Woman passive aggressively asking for money to buy alcohol

4 Communication Styles Addicts Use to Get What They Want

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Woman passive aggressively asking for money to buy alcohol

Effective communication is essential to the human experience. Our ability to communicate allows us to form and maintain relationships, let others know what our needs are and reach out to help each other. In reality, however, we’re not always good at communicating effectively and this can cause a number of problems for us.

For those of us with an addiction, our methods of communication are often problematic. We tend to communicate the “need” for our drug of choice in unhealthy ways that further damage our relationships.

For someone who is still in throes of addiction, there are some styles of communication we’re accustomed to using as our primary means of conveying the things we desire.

Here are the 4 different communication styles and how they tend to play out in everyday circumstances.

1. Passive

This is the “doormat” style of communicating. Passive communicators tend to allow others to walk all over them and often suppress their needs.

Friend: “I’m so sorry I forgot to invite you to the party last night.”

Self: (feels angry, lonely, unloved, rejected) “That’s ok, no big deal.”

In this style of communication, the passive party does not express the feelings that are taking place. Without expressing our true feelings we are likely to suppress them, which is a very dangerous place to be for an addict.

2. Aggressive

This is the “bullying” style of communication. The tendency is to threaten or express a high level of anger.

Friend: “I’m so sorry I forgot to invite you to the party last night.”

Self: (feels angry, lonely, unloved, rejected) “You should feel sorry! You’re such a selfish, uncaring jerk for not inviting me! See if I invite you to the next get-together!”

Here, the aggressive party expresses some of the emotions (mainly anger) by lashing out at the other party. While expressing one’s emotion can be healthy, this style of response is overdone and tends to leave other emotions unaddressed. Additionally, the other party walks away angry and resentful, leaving both parties unhappy. It leads to a negative experience that raises relapse risk for someone with addiction.

3. Passive/Aggressive

This style of communication is one that addicts tend to be quite proficient at. It’s a manipulative way to get our needs met and is often an attempt to “guilt” the other party to giving in.

Friend: “I’m so sorry I forgot to invite you to the party last night.”

Self: (feels angry, lonely, unloved, rejected) “That’s fine, it’s always nice to know how unimportant I am to you. Perhaps I should give you my phone number again since you seem to have forgotten it.”

Once again the emotions are not appropriately expressed directly but the inference from the response indicates that there are negative emotions that have resulted. This here is another style of communication that leaves both parties in a negative emotional state.

4. Assertive

Generally, the assertive communication style is the best way to communicate. It involves both parties listening to what the other has to say and fosters genuine dialogue about the emotional impact of the event.

Friend: “I’m so sorry I forgot to invite you to the party last night.”

Self: (feels angry, lonely, unloved, rejected) “I appreciate the apology and I must say that I felt angry and rejected by not being invited. I understand it was a genuine mistake and I’m willing to forgive and forget.”

Here, both parties express their true feelings in a non-confrontational dialogue, hopefully leaving both parties feeling heard and understood. For addicts, this style of communication often feels very uncomfortable, especially for addicts. We’re not very adept at recognizing and expressing emotions in a controlled manner and we don’t like feeling vulnerable by expressing our true selves. With enough practice though, we can learn to more effectively communicate our needs and feelings.

How Addicts Communicate to Feed the Addiction

For someone who is still in throes of addiction, there are two styles of communication we’re accustomed to using as our primary means of conveying the things we desire: aggressive and passive aggressive. Here’s how my past conversations usually played out.

Aggressive:

Me: "Hey, I need $30.00."

You: "What for?"

Me: "Does it matter? I need the money! Give it to me!" (implying that, “If you don't give me the money, I'm willing to steal it.”)

Passive Agressive:

Me: (I need drugs and I need to get some money.) "Hey, can you lend me $30.00 for gas for my car?"

You: I don't know, are you going to buy drugs with this money?"

Me: "Of course not, I need it for gas money."

You: "I'm not sure I trust you, the last time I gave you money you spent it on drugs."

Me: "Fine, if you won't give me money, I won't have a car to drive to work. Thanks a lot!"

Approaching Someone with Addiction

If you're dealing with someone with an addiction, know that he or she will do ANYTHING to get his or her drug of choice. If that means lying to you or manipulating you, we WILL DO IT. The drug is the goal and whatever it takes to reach this goal is fair game for us. So what do you do?

1. Realize that whatever we say, we are trying to manipulate or intimidate you in order to feed our addiction.

2. Have a firm resolution not to give in to threats. If we "need" money for 'rent' then pay the bill directly, don't give us the cash to pay it.

Recognizing these styles of communication is an important step to learning how to change our behavior to more effectively communicate our legitimate needs. It is also important to recognize how addicts manipulate communication to score drugs. Honesty and candor from both sides are key to effective communication and recovery from addiction. When we all communicate our needs and concerns in an assertive manner, we have a much better chance of working together towards a life free of addiction and toward recovery.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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