There is a big difference between “hearing” and “listening.” Two people can have a conversation, but a person that is only hearing the other person and not really listening is basically just waiting for his or her turn to speak. Developing effective listening ability requires addressing potentially narcissistic qualities in oneself; people naturally value their own perspectives more than the perspectives of others, so listening can be difficult at times. This is especially true when a person is hearing something they may not want to acknowledge about him or herself.
Learning To Listen
Addiction recovery is not a single event; it is a process that lasts for the rest of a person’s life after addiction. Learning how to listen not only encourages the recovery process, but also empowers a person to make better decisions and form stronger relationships after rehab. One of the most difficult aspects of overcoming substance abuse is listening to the people who have suffered the most due to an addiction in the family. However, it is essential for a person with a substance abuse disorder to take these accounts to heart and truly acknowledge the effects his or her behavior has had on others.
Better Personal Relationships
During an addiction, a person who abuses drugs and alcohol will start rationalizing his or her behavior however possible to justify these decisions. They may deny that their habits have evolved into dependency or addiction and may deny the visible effects of their behavior even when confronted. Learning how to listen helps these individuals understand the consequences of their actions better and empathize with others. After rehab, putting these lessons into practice helps a person in recovery build stronger relationships and rebuild ties with those he or she may have hurt in the past.
Listening requires suppressing one’s own ego for the sake of another. This can be incredibly difficult because human beings have an inherent predisposition for multitasking. Instead of actually absorbing what another person has to say, the vast majority of people are simply thinking of what they want to say next. Learning to listen with one’s complete attention is a valuable skill that shows love and respect.
More Effective Treatment
Listening is also a vital factor in addiction treatment. Many people in addiction recovery centers participate in different therapies and counseling to help them cope with the stress of withdrawal, overcome trauma, and address co-occurring disorders like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression. Effective treatment hinges on trust; patients must trust their caregivers to provide effective treatment and take their advice to heart even if may seem pointless or difficult. Over time, patients hone their listening skills and start building rapport with the people providing treatment. Listening is crucial because it’s essential to learn to accept another’s viewpoint or advice instead of just waiting to offer a response.
Learning To Listen To Yourself
Drug addiction can distort a person’s sense of identity and can easily cause a person to neglect his or her own personal wellbeing for a long time. During addiction treatment, many patients learn how to listen to themselves. This is important in many ways. A patient may start to notice changes in his or her internal monologue that indicate growth and positive change. It’s also important to learn how to handle what the body says to an individual. Learning how to effectively handle needs and wants in a healthy manner is a major part of addiction recovery.
Overcoming The Psychological Effects Of Addiction
Substance abuse inherently leads to very selfish behaviors, and these behaviors can create patterns that are very difficult to break. A person in the grips of an addiction will take advantage of others, lie, steal, and do whatever they must to secure the next dose. Addiction treatment involves addressing these transgressions and making amends as well as learning how to overcome selfish and narcissistic behaviors.
Rebuilding Relationships By Listening
When a person in recovery talks to the people most important to him or her, effective listening is one of the most valuable tools available for repairing these relationships. Putting aside personal ego and truly listening to another person shows that person you care about what they have to say. These conversations are an essential part of the healing process after addiction. Hearing another person air a grievance and offering a half-hearted apology does nothing to repair the relationship, and if the other person believes that the person in recovery doesn’t truly appreciate the conversation this may cause an even deeper rift between the two.
Listening can help a person fully understand the real scope of the damage caused by his or her addiction. While under the influence and still experiencing urges and cravings to use drugs, he or she may not have been able to recognize the consequences of his or her actions. The psychological impact of drug abuse is substantial and requires a long time to heal.
Building New Coping Skills
Many of the reasons addiction recovery patients report as driving forces behind their addictions include stress, personal relationships, work issues, finances, and many others. Building better listening skills in recovery helps to hone a person’s perspective. It’s much easier to keep priorities in order when you pay close attention to your surroundings and input from others. It’s also essential to sometimes put ego aside for the sake of healing.
Learning how to listen can be very difficult for some people, but is an essential part of the recovery experience that offers tremendous benefits beyond addiction treatment. Sober living means rebuilding a life that keeps stressors and triggers in check and having a strong support network. Cultivating these relationships requires truly listening to others and not just waiting for a turn to speak.
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.