4. Communicating Effectively with your Relative and Setting Limits


Barriers to effective communication: Part 1

Many factors can create barriers in communication between you and a loved one with a substance use problem. Your relative can contribute to communication problems in the following ways:

Substance use

Being preoccupied, absent, confused, agitated, inattentive or emotionally vulnerable due to substance use, the urge to get hold of substances or withdrawal from substances.


Being preoccupied and exhausted by recovery; having difficulty coping (particularly with emotions) because of not using substances.


Not being ready to deal with substance use problems; reacting to challenges or suggestions by being defensive and asking to be left alone.


Being aware of the problem, but feeling shame and thus fearing communication about the substance use.

Emotional vulnerability

Being hungry, tired, physically unwell, mentally unwell or stressed.

Need for skills improvement

Needing more skill and practice in how to listen, validate, express emotions, state requests and say no.

Empowering Families Affected by Substance Use © , CAMH.