to yourself and then to others, developing listening skills, and practicing positive ways to express the negatives in life all contribute to better intimacy in your all relationships, including that single most important one.

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