Difficult Interpersonal Relationships in Recovery

One of the most difficult areas of life for those who walk away from addiction can be interpersonal relationships. It will often have been their discomfort around other people that drove the individual into substance abuse in the first place. When these people are sober they will need to learn how to deal with other humans without the crutch of alcohol or drugs. This can be difficult in the beginning and lead to high emotions and stress. Life usually means spending time with other people, and some of these people will be easier to get along with than others. One of the most difficult people to deal with is the person who is excessively negative. In fact if newly sober people spend too much time around these individuals it can be detrimental to their sobriety.

Characteristics of Negative People

The label negative person is subjective and there is no exact way to define such a person. There are a number of characteristics that negative people tend to share including:

* Pessimism about the future – the glass is always half empty. The individual will expect bad things to happen to them.
* Distrust of other people. The person will have a tendency to ascribe negative motives to the actions of even those people who are trying to help them.
* They lose friends easily and always seem to have somebody in their life who they are not talking too.
* They will tend to blame other people for all the bad things that have happened to them.
* Constantly criticizing other people and the world in general.
* They may have a tendency toward passive aggressiveness or even open aggression.
* They feel anger and resentment towards those they feel have harmed them.
* They like to make mountains out of molehills – this means that they blow things out of all proportions.
* They have a tendency towards engaging in Schadenfruede. This means that they enjoy hearing about the misfortune of other people.
* They feel bitter about things that have happened to them in the past. They are unwilling to let go of their grudges.
* Negative people tend to be completely self centered.
* They become offended easily but are oblivious to the fact that their own words frequently cause offense to other people.
* The like to focus on the faults of other people.
* Sometimes they feel superior to everyone else while at other times they feel inferior to everyone else.
* They fear change and will tend to resist it.
* They hold a cynical attitude and distrust new ideas.
* They will tend to see the world in black and white – in their eyes things are either right or wrong. This is an unhelpful way to think because many things in life are not so clear cut.
* They try to encourage other people to share their negative view of the world.
* They enjoy pulling apart the achievements of other people – they begrudge the success of other people and resent them for it.

It is not necessary for the individual to have all these character traits in order for them to be labeled as a negative person, but they will have some of these traits. The words negativity and pessimism tend to be used interchangeably. The two terms are similar and negative people will be pessimistic about the future.

Addiction and Negativity

Those individuals who fall into alcohol or drug abuse tend to adopt an extremely negative mental attitude. Part of the reason for this is that the person will have plenty of things to feel bad about as addiction takes them in a downward spiral. Another reason for why addicts become trapped in negativity is that they use this to justify their behavior. By pointing out all the bad things in life they can use this as an excuse to abuse alcohol and drugs. This is why in order to successfully escape addiction the individual needs to also give up their pessimistic outlook on life.

Importance of Escaping Negativity in Recovery

Negativity in recovery can increase the risk of relapse – it is sometimes referred to as stinking thinking.
* It can mean that the individual is cynical towards any new information. This closed mindedness prevents them from gaining important new knowledge in recovery.
* It gives them the excuse to abandon recovery whenever they feel things are getting hard.
* One of the biggest dangers of such negativity is that it can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy. This is where the act of predicting bad things actually leads to those bad things happening.
* It sucks the joy out of recovery. The individual will have become physically sober but in many ways their life is much as it always has been – this is sometimes referred to as dry drunk syndrome.
* The negative person in recovery can be a danger to the newly sober.

Dangers of Negative People to Those in Recovery

It is not only important that people try to move away from negativity within themselves, but they also need to be cautious of the negativity within other people. This is because humans have a significant impact on each other, and spending time with negative people can have undesirable consequences such as:

* Spending too much time with such individuals can be emotionally draining.
* Negativity can be contagious, and this is particularly dangerous for those who are new to recovery and still vulnerable to their emotions.
* These individuals tend to be overly critical and they can lower the self esteem of those around them with their constant fault finding. Most people who enter recovery are already dealing with low self esteem so any further deflation could weaken their recovery.
* The cynicism of these people may be mistaken as factual. This may be able to convince other people that a new idea does not work or is wrong even though their assessment is wrong.
* This person is so self absorbed that they will tend to only be a drain on other people. Those who are not strong enough may struggle to cope with this addiction demand on their inner resources.
* They can cause problems due to their lack of tact and cynical comments. These people can cause deep upset without even realizing it.
* Such individuals will usually fail to support the person who is trying to build a new life away from addiction. They may inwardly expect (and maybe even want) the other person to fail.

Compassion for Negative People

Negative people are not bad people. There is always an underlying cause of their negativity such as substance abuse or some type of trauma. It is therefore important to view such individuals with compassion and not scorn. This is particularly vital for those who are in addiction recovery and will all have a history of such a negative attitude. Sometimes it may be necessary to disengage from a negative person, but it is recommended that people do this with compassion.

How to Deal with Negative People

Here are a few ideas for how to deal effectively with those who are excessively negative:

* People who are in early recovery need to keep their time with negative people to a minimum. This is because the newly sober will be more vulnerable to influence of such negativity and it can more easily sap their motivation.
* It is important not to feed the negativity of the other person because it will just exacerbate the situation. This means not joining in with their negative observations on the world.
* Negative people tend to be insensitive and this means that they say things that are hurtful. Rather than getting upset by their comments it is better to feel compassion and understand that it is their own inner unhappiness that is causing them to talk the way they do.
* Staying positive around the negative person can be beneficial to them. Negativity does tend to be more contagious than positivity, but it can work the other way as well.
* It is easier to deal with negative people as part of a group as this is less of an emotional strain than dealing with them one on one.
* When conversing with these individuals it is best to keep to light topics. If they begin making negative comments it can be effective to try to change the topic of conversation.
* Sometimes the best strategy is to just not listen to what the other person is saying. This is a bit rude, but it may be necessary so that the individual can protect their own mental health.
* In some instances the negative person will be having such a detrimental impact on the individual that the best solution will be to ignore them completely and avoid spending any time with them. This disengagement from them should be done with compassion.
* Techniques such as loving kindness meditation can increase the ability to deal with negative people.