Myth: Boundaries are walls we place around ourselves to keep others away. They’re a way to self-isolate, and they’re not necessary for everyday life. In recovery, boundaries are protection and key to success. Even those who don’t have a history with addiction need boundaries in relationships.
Addiction to drugs or alcohol takes its toll on relationships, especially with those you love most. Whether you or a loved one is seeking addiction treatment, setting clear and healthy boundaries must be part of the recovery process. These boundaries will safeguard your interactions and communication, and protect your relationship during this difficult time.
What Are Personal Boundaries?
Everyone is entitled to their opinions, thoughts, beliefs and personal space. Personal boundaries are limits and rules that people set around themselves physically, mentally and emotionally to safeguard these individual values. When someone crosses a line, it’s something to take notice of and speak up about.
During recovery, both recovering addicts and their loved ones need to value themselves by setting healthy boundaries. While it may be hard, it offers a host of benefits.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries help you define who you are and keep relationships safe, respectful and supportive. Unhealthy boundaries, on the other hand, can be used to manipulate or control others or keep loved ones at arm’s length.
A healthy boundary is needing 24 hours notice before your loved one shows up at your door. No one likes surprises, even if it means seeing someone you care about. Another example is needing me-time, hours you might want to spend watching your favorite TV show, hanging out with friends or visiting family members. Keep in mind that your boundaries and what you need may look different from others. Everyone is unique.
During addiction, unhealthy boundaries can run rampant. You may also face issues with boundary violations. This could include being unable to tell your son or daughter no, refusing to ask for help or even compromising your beliefs because you were afraid your loved one would reject you. In a romantic relationship, unhealthy boundaries could materialize as excessive jealousy or not wanting your partner to spend time with friends and family.
Addiction fuels many toxic behavior patterns, including:
- Dysfunctional interactions
- A need to control others
- Bitterness and resentment
Whether you’re a recovering addict or the loved one of someone undergoing addiction treatment, maintaining healthy personal values is an important first step during recovery.
Why Healthy Boundaries Are Essential in Addiction Recovery
Boundaries reflect your personal values and needs. They give you space to express yourself and what’s important to you. They also help guide the appropriate way to communicate with others.
If addiction has touched your life, you may not be sure what healthy boundaries look like. Good personal boundaries can be as simple as:
- Expecting to be treated with dignity, respect and kindness.
- Weighing the pros and cons of your relationship with someone.
- Prioritizing your personal values despite what others think of you.
- Saying no if someone acts in unwanted ways toward you.
- Expressing what you want from someone.
- Being able to respond respectfully to another if they turn down your offer.
- Developing an appropriate level of trust with another person over time.
Benefits of Boundaries During Recovery
As you set these healthy boundaries during the recovery process, you will find they have many benefits. Boundaries help you:
- Gain self-respect
- Improve mental health and wellness
- Develop more compassion
- Improve communication
- Learn to say no
- Feel a sense of pride
- Resist the temptation to return to unhealthy behaviors or interactions
- Take responsibility for your actions
- Experience happier and healthier relationships
Four Tips for Establishing Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries are a necessary part of addiction recovery. Maybe you’re a former addict struggling to understand and implement healthy boundaries into your life. Or maybe you’re the loved one of someone who is a recovering alcoholic and you need to establish boundaries to protect yourself. Whatever the situation, when addiction touches lives, boundaries are essential.
If you’re struggling with this process, here are four ways to set boundaries in place:
Define Your Personal Rights
First, define how you feel as well as your own values and beliefs. This will let others know how you wish to be treated and empower you with the will to assert your personal rights. For instance, perhaps integrity is vital to you, meaning you want to maintain honesty in all aspects of your life, including relationships. This factor can also relate to responsibility — you stick to your word and want others to rely on you.
To determine your values and beliefs, consider what’s important to you in life. When you read about others, what behaviors or actions inspire you? Which make you angry? Figure out how you can behave and act in ways that will make you proud of yourself.
State Your Limits
Setting limits lets others know how far they can go. For example, if you tell your recovering addict son that you wish to be spoken to with respect, then they have no right to scream at you or put you down. It may be helpful to outline what that respect looks like, too. Beyond talking at a reasonable volume, discuss which terms are hurtful, such as swear words.
Limits can touch upon many aspects of your life. If a loved one is in recovery for addiction, you may ask that you meet up in a public space when you spend time together. You may also request that they only call you between certain hours, such as after work and before you head to bed.
Speak up for Yourself
Once your boundaries are in place, you must be assertive when others ignore them. You don’t have to lash out or be rude. Be polite yet firm and stand your ground. Let them know they have stepped over a boundary, and that’s not acceptable. Try to speak with “I” statements, focusing on how you feel instead of being accusatory.
If someone crosses the line, state your mind, and allow them to apologize. They should understand where they went wrong before you go back to the status quo. If you don’t speak up, prepare for the boundary to be broken again and again.
Respect the Boundaries of Others
You are not the only one with boundaries. The boundaries of others matter just as much as yours. Even if theirs are different, give them the respect you wish for yourself.
You may not always agree with others’ boundaries. For instance, maybe you don’t understand why your co-worker or significant other needs personal time each day. You may thrive on interaction with others while they prefer being alone. Still, it’s essential to honor their wishes and show you care.
Receive Addiction Recovery Treatment at Gateway
From cleansing your body to learning how to create healthier relationships with loved ones, you can trust the team at Gateway to help you find a better way. We provide evidence-based treatments to those struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol.As you step into sobriety, our expert team will help you learn how to set healthy boundaries and rebuild trusting relationships, one step at a time.
Recovery is possible. If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction, don’t wait to seek help. Contact us online or call us at 877.379.9078 to speak with a member of our compassionate team.