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

listening in 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 Listening in Recovery Mean?

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 hear the words spoken to and around you. That doesn’t mean you are listening.

Hearing is passive. It only happens because you have 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 most significant step to take for listening in recovery is to STOP. Stop talking. Avoid second-guessing yourself or the people you listen to during recovery. Don’t make assumptions about the speaker or what he or she is about to say. Instead, receive their words.

Different Forms of Listening in Recovery

There are different types of listening in 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 knowledge 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 helps you.
  • Therapeutic 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 in Recovery?

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 just 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. Others 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 substantial recovery. If you’re dealing with alcohol or drug abuse now and need someone to listen to you, call The Christian Treatment Center at (844)402-3605 to find out about our Road to Recovery program.


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