Let’s talk about boundaries! What are they?! What is an emotional boundary? A material boundary? How do you set them, and furthermore, how do you keep them? Every one of us is entitled to our own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. It is extremely important that we learn how to value ourselves in a way that doesn’t depend on what others think.
In sobriety, you’ll be faced with all sorts of challenges that are looking to undermine your sobriety. You may have old friends tempt you with alcohol or drugs. You might have to revisit places where you made poor choices in your past. You may have family tell you that you don’t need to be sober. Making sure you define your own personal boundaries is a crucial part of learning to live sober and setting boundaries will help combat these challenges.
Personal Boundaries in Recovery
So what’s a personal boundary? A personal boundary is a physical, mental, or emotional rule or limitation you set for yourself. Boundaries are placed on others to keep ourselves safe. Here are examples of certain kinds of boundaries.
Physical boundaries help guard your personal space. Physical boundaries include expressing to others when it is or is not okay to be touched, as well as what kind of touch is appropriate. An example of this could be politely declining an assumed hug. Another could be asking someone to take a step back if they’re standing too close to you. Personal boundaries can be particularly important when healing from physical or sexual abuse. Establishing personal boundaries can be critical in helping build a healthy relationship with yourself after experiencing trauma.
Similar to physical boundaries, emotional boundaries define separateness. Emotional boundaries are the lines that you place that separate your thoughts and feelings from those of other people. These boundaries can mean knowing when to share personal information or be vulnerable to someone else. An example of this could be telling a friend in treatment that you’re not ready to talk about a traumatic experience with them if you’re not ready yet.
Material boundaries help safeguard your money and possessions. You get to decide what to do with the things you own and you should have an expectation of privacy when it comes to your material possessions. Holding material boundaries includes setting limits on what you’re willing to share with others. Doing so can prevent you from feeling taken advantage of. Holding a material boundary could include accepting OR rejecting financial support, or ceasing to loan out money to those you may have in the past.
Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, opinions, and values. Your mind is yours! YOU get to decide what to let in. You are not required to share your opinions or values with anyone if you so choose. You also don’t have to listen to the opinions or beliefs of others. You have the right to protect your headspace. An example of a mental boundary could be choosing not to watch TV channels or radio stations if they upset you.
Setting Personal Boundaries
Now that we’ve established the types of boundaries we need to honor, it’s important to address different areas of your life where these might need to be implemented. In order to live a life of sobriety after a life of addiction, a person will need to make significant changes to the way they live their lives. Here are some examples of different areas you may need to address:
Boundaries with Friends
A boundary that cannot be compromised in living a sober life includes saving yourself from risk factors you know could potentially be harmful. Let your friends know they cannot be around you while drinking or on drugs and vice versa. If your friends aren’t willing to compromise in these areas, it might be a good time to reevaluate the relationship. It’s possible that you end up seeing these are not the types of friends you want to have in this new stage of your life.
Boundaries with Family
Setting up boundaries with family members can be especially difficult but equally important. A person’s family is usually a largely influential piece of their life. If you have family members or loved ones that drink or use heavily it will be vital to have a conversation with them about your own recovery.
This may go without saying, but you can save yourself from a LOT of uncomfortable situations by avoiding social settings where drugs are being used, especially if you’re newly sober. If you want to stay sober, it’s important to learn when to say no.
Boundaries in Work
It is extremely important to maintain a healthy work-life balance between your personal and professional life. If a person is working too much or spreading themselves too thin, they will experience higher stress and may find it more difficult to maintain their sobriety.
Boundaries with a Significant Other
If your loved one wants you to maintain your sobriety, they should not drink or use around you either. Let them know that you need their encouragement and support in living a sober lifestyle. These expectations need to be discussed and maintained in order to share the type of positive relationship necessary to stay sober.
It is essential that you get to know yourself in recovery without the use of drugs or alcohol. Positive self-worth and self-esteem are important in being able to effectively set and maintain healthy boundaries. The insight that is required to set healthy boundaries comes from knowing your limits, emotions, standards, and values… Because the most important boundaries to hold, are the ones you set with YOURSELF.