Andrea Perlin


Communication is an essential life skill that allows individuals to better understand and connect with one another. Effective communication enables us to resolve differences, make connections, and build trust and respect. These skills are critical in all stages and experiences, but potentially most invaluable when it comes to families and individuals dealing with addiction and recovery.

Individuals that find themselves in recovery and/or in a place of needing guidance, support, help or even just someone to listen to them, must be open, assertive, and authentic in their communication. Following are five key ways to communicate effectively regardless of which side of the addiction recovery process you are on.

• Be Assertive
Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. Luckily, being assertive is both a learnable skill and a mode of communication. When you are assertive, you can more easily express your thoughts and feelings effectively; you operate from a position of equality and respect; and you respect your own rights, values, and beliefs while respecting the rights, values, and beliefs of others. Assertive people understand that we can work together for the mutual benefit of everyone involved.

• Take Responsibility
Taking responsibility for your own feelings as an addict or as someone helping others in addiction will help you improve your communication when you feel angry or upset. One way to achieve this is by using “I” statements. “I” statements open dialogue and serve as a technique that will allow you to communicate what is upsetting while minimizing blaming. If our statements feel too blaming, the person we are trying to speak to will often become defensive.

• Listen, Absorb, Think…Then Respond
It’s critical that when communicating with someone in addiction recovery, that you do not react suddenly, abruptly, or quickly. Instead, listen to what is being said, take a step back and think about the reason behind their words and actions. After you have listened, absorbed, and come up with a reasonable and thoughtful response, you are ready to approach and communicate with the individual. A calculated response will also help you avoid a defensive and aggressive situation.

• Don’t Take it Personal
Not all conversations are going to be positive, easy, or happy-go-lucky. Conversations can become serious and possibly even angry – especially when it comes to matters of addiction. When engaged in one of those conversations, it is important for all involved parties to step back and take a look at the bigger picture — meaning, don’t take the words of others personally. Understand that during a more serious conversation, things might get said in ways that they shouldn’t be. Try to address the issue at hand without getting wrapped up in the drama.

• Compromise
You’ve heard it before: You can’t always be right nor get your way. Every conversation is going to be different, and many times you are going to be forced to meet in the middle. Rather than remaining stubborn and digging your feet into the ground, find a way to compromise with the other person so both your needs get met. This is important for both the addict and his or her support group. The ability to compromise with others will help you maintain promising interpersonal relationships with others because you won’t just dismiss their points of view, but rather incorporate them into the end result. Compromising is one of the easiest ways to communicate well!

At the end of the day, good communication skills can be one of the best defenses against relapsing, as they will allow you to be vocal about your feelings and understanding of others. This is true for both the addict and those that are looking to help. Good communication can promote strong relationships that yield successful outcomes.

Andrea Perlin, South Florida Outreach Coordinator for Better
Addiction Care, which specializes in substance abuse placement
on a national level, is also owner and founder of Boca Family
Therapy. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with extensive
experience helping children, adolescents, adults and families in
both individual, couple and group settings. She specializes in the
assessment of children, adolescents and adults, offering insight
for behavior management, anxiety, depression, addiction, divorce,
infertility and adoption.
Andrea also specializes in placement for individuals seeking
treatment for substance abuse and mental health by providing a
fitting roadmap for their personal recovery. Learn more from Andrea
Andrea completed her Masters in Science at Barry University. She
received both an MBA and BBA degree from University of Miami.
Learn more at 954-603-0846