Overcoming Barriers to Communication in Recovery

March 19, 2024

The disease of addiction clouded addicts' ability to connect with others, creating a distorted perception of reality. Isolated and lost in the self; they did not know how to communicate as addicts. However, in the journey of recovery, individuals gradually overcome these barriers to communication. It's like learning how to talk once again.

Recovery can feel like starting over, akin to a second childhood. Addicts learn how to be part of society and live life as it stands. They do this by understanding themselves and others. Like everything else, they get good at it over time. It will be a painful, scary, and embarrassing process in the beginning. As they progress, they'll realize like with recovery, that it was all worth the effort.

As a result of active addiction, addicts have lost the ability to communicate with others. It's for this reason that training addicts in communication is essential. A great majority of relapses have resulted from poor communication skills. Addicts have been unable to relate to their loved ones in mutual understanding. Hence, communication training is vital in any treatment center.

At The Solace Asia, we empower our clients through group therapy to enhance their communication skills. In these sessions, addicts gain insights into past misunderstandings, identify problematic behaviors, and cultivate honesty in both intent and expression. When there is clarity in communication, recovery becomes much easier. Addicts can enjoy the love and support of others. It's because communication is at the core of relationships.

What is Recovery?

Addiction is a traumatic and traumatizing illness, often originating from unresolved past trauma, possibly dating back to childhood experiences. The longer the addiction persists, the more difficult life becomes. That's why addicts must seek treatment promptly, as this disease only worsens with time and never improves on its own. 

Recovery is not about being free from drugs and addictive behaviors. These were solutions to a painful life. The addictions medicated the existential pain of past trauma. If the trauma goes unaddressed, the addiction will crop back. Hence, addicts relapse into this disease.

Recovery is about freedom from this painful past. It's about addressing the issues of the traumatic past. What went on? How did I deal with it then? Can I change? Am I willing to change? Recovery is about overcoming trauma by changing how we communicate with others. It is about addressing the barriers to honest, fulfilling relationships.

A good start in this direction is by understanding the barriers to communication. Once known, these barriers will no longer function as the blocks, they once were. This newfound clarity can alleviate much of the pain that might otherwise drive individuals back to active addiction. In other words, effective communication is the key to lasting recovery.

Barriers to Communication in Recovery

The ache of life, often described as "existential pain," arises from the sense of not truly existing. Communication barriers acted as formidable obstacles that intensified this pain, preventing us from fully expressing ourselves. When we deny ourselves the authenticity of being, we inevitably experience suffering. Honest communication is the only remedy for this pain. However, in our past experiences, addiction seemed to offer relief until it inevitably failed. These communication barriers were at the heart of addiction and comprised the following ones:

Low Self-Esteem

‘We didn't like the people we had become. We felt ashamed of ourselves.’ These feelings created low self-esteem. With a low image of ourselves, we acted in ways that pushed people away from getting to know us. We ran away from intimacy. We did not want to be vulnerable for fear that others would confirm our lowly state. At other times, we encouraged this view from others by the way we acted. All this happened because, at one time or another, we had lost the right to exist due to past trauma. In other words, the shame of that event had kept us in a limbo of worthlessness.


We felt we needed to be perfect in everything we did, even in our communication with others. We saw that every interaction needed scripting. It was a planned process. We were not ourselves. Nor did we know what being ourselves was. We were rigid and interacted with others based on context and not on relationships. We had to get everything right, or else it was wrong. There was no humanity in our thinking. All this happened because we did not feel we deserved unconditional love. We experienced love as being conditional on whether we obeyed the rules or failed at them. It's exhausting to communicate when one exists this way. Being perfect or a failure was what isolated us from the world.


We did not tell the truth. We didn't even live the truth. We were in constant denial of our reality. The trauma was so devastating that we had convinced ourselves that we had to act, to play our role right. We manipulated others to suit our agenda. We made stories up about the world, ourselves, and others. These stories justified our using/drinking behavior. In the end, we even lied to ourselves that our life depended on addiction. Our dishonesty was born out of fear of the truth. It's because the truth was too painful to face that we continued to use/drink. Dishonesty was our way of life. In the end, nobody would believe us because they knew what we were all about. It's hard to communicate with others when you're the target of suspicion.

Lack of Boundaries

We were either walled up or a loose cannon. We did not want others to have any concern or love towards us. Nor did we show any concern or love towards others. It wouldn't be too jarring to say that we were living on a separate planet from others. There was no interaction. This was the condition of walling ourselves up to the world.
We also went to the other extreme. We were all over the place. We had no boundaries. We got involved in affairs that did not concern us. We personalized everything. We were hyper-sensitive and judgmental about the world around us.
Our lack of boundaries happened because others had crossed our boundaries. Either through abuse or other traumatic events, we felt that was how the world worked. Not knowing who to trust and who to keep away from; we were afraid of communicating with others. We had yet to learn that love came in trustworthy relationships.


We felt ashamed because of what we did in the past. We would belittle ourselves when others spoke to us. We allowed others to persecute us. We did not stand up for our rights as human beings. We wallowed in senseless guilt and shame because our lives had not been up to par. Yet, our standard was nothing but perfection itself.  We did not show compassion for ourselves or others. We could not communicate because shame silenced us. It hid our reality from the world. We had yet to find dignity in being alive. Instead, we found false pride in our splendid isolation.

Inauthenticity / Masks

We were not what we showed. We had become specialists in masking our truth with roles. On some occasions, we could be the rescuers, gangsters, or even the clowns. In others, we could be the lecturer, prophet, or master. What was clear was that we were never ourselves. Every interaction had a scripted presentation based on an accepted character. We were everything to everyone. We wanted to please to the point of self-sacrifice. We did this because we did not believe that others would accept us as we were. Again, this relates to past hurt. It's difficult to communicate when all that is present is an actor/actress.

Aggression / Timidity

We were either aggressive or timid. We were rageful with others. Or we were placid to assert ourselves. There was no middle ground. We felt entitled to get our way. We sought our wants through active pursuit. Or we went around in self-pity, passively hoping that others would give in. We had yet to develop assertive means of getting our needs met. Some of us confuse needs with wants and vice-versa. A need is an essential for life. A want is what entitles us to something. Addicts only want what they want, and they want it now. To live in recovery, we need to separate what we need from what we want. It's only by doing this that we can communicate those needs with those we love. There is no communication when you go about scheming for things to go your way all the time.

How to Overcome the Barriers to Communication in Recovery

In recovery, we learn how to overcome these barriers to communication. We want to be different people. We want to grow up and have mature, intimate relationships. We do not want to hark back to the days when we shunned ourselves from others. The pain of that drove us to madness.

It's important to hone these skills so that we are open to the world. Though, open in our own, unique way. Not in a way that's fashionable or as a means to please others. The only way to overcome the barriers is to be uniquely "you" in every sense of the word. Below are some of the skill sets we will need to do this:


We need to assert ourselves. As human beings, we have needs. But, our wants had been clouding what they were. We need to be clear about what we need from others. Honest expression about our needs as well as our vulnerabilities will help us. People can begin to know what makes us tick and who we are. For some, it may mean moving away from dependent relationships. While for others, it may mean beginning one with a trusted individual. In establishing healthy boundaries, each person gets their needs met with mutual respect.


Having compassion for ourselves. Fill ourselves up with loving kindness. Say positive things to perk yourself up. It's important to start by loving yourself first. Only then can we begin to extend that love for others. What's evident in the barriers is a lot of self-sacrificing behavior. We need to stop sacrificing our well-being for the perceived "benefit" of others. Nurture ourselves and let the rest happen.

Engage with Others

It's only through actual social engagement that we learn the "dos" and "don'ts" of society. It's a language in and of itself. Learn to read nonverbal social cues like body language and facial expression. Learn when things are appropriate to say and when they're not. Have the courage to make mistakes and the open mind to accept feedback. Such changes are painful, but in time, it's doable.


Life is an equalizing force. We don't always get our way. But, we do get what we need. Understanding this, we can learn to let go and surrender. Humility at first may be embarrassing. But, later it becomes the bread and butter for honest, open relationships. People want to approach individuals who can accommodate others at their level. It's the best antidote for hubris and isolationism. It doesn't mean that we go around pleasing people to no end. It means that we discern where we can and where we can't. We’ve written about humility in recovery.

Have Empathy for Others

Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is a personal connection with the troubles of others. Sympathy is a feeling of pity for a troubled person. The difference is where we place ourselves. Do you feel the plight or are you a bystander? Empathy involves getting to know people at the level of their hearts. Doing that takes letting them into our own hearts.

Communications Training at The Solace Asia

The Solace Asia is a community detox facility. It means that you will have the company of peers in recovery. These are individuals who are struggling, like yourself, to get treatment for their addictions. We have found that community detoxification is most suited for treating addiction. Healing together has immense power. And it also teaches addicts how to socialize. In that respect, we train our client's communication skills through the following:

Community of Recovering Addicts

Your peerage will be your support group. Interactions will take place and will be processed in group therapy. Interpersonal Group Therapy (IPGT) is an arena for learning about social interactions. There, you will learn how your actions have affected others and vice-versa. There's much insight from these daily sessions. At the same time, it encourages healthy interactions between clients as a peer group.


Various lectures or workshops will be conducted with the theme of social immersion. They consist of workshops on the various masks we've used in active addiction. Also, there will be weekly peer review sessions. These sessions allow us for honest feedback from our peers. It's also a place where we can plan social goals and have them reviewed the following week.

Solace Transitions "Leveling"

Leveling is an advanced form of interpersonal group therapy. It's conducted in the Solace Transitions Program. This program is for clients who wish to stay beyond their primary treatment. As these clients live in a sober dwelling, they will need to process their issues more intimately. Leveling allows clients to express their feelings with each other. There are pointers on how to do that. A strict format is observed.

Solace "Aftercare Group"

The aftercare group is an important venue for sharing current trials in recovery. It is a forum for those who have been discharged from our facility. In this group, feedback is given based on the challenges faced in the outside world. It’s mostly conducted online by our in-house clinical support staff. It’s important in the early days to be accountable for one’s actions. This forum enables addicts to get the support they need for up to 18 months post-treatment.

The Pain of Relating & Finding the Real You

What addiction is, is the pain of relating to others. In life, we have failed to establish any meaningful relationship. In that, we have failed to have a meaningful life. It's because life without others is a meaningless existence. As you've seen in active addiction, life needs company. We need people who can support us and love us on that journey. You or a loved one can begin that process with us at The Solace Sabah. We will accept and love you till you learn to do the same for yourselves and those around you. At The Solace, you will learn how to make peace with your past and live a life worthy of you.

MORE BLOG Articles:

Why Choose Us?

Our values make us the best addiction treatment facility in the region.


We offer addiction treatment services to clients and their families. As the first private residential rehab in Malaysia, we set the benchmark for ethical treatment.


We have the ability to provide treatment not only in English, but also Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin, Cantonese and even Arabic! We are truly local yet global.


All our treatment has the Asian culture embedded in our modalities. We are 100% locally owned and operated agency, every center in Asia are owned by expatriates.


We don't only do Addiction Treatment, we also teach it! We are a NAADAC Approved Education Provider. We are also on Udemy, the worlds largest education platform.

Contact Us Today!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.