Conflict is natural and inevitable. And if used properly, it can be good. Conflict pushed us to develop tools that increased our likelihood of survival. We evolved from wooden clubs to chipped obsidian blades to metal. We developed the plow and the wheel. New farming techniques created a surplus. All of these things gave us the time to grow into writers and philosophers, doctors and teachers. Conflict pushed us into what we are today.
Conflict in Addiction
However, when conflict overwhelms, it becomes more destructive than productive. In active addiction, we learn to deal with conflict ineffectively. Instead of thinking a situation through, we often allow ourselves to become emotional and we are often not skilled at dealing with emotions. Hiding from unpleasant feelings is part of our disease so instead of coping with them we retreat or we attack. Neither is useful in getting our needs met. If we are too passive, we become victims. As victims, getting sober becomes difficult because we don’t know how to ask for help.
The other side of that coin is anger and aggression. Our relationships become unhealthy and manipulative. Again, when we lack control over how we deal with conflict, we cannot achieve long term recovery.
Conflict and Recovery
Conflict teaches us how to deal with stress. We learn how to communicate. We learn how to examine the world around us and find our place in it. Without conflict, we learn nothing. If we are completely comfortable in every aspect of our lives, there is no motivation to move forward or ask questions.
In active addiction, conflict creates situations in which we begin to think that maybe things need to change. Maybe we are at odds with our families or people at work. We are sick and we are tired of being sick. These internal conflicts help push us toward decisions that can improve our lives and the lives of the people around us.
Conflict, while not pleasant, can be a catalyst. Conflict, not violence, can motivate, if for no other reason because it is uncomfortable and no one likes misery.
Basically, there are two ways in which to deal with conflict. One is to avoid it. The other is to face it calmly and be assertive. Conflict avoidance is more of a short-term solution. When we find ourselves overly emotional, our ability to communicate decreases, sometimes to the point of incoherence. When we are highly emotional, it might be better to walk away for a while in order to collect ourselves and think a situation through so we can come back later and address the issue in a fruitful way. We have to determine the root of the problem, what we need from the situation and whether or not we really need anything.
Sometimes, surrender is the only good answer but it can be hard and leave us feeling as if we have lost something. However, there will always be people or situations that create unneeded and unresolvable conflict. By continuing to fight, we do more damage than good and recovery is all about moving forward. Walking away can sometimes be the only healthy option. It is important, to be honest with ourselves though. We should always be asking ourselves if the fight is worth fighting. If not, leave it. If so, address the conflict with intent and skill.
When in conflict, we need to be as calm as possible. Shouting and swearing clutters communication. People pay as much attention to the emotion of the conversation as they do to the words. Clear and calm discussions are far more effective than shouting matches. Secondly, we need to remember that other perspectives are as valid as ours and work hard not to judge or dismiss them. Sometimes, both sides of a conflict may be right and while it is hard to accept, we need to acknowledge it. Lastly, using assertive communication, we need to ask questions so that we can build a solution that meets the needs of all parties.
Skillful conflict resolution leads to relationships, to a more stable, pleasant life. When we learn to honestly identify our needs and when and how to ask effectively for them, we reduce the need to hide behind our illness from unpleasant situations.
Are You in Constant Conflict?
One sign that something is wrong in our lives is constant conflict. Do you argue with your loved ones often over how much you drink or what you do when you are drinking? Are you in conflict with your boss or your co-workers? This could be a sign that you need help. At Fort Worth Recovery, we use multiple therapies to help you learn how to live a more peaceful, healthier life. Are you ready to take that chance? Call us today at 844.332.1807.