Dealing with Difficult People in Sobriety

Our getting sober does nothing to improve the spiritual condition of those around us. One of the lessons we must learn in recovery is our powerlessness over others - the only thing we can change is our responses to what we encounter in life. In light of this reality, it is important for us to develop coping skills to aid in our handling obstinate or frustrating people we cannot avoid in life. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you interact with those difficult people we all encounter in life.

First, and most importantly, remember that a person’s treating you poorly has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. There is an old saying in the rooms of 12-step recovery: hurt people hurt people. Individuals who are struggling with some unresolved feelings or frustrations are likely to lash out at anyone they interact with as a means to vent these feelings. Obviously this behavior is unhealthy and destructive, but you need not take it personally. Maintain your peace of mind, do not feed into any negative emotions you develop as a result of their harsh words, and above all else stay in your own lane! It may even be helpful to pause after parting company with the person and pray, asking God to help you let go of any hurt feelings and remain focused on your own challenges and goals in life.

Now that you have reined in any undue reactions to the upsetting individual on your part, how do you respond to their stubbornness or lack of cooperation, especially in a professional setting? We are often at the mercy of others when it comes to successfully completing tasks in the workplace, as group projects require input from everyone involved in order to progress. Once again, we must return to the idea that we cannot change others, only ourselves. If you find yourself unable to move forward on a work project without input from an individual who is stubbornly refusing to be helpful, you should bring this concern to your supervisor rather than continuing to confront the person directly regarding their lack of effort. The latter will only cause you to grow frustrated and emotional, the former is a more effective solution as management has more power to remove the obstacle from your path.

Difficult people are an inevitable fact of life, even for those of us who are living by the principles of recovery. While we remain powerless over people and situations in our lives, one of the gifts of sobriety is the restoration of our mental clarity and healthy perspective. These allow you to stay focused on your own life and actions, letting go of hurt feelings which result from your personalizing the harsh, thoughtless words of others. As with everything in recovery we strive for progress rather than perfection, and there will be times when you find yourself feeling hurt, angry, or frustrated as a result of another person’s actions. With the help of your higher power, you can let go of these feelings and remain centered in your serenity and positive outlook on life!