No matter who we are or what we’ve experienced, we’re not going to get along with everyone. There will always be people in our lives who are oil to our water; we just have a hard time mixing with them, regardless of how we feel about them.
There are dozens of reasons why someone might “get your goose,” as the saying goes. So how do we accept and tolerate people who aren’t the same as us?
When you’re part of an inpatient rehabilitation facility community, be prepared to meet many types of people, each in various stages of wellness. Unfortunately, few people are their best selves in rehab. Shedding the skin of addiction and revealing hopes, fears, insecurities, and issues can make tempers more extreme, heighten emotional sensitivity, prompt more antisocial behavior, and even trigger negative responses.
In addition to more individualized characteristics, people in early rehab tend to:
- Be impulsive
- Place little to no value in authority
- Feel overwhelmed
- Have low self-esteem and feel insecure
- Believe their stress is unlike that of any other person
- Have troubles with insomnia, which leads to more unconventional behavior
- Either have a desire to be the center of attention or shy away completely from interactions
You Have Options
These thoughts and emotions don’t exactly demonstrate the best someone has to offer. And to be honest, your behaviors and reactions while moving into recovery may irritate others, too. So how can you focus on your purpose and dedicate energy to healing? Let’s review some options.
#1: Focus on Your Health
If you’re entering rehab, it’s likely you’ve experienced a complete overhaul: medically-managed detoxification, new therapeutic techniques, and a commitment of two-to-eight weeks of treatment—maybe even a longer period of time if your continuum of care plan recommends it.
As you deal with the layers of thoughts and feelings no longer masked by substances, you feel raw and exposed. You could be working with your counselors to address mental or emotional co-occurring disorders that might contribute to substance abuse. Maybe the treatment process is going well—or maybe you just despise everything and everyone.
This rollercoaster of early recovery will come to a stop eventually, but it demonstrates why now, more than ever, you need to commit your time and attention to your wellbeing, regardless of how challenging other people or situations might be.
Solution: Express yourself by journaling, through art therapy, or with some other form of individual nurturing. Adapt some of the new coping techniques you’re learning to help you remember why your stability matters, and how you’re more in control of it than it might seem.
#2: Breathe and Think Before You Speak
Whether it’s in group therapy, during dinner, or with a quirky person in the gym, you’ll likely have to deal with someone who just rubs you the wrong way. Because you feel exposed, this rub might fester until it’s all you can think about. This preoccupation takes over mainly because it’s easier than thinking about why you’re in rehab and the work you need to do.
What other clients might say or do does not matter. Rising to any baited comment or annoying action won’t accomplish anything. This doesn’t mean you accept egregious behavior, but keep in mind that the other person is going through exactly what you are, just on their level. Your superpowers here are compassion and understanding.
Solution: Remember: you’re in control only of your reaction. You can’t control the other person. While you might want to fire off a sharp comment or sarcastic barb, use what you’ve learned so far about handling triggers. Take 10 deep breaths, then pause. The breath activates your parasympathetic nervous system and helps you calm down. The pause helps you move past the initial emotion into a thinking space so can evaluate more clearly how to handle the situation. Often, the best choice is to not say or do anything and walk away.
#3: Learn to Handle Conflict in Various Ways
It’s important to remember that not everyone is out to get you, has an agenda, is just like that difficult parent who caused harm, and so on. When our emotions and nerves are raw, when we’re still learning how to express our strengths, it’s easy to latch onto conflict as a way to avoid vulnerability.
So what if, instead of fearing conflict, you consider it a learning tool? Conflict helps you understand the power of reflective listening and empathy; it helps you learn to be assertive without being aggressive; it helps you take what others dish out with a grain of salt, knowing that you don’t have to feel threatened by someone who thinks differently.
Solution: Because workplaces and rehab centers contain a vast mix of personalities, these recommendations from UC San Diego might help you resolve conflict: open a dialogue but listen more than you speak; focus on behavior and events, not individuals; recognize aspects of both disagreement and agreement; and develop a plan for resolution and follow through on it. If the situation is beyond your energy level or area of expertise, ask a therapist to step in.
How Willingway Helps You Have a Quality Experience
The various encounters you’ll have with people during inpatient or outpatient treatment help prepare you for many aspects of life. Developing an ability to draw on your therapeutic guidelines, trust your ability to stay calm and resolute, and not look at every conflict as a threat to your sobriety will help you in the long run.