When someone says something that is rude or condescending, or seeks to make you change what you are doing to conform to their expectations or needs, your first response may be to blow up at them, curse them out, threaten violence, or otherwise “put them in their place” – especially if they do it more than once or are clearly trying to goad you.
In recovery, and in life in general, losing your mind on someone is only going to make things worse, both for you on a personal level as you go through your day in recovery and also for the people around you. As good as it may feel to let loose and tell someone off when they are bothering you, the fact is that they either did not realize how their words impacted you and did not mean to offend you, or they were actively trying to piss you off and your anger is exactly what they were going for. Either way, yelling and freaking out is either going to be unnecessarily harmful or create the exact opposite effect you are hoping for.
In terms of maintaining balance in your recovery and your ability to avoid encountering the same response from this person over and over again, you have a number of options that will help you to avoid making a bad situation worse.
Address the situation early on. If you find that on more than one occasion, someone is bossing you around, being rude to you, or otherwise pissing you off, don’t wait for it to build up and turn into a huge thing. Address it after the second time, calmly and politely, and determine whether they are purposefully trying to mess with you or if their tone or manner of speaking is irritating but accidental.
Smile. No matter how you choose to respond to someone, make yourself smile while you are saying it. If they do not mean to upset you, they will appreciate that you are not taking it personally, and if they do mean to make you mad, then you are not allowing them to see that they got to you.
Choose to say nothing. You have every right to literally say nothing and walk away. Life is short and engaging with people who are trying to get in your way or make you feel bad may not be the best use of your time. Especially if it is a one-time encounter, like another passenger on the bus or someone in line with you at a store, there is really no reason to vent and engage in the moment as it will do little to improve your life.
Make a plan. Those one-time negative interactions on the road or dealing with a customer service rep may not signify the need for a serious heart to heart, but they can still really get to you deep down and impact your ability to stay sober. If you are struggling with the aftereffects of an encounter, talk about it with your therapist, addressing the specifics of how you feel, why it bothers you, and what you can do next time to handle it differently.
Also, if you find that you are regularly encountering someone at work, home, or in 12-Step meetings who seems bent on talking down to you, making you look bad in front of other people, or hurting your feelings, bring it to your therapist. Discuss the dynamics of the relationship, how it makes you feel, why it might be happening, and what you can do to make your own life easier with this person in the future.
Let it go. After you have addressed the issue – either the one-time run-in or the ongoing negative encounter – and worked out your feelings with a therapist or other substance abuse treatment professional, give yourself permission to let it go. This may be easier said than done and definitely warrants discussion with your treatment team if the feelings continue to plague you in recovery and/or trigger cravings for drugs and alcohol.
Are You at Risk of Relapse?
How we interact with other people can have a significant impact on our overall emotional wellbeing and mental health. Are you concerned that irritation and anger management issues are interfering with your ability to stay sober? Reconnecting with more intensive treatment services may be the best step forward.