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How To Establish Boundaries in Addiction Recovery



boundaries in addiction recovery

Setting up boundaries in addiction recovery means placing limits on aspects of your life that are or have the potential to become harmful to you. You might set boundaries with people, situations, or places. You decide what things you will and will not allow in your life, and then you enforce said decisions in your life. This can help protect your physical, mental, and emotional health.

How Important Are Healthy Boundaries in Addiction Recovery?

Boundaries during addiction recovery are beneficial for a variety of reasons. Boundaries can help a person resist temptation by keeping distractions and temptations minimal.

It can also help a person develop the skill to say no and gain self-worth. Rather than giving everything to the substance, setting boundaries can help people begin to value their own self and mental and physical health.

Why Do People Struggling With Addiction Have No Boundaries?

When people struggle with addictions, they typically do not have very healthy or strong boundaries. This problem could have started in childhood if their parents were neglectful or overly strict. When someone has an addiction, they also generally have weakened logic and decision-making skills and are willing to do almost anything to get the substance they desire.

The Six Different Aspects of Boundaries in Recovery

  1. Boundaries with family: These are boundaries that you set up with family in your life. This can be especially important if you have family members that are not sober themselves
  2. Boundaries with friends: As you recover, you may find that you have to make boundaries with friends. This means you may have to remove some people from your life who you used to drink or use with
  3. Boundaries with social activities: You may have to avoid going to certain types of social events in order to stay sober and protect your wellbeing
  4. Boundaries with work: It is good to stay busy, but you need to set boundaries to maintain balance, so you do not get too stressed and struggle more to remain sober
  5. Boundaries with a significant other: You may need to set boundaries and communicate what ways you are wanting/expecting your significant other and your relationship to change/adapt around you
  6. Boundaries with oneself: You will need to establish your own beliefs and values and then maintain them [1]

Types of Boundaries In Addiction Recovery

Below we have listed the most important types of boundaries to establish during addiction recovery:

Physical boundaries are the boundaries a person sets in place to protect their personal space, privacy, and safety. You can decide how close you want to physically allow people, if you want to be greeted by people with a hug or a handshake, etc.

Everyone's personal physical boundaries will vary based on their personal preferences, traumas, mental illnesses, and past.

Mental boundaries are boundaries you set for your mind. You can set boundaries about what kind of information you allow into your mind and can choose not to watch, listen, etc. any information that upset you.

You also have the right to set boundaries with anyone who is mentally abusive. Finally, you have the right to decide who you share your thoughts and feelings with and when.

Material boundaries are boundaries you place around the things you own. You can decide what you want to do with your possessions, who you want to allow to use them, etc.

For instance, you get to decide who reads any journals you keep, who gets to know how much money you make, and you lend your things to.

Emotional boundaries stem from the idea that you are responsible for your feelings and not other people's feelings. You get to decide how you protect your emotional health, and you also get to set boundaries with how much of other people's emotional challenges you want to take on.

These boundaries should protect your emotional wellbeing and allow you to take responsibility for yourself.

Spiritual boundaries promote spiritual health. You get to choose your own spiritual path and decide what you believe for yourself. You can then set boundaries to protect your spiritual life from those who want to try to convert you, insult you, or challenge your beliefs.

Furthermore, if you do not want to explain your beliefs to someone, you do not have to.

Boundaries in Toxic Relationships

Toxic relationships are any relationship that causes emotional or physical harm to either party. As you become sober, you may start to see where relationships are toxic that you did not before. When you do so, it is important to start setting up boundaries.

Some people you may need to remove from your life completely, while others may just need to set up boundaries to protect yourself as you repair your relationship. [2]

boundaries addiction

Examples of Unhealthy Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

Not all boundaries are healthy boundaries. Any time your boundaries (or lack of them) hurt you or those around you, they are unhealthy and can become a problem. Some examples of unhealthy boundaries are:

  • Forcing your beliefs and opinions on other people
  • Discrediting or discouraging the beliefs and emotions of others
  • Ignoring/changing your beliefs simply because others want you to
  • Defining yourself based on what other people say
  • Taking on responsibility for other people’s thoughts and feelings

Examples of Healthy Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

Below are some examples of boundaries that are healthy as they protect you and do not harm other people:

  • Expressing your thoughts and emotions to others in a calm and clear fashion
  • Respecting other people’s beliefs and values
  • Respecting your own beliefs and values no matter other people’s opinions
  • Being authentically you, not who others think you are or should be
  • Taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions

Setting Strong Boundaries in Recovery

Setting boundaries in recovery is an important part of getting and staying sober. Having strong boundaries about things like drugs and alcohol in the home will help prevent you from relapsing. If you do not allow those who bring substances into your home or life, you will have less temptation. Boundaries like these with yourself and others are key to staying sober.

Maintaining Committed to Boundaries in Sobriety

When you make boundaries, the key is staying committed to them. It can be hard to do so, especially when the boundaries mean you have to do something you do not want to (or don’t do something you do.) It can also be hard when you have to enforce boundaries with loved ones, but if you do not stick to them, they do not benefit you at all. Plus, once you break a boundary, it harder to start enforcing it again. [3]

Signs Your Boundaries Are Getting Stronger

Whether you’re the one setting or adhering to the boundaries, there are some clear signs that they are working. It’s all about having the confidence to establish boundaries, so have you noticed any of the below lately?

  • You can say no without guilt
  • You do what you want and need, not what other’s want you to do
  • You do not take on the responsibility of keeping others happy
  • You take things less personally
  • You can have disagreements and maintain a relationship
  • You can act on your feelings when necessary
  • You do not take responsibility for people’s thoughts, emotions, or actions
  • You can both give and receive
  • You are less angry and resentful

Communicating Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

When you are communicating your boundaries to those in your life, you need to do so clearly and firmly. You need to make sure they understand exactly what your boundary is and that you will be enforcing it strictly. However, it is important to try to avoid aggression and exert yourself calmly rather than angrily. [4]

5 Things to Remember About Boundaries in Recovery

Here is a list of the top 5 points to remember before setting boundaries in addiction recovery:

What To Do When Boundaries Are Overstepped

If a loved one is not respecting your boundaries because they do not understand or are doing so on accident, you can talk to them and perhaps even ask them to attend a support group or therapy with you or by themselves. However, if they are repeatedly disrespecting your boundary and are not willing to work to stop, it can be better to distance yourself from them.

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References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4009367/

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319257076/

[3] https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/addiction-12-step-programs-and-evidentiary-standards-ethically-and-clinically-sound-treatment/2016-06

[4] https://usabp.org/Viewpoint-Articles/7878289

[5] https://www.naadac.org/personal-professional-boundaries-webinar

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