Day 10: Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt


Day 10 of 12 Days of Emotional Sobriety

Sometimes people’s intentions are malicious – but most of the time they are not. Most people do not set out to intentionally hurt others.  And yet, it’s impossible to be close to other human beings photo-1513297887119-d46091b24bfaand not get hurt, from time to time. This is especially true for alcoholics/addicts who tend to be particularly sensitive emotionally. Our sensitivity is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it allows us to connect deeply with the world (when we allow ourselves to feel). It’s a curse because it often underlies the need to use our drug of choice to completely numb out.

Emotional sobriety means you can handle the normal emotions of everyday life. Building resilience in this area is important for your own emotional well-being. I love how Dr. Ellyn Bader describes it in the work she does with couples. She explains how crucial it is to build “emotional muscle” to be able to show up in life and in your close relationships. One way is by giving others the benefit of the doubt. That means we don’t have to attack everyone who disappoints or frustrates us, nor do we need to ‘ghost’ them.

There is no possible way to build healthy, long term, reciprocal relationships if you are not able to manage your emotional triggers and reactions to what others say and do. There is a very important perspective in the recovery literature that states: “Whenever I am disturbed, there is something wrong with me.”  It’s a harsh truth because it demands 100% responsibility. No one to blame. No one to shame. Emotional growth means that you can tell the difference between everyday hurts and serious abuse, (which does not apply here). It means you are being both kind to yourself, but also to others. Most of us are doing our level best each day. Can you see that in yourself and others?

Tip for Today

Remember a recent event when someone said or did something hurtful to you. Or think of an upcoming holiday event where you must be around someone who you find difficult. Imagine yourself giving that person the benefit of the doubt.  You might think, “Sounds like they are struggling”; or “I’m really glad I don’t live in their skin, it must be hard”.  Giving someone the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean agreeing with them. It doesn’t even mean sticking around them. It simply means allowing yourself to find some compassion for their suffering. By doing so, you shift out of being a victim and avoid a downward emotional spiral that makes you vulnerable to relapse.

Don’t forget to share this with your friends and family who could benefit from 12 tips to keep you emotionally sober this holiday season. See you tomorrow for tip #11!


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