Tense family relationship are common. Difficulties with romantic situations and feeling comfortable with people at work can also be challenges. Substance Abusers and alcoholics are sensitive by nature, boundaries and coping skills are something most people in recovery have to learn. It’s incredibly easy to fall back into old habits, or learned behaviors, when times get stressful.
So here’s my top 5 list for dealing with drama in your life.
1. Stay In Your Own Lane
Don’t get involved with other people’s drama. Just don’t. Think of yourself like Switzerland, you’re neutral and you’re not going to take a side whether you think your sister, friend or colleague is a lying nutcase or not. You can’t win when you get into someone else’s fight and rather than lose two people over something that has nothing to do with you stick with a line like, “I care about you both and I’d really prefer to stay out of this one. I’m sure you guys (or gals) will work it out.” My friend Lily doesn’t like her sister because her sister gets herself into all kinds of trouble and likes to bring Lily down with her when she does. Lily distances herself from her sister when they’re at their parent’s house. Even though they’re all adults, Lily knows her sister is capable of real damage so she steers clear of her when necessary. She just knows if she gets too close to the black hole of need it will suck her in too.
2. Are YOU Creating The Drama Or Just Attracted To It
You know who the drama people are. If you are one of them, then maybe it’s time to change your perspective. Think about the big picture, does this really matter? Am I getting overwhelmed with my own ‘stuff’ and need to step back, etc.? If you are not a drama creator but you’re attracted to it, think long and hard about why that is and why you need that headache ongoing. Drama creates stress and stress creates anxiety and anxiety ruins the day. We all know it. So get real zen about things. Life is stressful enough just getting the basics done; work, bills paid, family issues, physical issues, etc. Think about your physical health and mental health and remember that stress can make you sick. Like real sick. If not physically, definitely mentally. We want to live long and prosper so keep whatever you need close by. My friend Jen uses the serenity prayer about 50 times a day, but she never loses her temper. My friend Ken does yoga EVERY day. Whatever you need to cleanse your own demons, do it. And then stay the heck away from the chaos others are creating.
3. Say What You Mean, But Don’t Say It Mean
This was a tough one for my sibling and me. And sometimes still is. After decades of what a friend of mine calls, “Needling each other,” we had to really put in a practice of being able to share our feelings with each other in a very calm and clear way and be sensitive about not using words or ‘button-pushing’ comments that are sure to re-enflame old feelings. In recovery we HAVE to learn how to be clear and straight with other people. People are going to say things unintentionally that may hurt a feeling or two, but we have to learn how to think rationally about it and how to respond in a way that is clear but not defensive. We don’t want resentments to build up because that’s a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, it’s critical to learn how to pause before reacting to EVERYTHING. Sometimes it’s important to let someone know they crossed a line. Sometimes if you sleep on it you may decide the comment wasn’t meant to cause harm and it’s best to just let it go. In recovery we learn we’d rather be happy than be right. All the time anyway 😉
4. Think Hard About Unhealthy Relationships Are They Worth It
Introduce me to someone who has dealt with alcoholism or addiction of any kind who doesn’t have one destructive person in their life and I’ll introduce you to Santa Claus. Seriously. You don’t get into drugs, alcoholism, gambling, sex, over or under eating because you feel awesome about yourself. And guess what? The people who do that stuff with you are the same. My friend Nadia loves people she calls the ‘underdogs’. Many of us like to be around people that make us feel OK about ourselves and our own ‘issues’ but that doesn’t mean you want people in your life who are super needy, super destructive or not a good influence. My other friend Kiki was in a tough relationship. She really cared for her boyfriend but he wasn’t in recovery and she found after a while his neurotic issues began to really be a threat to her own sobriety. They don’t call recovery a selfish business for no reason. We HAVE to be careful about the people we spend time with. I don’t know anyone with an addictive personality who won’t eventually be influenced by a destructive person too enmeshed in one’s daily life. It’s fine to care about those who may be sicker than others. But be mindful if someone’s sickness and negative thinking is creeping into your own. Destructive thinking matters because all too easily it can become negative action. And that’s life or death for many.
5. Learn from the drama
I have a dear friend who loves to say, “File under the don’t-do again category,” whenever she, I or anyone else we know, does something stupid that results in drama. Sometimes we’re going to make mistakes. It happens, but learn from them and don’t do it again. My friend Rob is staying with his older brother while his apartment is being redone. Rob just told me a story about how he was bemoaning the cost of his apartment upgrades while being completely insensitive to the fact that his brother was having financial difficulties. Eventually his brother snapped at him and Rob realized he totally deserved it. Whining about the delivery time and cost of his new marble countertops was not useful for his brother, who’s trying to support a family of his own, and Rob saw that quickly. He’s now whining about his apartment upgrades cost to me, but that’s OK because I may ask him to rent a room. See, be careful who you whine to. You never know how they’re going to react to it!
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by Lindsey Glass
If you have tense relationships, or drama you can’t handle, click on the link below for a free resource to find addiction and mental health professionals near you.