Starting over in recovery often means letting go of some of the behaviors and choices you made in active addiction that, perhaps inadvertently, made your life harder. If you have a reputation for being a difficult person to deal with, a tough guy, or cold-hearted, then it’s time to lighten up. In recovery, your greatest benefits will come from making positive and authentic connections with other people who are living positive and happy lives. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, it is time to work on the simple things. These are little things you can do to start becoming a better person in recovery – a stronger person who others want to be with, connect with, and support.
Here are a few ways you can start that process today:
- Know who you are. When you take the time to figure out what matters most to you, what values drive your purpose, and where your integrity lies, you feel more confident in who you are. This confidence translates into allowing other people’s choices to roll off your back, dismissing the behaviors or choices of others that might otherwise cause you to be judgmental or aggressive, and giving you the ability to be calm, kind, and present.
- Be flexible. You cannot control the choices of others, how circumstances unfold, or when and how difficult situations arise. It can be stressful if you are heavily attached to outcome or if you need everything to remain orderly and comfortable all the time, especially in dealing with other people. It will be a lot easier for you and your relationships with people if you are flexible whenever possible. This is as easy as noticing when your initial response is stress, then choosing to stop to take a breath before deciding how to proceed with integrity.
- Support the people around you. You are not the only one fighting the long hard road back from active addiction. The people around you in recovery are also struggling with their family relationships, having a hard time figuring out how to live a normal life keeping up with work and responsibilities, and avoiding drug and alcohol use at the same time. Everyone else, in recovery or not, also has difficulties they are facing: the loss of a loved one, trauma, financial difficulties, and worries that will not go away. Though you will not always know the details, you have the opportunity to support the people you come in contact with by giving them the benefit of the doubt if they are having a bad day, providing them with resources and information, and showing them by example that the world can be a kind place.
- Follow through on your commitments. When you say you are going to do something, you can be a standup person by following through and turning your promises into a reality. Show up to help your friend move. Stay behind after a meeting to help clean up. Bring extra sodas or chips to your niece’s birthday party. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment to be important. In fact, your relationships with other people are built on showing up in little ways consistently.
- Practice compassion. When you are faced with someone having a bad day, someone who is not mentally or emotionally capable, or someone who is irritating you relentlessly, have compassion. Do not indulge in the urge to shut them down, get in their way, or give them a hard time. Instead, choose to help them out, give them your attention, and be accommodating. Taking just a few seconds of your time can light up someone’s day, help them change their mood, and improve their interactions with other people going forward. It can also improve your mood, help you to continue having positive interactions with people throughout the day, and feel better about yourself along the way.
Becoming a person who is respected starts with respecting yourself, and that begins by knowing who you are and actively choosing to live by those values in every interaction with other people.
What choices will you make today that improve your relationships with yourself, others, and your recovery?