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Healing the Family: 5 Tips for Rebuilding Bonds Broken by Addiction

Healing the Family: 5 Tips for Rebuilding Bonds Broken by Addiction

Addiction and substance abuse does more than damage your health; it can destroy close family bonds and friendships, cripple opportunities, and bring bright futures, full of potential to a halt. When one chooses to break the hold addiction has on one’s life, it is the beginning of a complete transformation. Beginning in rehab, a skilled team of counselors and therapists can help you to cope with urges and triggers, remove cognitive ties to substance abuse, and gain a healthier, more positive outlook on life.

But what about the external damage cause by a substance abuse disorder? Is there no way to mend what has been broken while under the influence of an addicted mind? Must what is broken remain so?

Thankfully, our profound human nature allows for flaws and mistakes; we use these traits and experiences to learn and grow as individuals and as a global society. This adaptive nature also fosters the ability to forgive and progress in our lives and relationships- if all parties are willing to work for the betterment of the bond. If you are in recovery and seeking to rebuild bonds broken in your active use phase, following the 5 tips for rebuilding a bond broken by addiction is a good place to start.

1. Be Honest

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Be Honest About Your Wrongdoings

    You cannot ask for forgiveness without admitting wrong. Rebuilding external relationships begins within; you have to understand, or at least attempt to understand your wrongs before you can atone from them. Recognizing another’s feelings and your part in them is key to beginning the relationship healing process. That’s not to say you are solely responsible for others’ emotional well-being, but part of being a mature adult is recognizing and accepting responsibility for yourself and your actions.

    Approach your loved one open and honestly. Verbally acknowledge the cause of contention  and the part you played in the perpetuation of it, and express your feelings on it. Be sure to tell your family member or friend that you want to fix the problem, why, and how. Giving a solid, planned course of action helps them to see you are serious about overcoming the issues and moving forward with a stronger bond and appreciation for each other.

    2. Listen

    Active Listening is Key to Healing Relationships

      It’s equally important for the person whose forgiveness you are seeking to be able to speak honestly about their feelings regarding past transgressions. To help facilitate an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable being open and honest with you, make sure they know you are listening- really listening. That means an in-person (if possible) conversation which has your undivided attention: no multi-tasking, no electronic devices, no other physical crutches.

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      While it may be difficult for you if you are anxious about the conversation, showing that you are serious about rectifying your mistakes can go a long way in helping mend what has been broken. Sincerity, above all else, must be the core of your intentions if you wish to be successful in mending the bonds broken by addiction. If you find you cannot act in a sincere manner, or that your efforts are not being truly accepted and appreciated, perhaps you should rethink if the relationship is worth salvaging.

      3. Be Cooperative

      Cooperate with Those Trying to Help You

        It’s one thing to listen, but you also have to be cooperative. Getting defensive will only serve to cause tension and further widen the divide between you and your loved ones. That doesn’t mean you have to accept abusive language; by all means, if you’re being attacked, feel free to get up and walk away. Fixing the kind of damage addiction causes to your interpersonal relationships is rarely a smooth road- but if you are forthright and willing to put in the work necessary for redemption, it is possible.

        When faced with friends or family members asking you to modify certain behaviors in order to salvage the relationships you value, at least consider their words and viewpoint. However, there are some things which are not up for debate on which you should not compromise, such as:

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        • Your gender and/or sexual identity and your right to express it
        • Your right to feel safe and respected
        • Your sobriety
        • Your right to be heard as an individual
        • Your universal human rights

        4. Stay Consistent

        Consistency Shows Reliability

          One of the main reasons people are hesitant to believe in people in recovery is that, while under the influence of addiction, one becomes unreliable, inconsistent, and flaky. With one’s priorities shifted by a substance abuse disorder, being there for others or committing to one’s responsibilities rapidly fall into the background. Unfortunately, some view a history of relapse as reason to doubt one’s reliability rather a part of the struggle to conquer the chronic disorder. So how do you rebuild this faith with the odds stacked against you?

          There’s not much you can say to rebuild broken trust; but there is plenty you can do- by backing up your words with actions. Following through with your promises and staying firmly on the sober path can help re-establish the trust and confidence past actions may instill in others. Beyond that, sticking to your word and your goals is a great way to build confidence in yourself and your ability to turn things around. Learning to rely on yourself is essential to successful recovery addiction.

          5. Know When to Walk Away

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          Know When to Walk Away From Toxic Relationships

            The reality is, no matter how much we may wish to repair the damage caused in the past and rebuild relationships, it often isn’t up to us. Sometimes we simply cannot let go of the hurt or anger- and sometimes that is for the best. Anyone who would insist on holding your past against you even as you attempt to improve yourself and your life is not someone you need in your future. You do not deserve abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, no matter what others may say.

            Walking away from bad relationships- even ones within the family- is the best thing you can ever do for yourself. With time and distance, you will come to realize those relationships only served to hold you back in the long run. Ideally one would have the support of friends and family through the recovery process, but if they cannot recognize your attempts to better yourself, it’s okay. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people- they’re more important than salvaging a relationship better left in the past.

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            Last Updated on January 15, 2021

            7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

            7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

            The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

            Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

            Posture

            First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

            • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
            • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
            • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
            • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

            All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

            Facial Expressions

            Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

            • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
            • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
            • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

            If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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            1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

            A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

            The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

            This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

            2. Relax Your Face

            New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

            The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

            To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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            3. Improve Your Eye Contact

            Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

            The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

            To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

            3. Smile More

            There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

            Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

            4. Hand Gestures

            Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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            It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

            5. Enhance Your Handshake

            In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

            “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

            It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

            6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

            As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

            Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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            Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

            Final Takeaways

            Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

            If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

            More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

            Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

            Reference

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