Learning to Communicate in Addiction Recovery

Addicts loose communication skills. Not “loosing” to the bottle makes one lose to words. “Words are”, as is said, “singularly most powerful force available to humanity.” Exchange of words and ideas is termed as communication. It is one of the most compelling skills an individual can have. Communication, however, is not a skill that can be developed overnight – it is a skill that one has to work on every minute of the day. It is a way of being together, bridging spaces between people. With addicts and alcoholics, it is difficult to identify, appreciate, and share their thoughts and feelings with the people around them. So is the case with their families – they lack in effective and adaptive communication in any given point in time.

Learn to listen. To begin with, communication is a bidirectional process, that is, it not only involves talking but also listening and contemplating on what is said. Listening, as wrongly assumed, does not mean just being quiet. It means to be actively attentive to the person who is talking and respond to them instead of reacting. Alcoholics and addicts are impulsive personalities – they cannot put themselves to listen to others and hence end up reacting or “acting out.” The chemically dependent families lack this skill and hence the episodes of verbal and physical violence in homes – erecting walls through which nothing can pass. Another important aspect of listening is respecting. Alcoholics, addicts, and their families have a high feeling of low self-esteem and are in sheer need of respect, especially in the manner of being listened to. For this reason, listening plays a major role in the lives of alcoholics and their families, hence nourishing relationships

Communication in addiction recovery. In the process of addiction recovery, the manner in which communication takes place is very valuable. In order to have a healthy communication with respect and consideration, it is important for one to have the time to talk laterally so as to avoid any internal inhibitions. The second important aspect is to clarify what the other person is meaning to communicate to avoid confusion in understanding the thoughts and feelings. For addicts and their families, to agree to disagree, is a mentally and emotionally complex task. Therefore, as a part of healthy communication, it is important for us to understand, respect, and converse about the variations in opinions. Thirdly, do not judge or criticize the person’s style or what they’re talking in order to reach closeness in the relationship. Lastly, and most importantly, it is important for us to communicate fairly and without manipulation by owning our behavior thereby maintaining dignity of the relationship. Incorporating certain customs (such as shaking hands or hugging) as a means to end a discussion can nudge us into a feeling of resolution, adding a fresh dimension to the discussion.

Get professional help. A good listener helps to clear the mist that has been developing and therefore it is important for us to share our issues and feelings. Communicating sensitive and serious issues to trained personnel can be extremely helpful to avoid dead silence and judgments that may result from sharing such issues with untrained people. Communication as an avenue to build and mend relations requires a lot of patience and humility, especially with addicts and alcoholics due to their personality. Therefore, seeking professional help can be a constructive idea to find a healthy way to communicate and resolve issues in a relationship that has been scarred due to chemical and/or drug dependency.

“Listening has the quality of the wizard’s alchemy. It has the power to melt armor and to produce beauty in the midst of hatred.” – Brian Muldoon