Drug and alcohol addiction takes a significant toll on the family unit. When an addict finally agrees to accept help, they can focus on reclaiming their life, working on their relationships and staying away from drugs and alcohol. Healing requires everyone to work together so that the need to use substances does not return. One of the first ways to do this is by setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.
What are Personal Boundaries?
Boundaries are physical or emotional limits that people set for themselves in order to protect their well-being. Not only do boundaries create a line between you and others, but also they tell people how they can treat you. In some cases, boundaries are healthy and effective. In other cases, boundaries are unhealthy and may be used to control or manipulate others.
Boundaries are important because they allow you to get fulfillment from your relationships. If you don’t set boundaries, your relationships can mentally, emotionally and physically drain you. Everyone is different, so you can’t expect people to know what is acceptable for you and not. When you set boundaries, the work doesn’t stop there. You must follow through on what you preach so that people respect your comfort zone.
Why Do Addicts Set Unhealthy Boundaries?
Unhealthy boundaries are often a problem in families with addiction. First of all, it’s hard to think clearly when you’re an active drug user. Addicts often lose respect for themselves and don’t put in the work to set and follow through with personal boundaries. Second, addicts and their families often struggle with toxic relationships marked by shame, dishonesty, abuse and manipulation.
Here are some characteristics of unhealthy boundaries:
- Ignoring your personal values to make others happy
- Criticizing yourself
- Degrading others for their decisions and beliefs
- Impulsive behavior
- Letting others tell you what to do
If you believe that you are lacking personal boundaries, it is possible to change things around for the better. You must first get clean and then start working your recovery. As you heal and learn more about yourself and what meaningful relationships look like, you can define your boundaries and how to follow through with them while respecting others.
Who Should I Set Boundaries With?
As you move along the addiction recovery process, there are many people you’ll want to set boundaries with. Below are some examples.
- Family and relatives. Family is a big part of your life so they need to know what is acceptable with you. Just because they are family does not give them the right to manipulate or control you.
- Whether it’s new or old friends, you must set boundaries for what you are comfortable with. For example, you may need a break from some friends. When you do get together, the environment must remain sober.
- While it’s good to have some responsibility in early recovery, you don’t want to overdo it. Large amounts of stress can lead to relapse. Define what a healthy work-life balance means for you and let your employer and coworkers know. For instance, you may not be able to work evenings because of your 12-step groups.
- Significant other. You probably spend the most time with your significant other, so be clear about your expectations. Let your partner know that they can’t drink in front of you and that their support is a major part in your recovery.
- That’s right – even you need boundaries! Rather than being hard on yourself, make a commitment to take things one day at a time. Also set boundaries when it comes to eating right, getting enough rest and staying active.
Once you start building confidence and loving yourself, you will find it easier and more natural to establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
What are the Benefits of Having Solid Boundaries?
Boundaries are not meant to be restrictive or limiting. In fact, they’re meant to give you freedom! Imagine living life for yourself rather than exhausting your physical, mental and emotional resources on things you don’t want to do?
Let’s explore the benefits to setting good boundaries:
- Meet your needs. Taking care of yourself is not selfish! Nourish your mind and body with the things it needs, and if you feel like you’re not getting enough, say something. Speaking up can make all the difference.
- Less stress and anxiety. By tuning into your needs and the things that make you happy, you’ll feel less stress and anxiety.
- Less resentment. If you live a life for others, you’ll end up feeling bitter and resentful. Don’t let people walk all over you. Communicate your needs and expectations so that you don’t develop anger toward others.
- More compassion. Some people think that setting boundaries is mean or selfish, but it’s actually the opposite. Letting other people know what is okay and what is not is key to a healthy and respectful relationship.
- Happier relationships. When you feel respected by others, it’s easier to build healthy, happy relationships. You can also enjoy improved communication, less conflict and greater acceptance from others.
Tips for Establishing Boundaries in Addiction Recovery
It may feel strange setting guidelines at first, but rest assured it gets easier. Plus, you’re not alone in this. You will be receiving counseling and family therapy, participating in 12-step groups, developing stronger coping skills, etc. These tools will make it easier to set boundaries that you are comfortable with.
Here are a few tips for setting boundaries in recovery:
- Define your expectations. What boundaries are lacking in your life? Decide what types of boundaries you want to set and with who.
- Communicate what you need. Keep the focus on yourself. Tell others what you need and leave it at that. If they care about you, they will respect your wishes.
- Don’t over-explain yourself. You have the right to determine what’s best for you, especially now when you’re working on healing. You don’t have to over-explain yourself to others.
- Keep your boundaries consistent. Once you set your boundaries, stick with them. Don’t back down because you feel bad about something. Follow through – you’ll respect yourself more.
Acceptance Recovery Center provides substance abuse treatment in Scottsdale, AZ. We believe in helping our clients learn about themselves and set boundaries that they are comfortable with. Contact us today to learn more about our specialized addiction recovery programs.