Step 5

During step four the work of creating a searching and fearless inventory was the goal.  In Step five, we clean house.  We do this by admitting to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.  Specifically, we are dealing with the contents of our inventory.  During the inventory process we examined our wrongs and behavior patterns, which revealed deeper aspects of our disease.  Much of the time, these revelations are not pleasant; however, acknowledging them and bringing them to the surface makes it possible for us to deal with them constructively.  After we share the shameful aspects of our past, we can be free of them.  In so doing, we can live a life of freedom in general. 

During the fifth step, many of us have and will face many fears.  The fear of being judged, the fear of taking up another person’s time, and fears related to trust.  But, it is essential that we know what our fears are and move forward despite them so that we are able to continue with our recovery.  Thus, courage and a sense of trust in the process of recovery are essential.  If we have both of these things, we will be able to work through our specific fears and handle the admissions that need to be made during this step. 

Admitting to each entity involved in this step is important.  True recovery involves a life where the spiritual meets the everyday and the ordinary meet the extraordinary.  When we admit the exact nature of our wrongs to the God of our understanding, our admissions become more meaningful.  However this admission takes place is fine, as long as we are aware that we are making an admission to our Higher Power.  The admission to ourselves is important as well.  This is important because change will not occur until we admit to our innermost selves the exact nature of our wrongs.  Once this admission is made we are more willing and better able to choose a different way of living.  Finally, admitting to another human being, no matter how uncomfortable, is important.  This is important for many reasons.  First, the therapeutic value of one addict helping another has been proven to be unparalleled within twelve-step programs.  Second, in the past, it may have been hard for us to decipher between what we are responsible for and what others in our lives are responsible for.  Hearing another person’s point of view related to such situations often proves to be helpful in this domain.  Third, by sharing our inventories with another person, we are demonstrating the trust it takes to make healthy relationships thrive.  Ultimately, this helps us in terms of developing honest relationships.  We tell the truth about who we are, then we listen to the response. 

By working step five, we will recognize patterns of behavior that have lead to negative consequences. During this step, we focus on the spiritual principles of trust, courage, self-honesty, and commitment.  We begin to learn to trust ourselves and others.  We develop the courage to acknowledge our character defects, admit to them, and remain committed to overcoming them.  By doing these things in step five, we begin to experience spiritual freedom and overcome the shame and guilt of our past!  Today you can begin your quest for spiritual freedom! 

(Photo by Basil James on Unsplash)

Interpersonal effectiveness skill “walking the middle of the path”

Incorporating balance is important in many aspects of our recovery.  It is also an important consideration for us to make in our ability to maintain healthy relationships.  This final interpersonal skill (walking the middle of the path) will help us to consider ways to incorporate balance in our relationships.  The middle path is one of harmony with reality as it is.  It does not mean 50% of one view and 50% of another point of view.  It is a move away from extreme emotional responses, actions, and thinking, and toward balanced and integrative responses toward life’s situations.  It is comprised of:

  • Dialectics
    • Teach us that all things are interconnected and in a constant state of change
  • Validation
    • Communication that involves letting a person know that their feelings, thoughts, and actions are understandable
    • Validation does not mean we have to validate the invalid
  • Behavior change skills
    • Use skills to increase desired behaviors and decrease undesired behaviors

In order to better understand this concept, let’s consider an example:

Upon walking into the lunchroom at work to eat his lunch, John notices that his lunch is gone.  Doug than comes into the lunchroom and says “I saw Carlos eat lunch already.  You know how he is always eating other people’s lunch”.  After hearing this, John walks into Carlos’s office and says, “you ate my lunch again…you must hate me!  I’m done working with you!”.

John will need to recognize the middle path exists in order to avoid further confrontation.  In order to do this, John would first need to accept that his lunch is gone and address the issue with a mindful approach.  While John may be angry with Carlos, he also needs to work with him and find a balance.  This would mean replacing “either-or” thinking with a more balanced approach.  Instead of thinking that he either needs to reprimand Carlos for taking his lunch or let him have it and not say anything, John can come up with a more balanced approach by explaining how he is affected when Carlos takes his lunch and asking him to not do it anymore.

It is sometimes difficult to incorporate balance into our relationships, especially when someone does something you do not like.  It is essential, however, especially if our aim is to maintain healthy relationships.  Today you can incorporate balance into your relationships by utilizing the interpersonal effectiveness skill “walking the middle path”.  By doing so, today you can increase your ability to maintain healthy relationships!

(Photo by Chris Thompson on Unsplash)

Interpersonal effectiveness skill “how to end unhealthy relationships.”

Up to this point, we have talked about ways to maintain healthy relationships.  It is also important to consider what we should do concerning the relationships we have in our lives that are not healthy.  Having unhealthy relationships can have negative effects on many aspects of our lives, including our sobriety.  In most cases, it will come to ending those unhealthy relationships in order to continue on our path to growth and continued sobriety.  Even considering the idea of ending these relationships can be very difficult.  In order to alleviate some of that burden, we will now look at important things to remember when we are considering an end to a relationship. 

  • Ending a relationship requires clear thinking and interpersonal finesse
  • Not all relationships can be handled the same way
  • Try not to make a decision about ending relationships when you are emotional
    • Strong negative emotions can lead to rash actions in interpersonal situations
  • Think through the reasons for ending a relationship before ending it
  • It makes sense to end destructive relationships
    • Destructive relationships are those that destroy aspects of yourself such as: your physical body, safety, self-esteem, sense of integrity, and your ability to find happiness or piece of mind
  • It makes sense to end relationships that seriously interfere with your quality of life
    • These types of relationships hinder your pursuit of goals that are important to you, your ability to enjoy life, your ability to do things you enjoy doing, your relationships with other people, or the welfare of other people you care about
  • Plan ahead when you do decide to end a relationship
    • Decide whether your going to end the relationship in writing, on the phone, or in person
    • Write a script ahead of time and practice what you are going to say
    • Troubleshoot for what could go wrong ahead of time and have a plan for how you will handle the issue
  • Be direct by incorporating some of the skills you learned:
    • DEAR MAN
      • Describe the relationship problems that have led to you ending the relationship
      • Express clearly how you feel about it
      • Assert that you now want to end the relationship
      • Reinforce by explaining to the person how ending the relationship will be beneficial for both of you
      • Stay Mindful- do not go to extremes
      • Appear confident- do not give in to appeals to stay in the relationship
      • Negotiate- be civil about future interactions if they are needed

Deciding to end unhealthy relationships can be difficult, but is extremely important in our quest to remain sober.  By effectively ending unhealthy relationships you can put more energy into maintaining healthy relationships, avoid the destructive characteristics that accompany unhealthy relationships, and improve your quality of life.  Today you can avoid the potential of possible relapse due to consequences related to unhealthy relationships!

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Interpersonal effectiveness skill “how intensely to ask or say ‘no’”

Asking for things and saying “no” can often be difficult. Today we will examine the factors to consider when it comes to the level of intensity at which you should ask for something or say “no” to a person’s request.  The factors to consider include:

  • Capability (your own or the other person’s capability to deliver the desired outcome)
    • Increase the intensity of asking if the other person has what you want
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if you cannot give what the other person wants
  • Your priorities
    • Increase the intensity of asking or saying no when an objective is very important to you
    • When getting an objective interferes with a relationship and/or your self-respect, the intensity should be lowered to the degree in which the relationship/self-respect are important
  • Self-Respect
    • Increase the intensity of asking if you usually do things for yourself and are normally careful to avoid acting helpless
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if saying “no” will not result in feeling bad about yourself
  • Rights (yours and the other person’s)
    • Increase the intensity of asking if the other person is required by law or moral code to give you what you want
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if you are not required by law or morals to give the other person what they want
  • Authority
    • Increase the intensity of asking if you are responsible for directing the other person or telling them what to do
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if the other person does not have authority over you or if what the other person is asking is not within their authority
  • Relationships
    • Increase the intensity of asking if what you want is appropriate for the current relationship
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if what the other person wants from you is not important to your current relationship
  • Long-term versus short-term goals
    • Increase the intensity of asking if being submissive may result in peace now, but will create problems later on
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if giving in will give you short-term peace, but hinder the long-term relationship you desire
  • Reciprocity
    • Increase the intensity of asking if you have done at least as much for the other person as you are requesting and you are willing to give if the other person says yes
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if you do not owe the other person a favor or if the other person does not usually reciprocate
  • Homework (research on what you are asking for or saying “no” to)
    • Increase the intensity of asking if you know all the facts necessary to support a request and both the goal and request are clear
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if the other person’s request is not clear or you are not sure what you would be saying “yes” to
  • Timeliness
    • Increase the intensity of asking if this is a good time to ask (if the other person is in the mood for listening and paying attention, they are more likely to say yes to a request
    • Increase the intensity of saying “no” if this is not a bad time for you to say “no”

Being able to communicate our needs and express that we do not want to do something are two very crucial aspects related to our ability to remain sober.  By utilizing the Interpersonal effectiveness skill “how intensely to ask or say ‘no’” we will be better able to do these things and remain sober.   Today you can effectively ask for things and say “no” to requests. Today you can increase your ability to maintain healthy relationships!

(Photo by Peggy Anke on Unsplash)

Interpersonal effectiveness skill “FAST”

These skills help us to keep or improve our self-respect, while at the same time, getting what we want in an interaction.  These skills include: 

Remember to be fair to yourself and others in any attempts to get what you want.  It is hard to like yourself in the long-term if you are consistently taking advantage of other people.  When you take advantage of other people, you may get what you want, but at the risk of your ability to respect yourself.  Remember to validate your own feelings and wishes as well as the other person’s.  It is hard to respect yourself if you are always giving in to other people’s wishes and never sticking up for your own wishes or beliefs. 

When utilizing apologies remember to consider these things: use them only when they are warranted or appropriate, do not apologize for making a request, having an opinion, or disagreeing with someone else’s opinion, apologies imply that you are wrong and that you are the one making the mistake, and although apologies can at times enhance a relationship, excessive apologies can be aggravating to other people and often reduce relationship and self-respect effectiveness. 

When sticking to your values try to avoid undermining your values or integrity to get your objective or to insure a person is happy with you.  Be clear on what, in your opinion, is the moral or valued way of thinking/acting and stick to your position.  It is difficult to maintain self-respect when you continually give in to others and do or say things you believe to be wrong. 

When being truthful remember not to lie, act helpless when you are not, or exaggerate your situation.  A pattern of dishonesty over time diminishes your self-respect.  Dishonesty as your usual mode of getting what you want will be harmful to you and others long-term.  Acting helpless when you are not is the opposite of building skills. 

Self-respect is of tremendous value to us in and outside of our recovery.  If we continue to give in to others or undermine our morals and values, we will slowly but surely start to lose self-respect.  By incorporating the interpersonal effectiveness skill “FAST” , today you can avoid losing self-respect while still being able to get what you want in interactions.  In turn, today you can increase your ability to maintain healthy relationships! 

(Photo by Bee Naturalles on Unsplash)

Interpersonal Effectiveness Skill “DEAR MAN”

Get what you want in a more healthy and effective way.  The “DEAR MAN” skills are utilized when a person wants to ask for something, say “no”, maintain a position/view, or achieve some other interpersonal objective.  The skills include:

When describing there are a number of things to keep in mind, including to: briefly describe the situation you are reacting to, stick strictly to the facts, do not use judgmental statements, and be as objective as possible. 

These are the things to remember when expressing: express clearly how you feel or what you believe about a situation, do not expect the other person to read your mind or know how you feel, and by sharing your personal reactions to the situation, you are making it easier for the other person to figure out what you really want from the interaction. 

When being assertive remember to keep these things in mind: ask for what you want, say “no” clearly, do not expect people to know what you want from them if you do not tell them, and do not beat around the bush by never really asking for what you want or saying “no”. 

When reinforcing remember: to identify something positive or rewarding that would happen for the other person if they give the response you are looking for, to take time to consider the other person’s perspective and draw connections between what you are asking for and what they need or want, and that connecting your request to consequences that other people desire will make them more likely to agree with what you are asking for.

Remember to stay mindful of your objectives in the situation, to maintain your position, and to avoid being distracted onto another topic.  Distractions often come in the form of attacks, diversions, or threats. 

You can appear confident by: using a confident tone of voice, displaying a confident physical manner/posture, and using appropriate eye contact.  Try not to stammer, whisper, stare at the floor, retreat, or use unsure language. 

When negotiating: be willing to give to get, be willing to reduce your request, maintain your “no” but offer to do something else or to solve the problem another way. 

We have all experienced a time when we either wanted something or did not want to do something.  It can often be uncomfortable, or even intimidating to express that to people. When we are in active addiction this becomes even more difficult because we typically will not be in the right mind to consider the skills necessary for doing so effectively.   By remaining sober and incorporating the DEAR MAN skills into your relationships, you can get what you want in a more healthy and effective way, and in turn, increase your ability to maintain healthy relationships! Today You Can incorporate these skills and begin to improve and maintain healthy relationships!

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Maintain Healthy Relationships

In previous blog posts we talked about two of Covey’s habits that involve creating healthy relationships. Specifically, we talked about Habit 4, which involved thinking win-win  and Habit 5, which involved seeking first to understand and then to be understood. Hopefully by now you have begun incorporating those habits into your relationships and have seen some improvement.  We know that social support is of extreme importance when it comes to maintaining our recovery.  In order to ensure the social support we are receiving is of the highest quality, we need to be interacting in healthy relationships.  To help us do that, I thought I would introduce the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Skill: Interpersonal Effectiveness. DBT is a therapeutic technique that helps us integrate skills into our every day lives that enable us to change behavioral, emotional, thinking, and interpersonal patterns associated with problems.

Over the next seven blog posts, we will look at different skills we can utilize to improve and maintain our relationships with people we are close to and even complete strangers.  The goals of interpersonal effectiveness are to:

  1. Be skillful in getting what you want and need from others, which includes:
    • Getting others to do things you would like them to do
    • Getting others to take your opinions more seriously
    • Saying no to unwanted requests effectively
  2. Build relationships and end destructive ones, which includes:
    • Strengthening current relationships
    • Finding and building new relationships
    •  Ending hopeless relationships
  3. Walk the middle path, which includes:
    • Creating and maintaining balance in relationships
    • Balancing acceptance and change in relationships. 

Today you can begin to learn and incorporate interpersonal effectiveness skills into your life . Today you can increase your ability to maintain healthy relationships!

(Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash)