Annoying people are everywhere and depending on where your emotions are and where you are in your healing process in recovery, they can be hilarious or they can put you at risk of relapse. Especially if you are already agitated with other things going on in your life, dealing with cravings for drugs or alcohol, or otherwise in no mood to deal with other people’s ridiculousness, annoying people can feel like a curse in recovery.
Unfortunately, depending on your perspective, you will see annoying people everywhere: in 12-Step meetings, in line at the coffee shop, on the road, at home, on the street. The good news is that they can actually help you to grow stronger in your recovery. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Annoying people may have something to offer to you in recovery. Even if they seem to be annoying on the surface and your gut instinct is to ignore them completely, they may still have something to say that is enlightening or inspiring to you. Even the person in your 12-Step meeting who is always running his mouth about how great he is and what great heights he reached in addiction (of course, losing it all again and again, forcing him into recovery) may drop some inspiring information that really speaks to you.
2. Dealing with annoying people gives you the opportunity to practice patience. Patience does not come to most people in recovery naturally. In fact, many are prone to fly off the handle at the slightest inconvenience and view almost everything as a personal attack or judgment. Dealing with someone who is obnoxious and turns you off as soon as they open their mouth gives you a chance to practice patience in measured doses and walk away when you hit your limit.
3. If annoying people trigger cravings, it is clearly a sign that there are other things going on that you need to address. If dealing with people who are annoying triggers you to drink or get high, it is a clear sign that you need to get back in the therapy chair and work on underlying trauma, mental health issues, or relationships that are making it difficult for you to stay sober.
4. Annoying behaviors can define you by contrast. When you are in recovery, you are constantly in a position to redefine who you are in without drugs and alcohol, forming new opinions and behaviors as you go. When you see someone act in a way that you find annoying, they are helping you to figure out who you are by contrast and further develop your sense of self and your world view.
5. Dealing with chronic annoying behaviors can be a bonding point for you and others in recovery. If you routinely have to deal with someone in recovery who is over the top or otherwise has an intrusive or aggressively annoying personality, dealing with them through deflection or patience along with your friends, neighbors, or coworkers can be a bonding experience.
6. People who are “off track” remind you that can’t be everyone’s savior. Because you are doing such a great job at managing your own life, you may feel as if it is your calling to do what you can to “save” others as well. People who are annoying, however, or who continually make choices that you know are making their lives more difficult are not necessarily a cry for your help; they may instead be a reminder that you cannot save everyone and that your role in their lives may be minimal.
7. Annoying people can help you to appreciate your own life in recovery. For example, if you are in line at a grocery store or on a plane and someone is trying to talk to you endlessly about things that hold no interest to you, it can be annoying, or it can be a reminder of how lucky you are to have people in your life who love to hear from you. If you are in 12-Step meetings and you see someone continually hitting on people who are new to recovery inappropriately, it can help you to be grateful that you have healthier interests or to appreciate your own functional relationships.
What do you gain from annoying people you meet in recovery? How do you use irritating experiences and situations to grow stronger in recovery?