How to Deal with Unavoidable Conflicts While Staying Sober
Conflict is a disagreement in which opposing parties clash over perceived threats to their interests, needs, concerns and beliefs. While a negative response to conflict often involves verbal bickering, Psychology Today noted in 2012 that it might also motivate people to go silent, which can be an unequally unhealthy response. In other scenarios certain unhealthy and imbalanced situations need to be addressed, yet people might avoid the issue for fear of conflict. Though problem-solving tools can often help resolve issues, conflict is a regular part of most people’s lives, and it can be especially problematic for recovering addicts trying to stay sober. If handled in the wrong way, a conflict might trigger substance cravings, lead to unhealthy behavior or even result in a relapse to drugs like clonazepam. Still if conflict is unavoidable, recovering addicts can take advantage of life tools that help them cope with the negative emotions, memories and thoughts that conflict often produces.
Types of Conflict in Recovery
Current Psychiatry Reports in 2011 described how addiction involves brain atrophy in the medial frontal regions and hyperactivity of the anterior cingulate, and changes to neural circuitry and biochemistry alter an addict’s motivational hierarchy and decision-making skills. As a result the compulsion to drink or use drugs like clonazepam takes priority over relationships, responsibilities and community values, and an addict’s behavior can initiate extensive conflict in all areas of his or her life. Unfortunately this means people often carry past conflicts into their present recoveries, and resolving these conflicts (when possible) is one of the steps in the traditional 12-step program.
In some cases anticipating the conflict may help individuals plan a response, avoid deeper disagreements and limit escalation. Certain types of conflict are more common for people in recovery including the following:
- Unpaid loans that were taken out to finance the substance abuse
- Instances of domestic violence that occurred during intoxication
- Friends affected in specific negative ways by the addictive behavior
- Personality clashes with co-workers, family or other recovering addicts
- Unintentional conflict resulting from social skills still needing improvement
For anticipated conflict recovering addicts should preplan ways to resolve it in healthy ways and avoid allowing it to produce anxiety, stress or tension.
How to Handle Conflict
Recovering addicts in particular should develop skills that help them avoid and resolve conflicts. First individuals can learn to handle conflict more effectively through personal changes including the following:
- Reverse self-absorbed and selfish traits that possibly developed during addiction.
- Improve communications skills to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
- Address personality issues that motivate conflict avoidance and passive-aggression.
- Acknowledge and adjust to emotional swings that occur in the early stages of recovery.
- Practice peaceful meditation that can be used during disagreements to remain calm.
- Continue to deal with issues like low self-esteem, past trauma and mental health disorders.
- Practice life skills taught in rehab like conflict resolution and anger/stress management.
Second people should utilize recovery skills to help avoid and deescalate conflicts including the following:
- Show patience and empathy to loved ones still struggling with the addiction aftermath.
- Look for the gray areas in disagreements rather than view everything in black and white.
- Avoid getting involved in other people’s conflicts that have nothing to do with you.
- Make an effort to become a better listener, and put yourself in the other person’s position.
- Always do your best to avoid office politics and disagreements over civic politics.
- Do not insist on being right during inconsequential conflict even if you are right.
- Be willing to set aside strong opinions if it helps reduce escalating tension.
- Quickly remove yourself from discussions that are becoming too heated or combative.
As a practical matter recovering addicts can also limit conflict by maintaining a healthy social circle. Certain friends, both new and old, may inspire negative emotions and conflict, and individuals may need to focus on other relationships or set up safeguards for interactions with these friends. During the first year of recovery, people should also avoid new romantic relationships. New romances can distract from the recovery from addiction to drugs like clonazepam, produce unstable emotions and even serve as a replacement drug of sorts. None of which is positive.
Ways to Avoid Relapse
Some conflicts are unavoidable, and despite the best efforts to handle them in a healthy way, they can produce substance cravings and increase the risk of relapse. The risk may be especially high for certain types of addicts, such as those who abused benzodiazepine-class sedatives like clonazepam (Klonopin) to self-medicate stress and anxiety. If a conflict takes a negative turn, a recovering addict can potentially respond in various ways including the following:
- Let go of residual anger and resentment, and never allow such feelings to simmer.
- Lean on your recovery sponsor or partners if a conflict bothers you in any way.
- Discuss your feelings with a friend or sponsor rather than swallow the emotional pain.
- Talk with somebody about the conflict, and ask for help in finding a resolution.
- Make immediate plans to meet with other recovering addicts who can provide support.
Northwestern University stated “It Can Take a Village to Beat an Addiction” in 2011 to highlight the critical importance of recovery support, and recovering addicts should always utilize their support networks during times of conflict and cravings. Individuals more experienced in their recoveries can assist with emotional support, behavioral guidance, sorting through options and even strategizing ways to resolve disputes. Most importantly people within the support group can provide accountability, assistance and healthy distraction should a conflict trigger negative thoughts and cravings.
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