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Listening in Recovery: To Yourself, to Therapists, to the Still, Small Voice

Why listening is important for addiction recovery

For most people, the thing they know about recovery is that you talk about your addiction. It’s shown on television and in movies: aren’t you supposed to verbalize your addiction and share your story? While that’s true in many cases, and sharing and talking about substance abuse can be a healthy step in recovery, listening is also critical to successful treatment and ongoing sobriety.


What Does it Mean to Listen During Recovery?

Listening is not the same as hearing. Unless you have a physical impediment, you automatically hear every sound around you. In a group or individual therapy setting, in Bible study or pastoral counseling or even at a shared table during meals, you are hearing the words spoken to and around you. That doesn’t mean you are listening.

Hearing is passive. It happens to you because you are equipped with ears that work. Listening is active: it is something you chose to do as you take action to engage with the speaker and process what he or she is saying.

Probably the biggest step to take when listening in recovery is to STOP. Stop talking. Stop considering everything in your own mind. Stop making assumptions about the speaker or what he or she is about to say. Instead, listen and receive their words.

There are different types of listening you might employ during recovery, and you will probably use several types of listening skills as you work through treatment. Here are a few to keep in mind.

  • Critical listening involves taking in the words and information in an attempt to gain information and make decisions. You might use critical listening when you’re learning about nutrition, coping mechanisms or studying Scripture.
  • Discriminative listening means you take non-word context clues into account, including the volume and passion with which words are spoken and body language. You aren’t discriminating against the listener, but you are building a fuller picture of what they are saying. You might use this as you listen to people share their testimonies and stories in group settings.
  • Sympathetic listening provides the other person with the chance to share their emotions and experiences with you; this is something you might employ during group sessions or during fellowship times. By supporting others in recovery, you become part of a structure that also provides you with support.
  • Therapuetic listening is a type of listening pastors and counselors who work with you might use. They are trained to react and work with you in a way that helps make speaking a cathartic and healing process for you.


Who Should You be Listening To?

During recovery, you might listen to a variety of people and voices. First, you’ll be hearing from counselors, pastors and other providers. Whether they’re offering stories, Scripture knowledge or education on addiction recovery, listening fully to them helps you prepare yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for sobriety outside of treatment.

Second, you’ll likely listen to those who are in recovery with you. In some cases, you might simply be providing an audience for them so they can share their story in a cathartic way. In other cases, you may glean some wisdom, insight or support from what they have to say. It’s important to listen without coming to rely heavily on other patients, as they are also seeking the same recovery you are.

Third, you need to listen to yourself in recovery. Start learning to know what your body is telling you and work with therapists to understand triggers and stressors that put your sobriety at risk.

Finally, at the Christian Treatment Center, we believe you should always listen to God first and follow him. Work with pastoral staff and through Bible study to better understand what God is telling you.


How to Listen for God in Your Life

Listening for God is a spiritual skill that comes with a lot of practice, and the voice of God is unique for every person. Some people hear him audibly, some hear that still, small whisper, and others feel him in their hearts. Some people say God talks to them through the things they read or see; others find his words in Scripture alone.

To get better at listening for God:

  • Spend time in prayer. Instead of filling the time solely with what you have to say to God, sit quietly and give him time to speak to you.
  • Read and study Scripture, on your own and with others.
  • Talk to others about God, Jesus and the Bible on a regular basis.
  • Start looking for God in all things: from the movie you watched on television to the stroll you took in the yard.

Listening is a critical step in a solid recovery. If you’re dealing with alcohol or drug abuse now and need someone to listen to you, call The Christian Treatment Center now to find out about our Road to Recovery program. (844)402-3605


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