Everyone has boundaries. From early childhood, we are learning the boundaries of others and setting our own. They help us to understand what’s acceptable in the world around us. Boundaries are especially important for addicts and their loved ones. They protect and help us during a loved one’s addiction, but also play a large part in the healing process of recovery for both the addict and their family and friends.
Boundaries During Addiction
Boundaries tend to be complicated at times. Many people are committed to the boundaries they set for their addicted loved ones but find that once those boundaries are tested, feelings of guilt and doubt set in as we wonder how we can “abandon” those closest to us in their obvious time of need. This is common. It’s important to remember that it does no one any good if you’re not maintaining your personal health and well-being.
Setting Strong Boundaries in Recovery
Setting good boundaries in recovery takes much thought and consideration. It’s important that these boundaries are strictly adhered to with no exceptions. Addicts are so controlled by their disease that they can compromise their own ethics and morals to get what they need to appease their addiction. This includes robbing, lying, and manipulating anyone to obtain their drug of choice. This is the nature of the disease. Setting good boundaries and sticking to them is an essential part of recovery for both the addict and their loved ones.
Think about setting the most obvious boundaries first. Something like prohibiting the use of drugs or alcohol in your home is a good start. Lay out specific consequences that you are prepared to follow through on. For example, if drugs or alcohol are consumed in your home, the person is no longer welcome in your home.
Other boundaries you may include are attendance of consistent meetings, avoiding old hang outs, maintaining a job, and having curfews. Each and every boundary needs to have a clear and concise consequence that you are prepared to adhere to, no matter the addict’s excuse or your personal feelings at the moment.
While this part of healing may be challenging at times, it’s crucial. Create your boundaries and consequences now, before you find yourself in the heat of the moment. Your health depends on it. Maintain the conviction you had when making these boundaries. Our heart can betray us when someone we love is hurting. These boundaries may be the only sane thing we have to hang on to when we are face to face with someone we love in crisis.
Remaining Committed to Boundaries in Sobriety
The hope one may feel when someone they care about has taken their first step in sobriety is a welcome change. It may be tempting to forget the roller coaster of emotions we may be familiar with from the past. It makes sense to feel softened and to want to help in any way possible. However, it is imperative that we keep those boundaries from dissipating. This moment can be pivotal in sobriety. Boundaries must remain strong and in place with the consequences firmly ready to back them up. Boundaries may change and consequences may change but be sure to make them well thought out and clearly communicated to your loved one.
Communicating Boundaries in Recovery
Talking with our loved ones about boundaries after addiction can be delicate for both the person in recovery and his or her loved ones. It may not always be easy to let go of old ideas, fears, and attitudes while the addict may feel that they have worked hard to maintain sobriety and deserve to be considered differently. This is part of the healing process and tends to get easier with time. In the meantime, communicating these boundaries in recovery is an essential part of the healing process.
All boundaries and their discussions should start from a place of love and understanding. Explain the boundaries and their consequences as a family. Be prepared to explain why they’re important to you if necessary. Above all, be careful not to concede on something that is detrimental to anyone’s well being.
Addiction is a family disease. Boundaries help give the addict, as well as their loved ones, a clear, fundamental point of acceptable behavior that will assist in healing. If you need help determining what your specific boundaries should be in your relationships, speaking with a skilled and licensed therapist can help you talk through your every need.