Now that we’re familiar with what boundaries are, let’s talk about how to establish and set them. Boundaries tend to be complicated at times, especially after addiction. Addiction leads to compromised boundaries. When your boundaries are weak or don’t exist at all, you’re compromising what makes you, you. They allow you to lose yourself, your freedom, and your control. Addicts are so controlled by their disease that they can compromise their own ethics and morals to get what they need to pacify their addiction. On the other hand, boundaries also mean you are likely to be lied to, cheated on, and stolen from. When boundaries do not exist, negligence can go both ways.
Here are some more examples of unhealthy boundaries:
-Jumping into new relationships impulsively
-Accepting gifts when they’re unwanted
-Accepting unwanted gifts or favors
-Expecting people to know what your needs are without having expressed them
-Ignoring your own inner voice to make someone else happy
-Compromising your values to appease others
-Treating yourself without respect
-Trusting too easily or not at all
-Taking as much as you can for the sake of getting
-Giving as much as you can for the sake of giving
Establishing healthy boundaries in recovery has every benefit to help you maintain sobriety and motivation to live sober on a long-term basis. Not only setting boundaries but sticking to them and not compromising on them is an essential part of recovery for both the addict and their loved ones. Here are the most important benefits we’ve seen for setting your own boundaries in sobriety…
- You Learn to Say NO! Part of defining your boundaries is recognizing your own self-worth. When you start to see yourself as worthy, you will start to value your own needs, wants, and opinions. Learning to say no is so difficult. Whether it’s because of peer pressure or the dreaded “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out), learning to say no will come over time. The more you learn to honor your personal needs, the easier it will be to say, “No,” to people, places & things.
- You Learn to Resist Temptation. In sobriety, the rule of thumb is to always keep distractions and temptations at a minimum. This could be determining locations you will actively avoid, people you will or won’t spend time with, even stores you won’t shop from. Putting limitations around temptations is an effective way to protect your sobriety and reduce your risk of relapse. Over time, these temptations become much much easier to resist.
- You Gain Communication Skills. Similar to learning your own self-worth in sobriety, in time, you’ll learn to recognize what you want and need in your life. Eventually, you will be able to communicate that effectively to others. You’ll also learn to communicate relationship wants and needs, as well as learning to communicate without blaming others for your discretions.
- You’ll Learn to Take Responsibility for Your Life. In sobriety, you learn to take ownership of your actions! You learn to live a life of integrity and character. Throughout learning to love and respect yourself, this will bleed into developing an all-around healthy lifestyle which includes learning to accept the consequences of your behaviors.
- You’ll Experience a Higher Quality of Life. All of these benefits contribute to a more fulfilling life overall. Boundaries improve you establishing healthier and more rewarding relationships with yourself, others, and the world around you.
Defining your boundaries is much easier than enforcing them, and learning how to do this takes time & practice. Here are ways to establish personal boundaries while in recovery for addiction.
- Identify harmful risk factors. People, places, possessions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all have the potential to put your sobriety at risk. Identifying these is the first step. You will need to establish boundaries around every single one of these.
- Develop your plan. This plan can include rules, limits, and enforceable actions that you can adopt into everyday life. This can look like deleting phone numbers of old friends you used to use with, or changing your number altogether. It could look like never shopping at a store that sells alcohol. Whatever these rules look like to you, creating them is how you begin to define your own boundaries and executing these adaptations immediately.
- Be accountable to others. Whether its opening up to your therapists, sponsor, program managers, or friends in sobriety, being able to share these boundaries is the best way to stay accountable. Recovery isn’t maintained alone! In order to stay sober, we must have peers that we share with, in support of one another.
- Stay consistent & state your limits. Holding the boundaries you’ve identified is just as important as developing them in the first place. Setting these lets others know how far they can go. Once boundaries are in place you must be assertive when others ignore them! You can’t be afraid to stand up to others & let them know if they have stepped over a boundary. You must be honest with yourself and others who will hold you accountable. Respect the boundaries of others. And finally…
- You’re not the only person with boundaries! Treat others’ boundaries the way you’d like yours to be treated. Even if theirs are different from yours, give them the respect you’d like to see for yourself.
Setting healthy boundaries isn’t easy, especially in early recovery. Don’t be discouraged! As your sobriety grows stronger, so will managing your boundaries. Lean on people you trust & friends in recovery to share encouragement and experiences to help you gain confidence and stay accountable. Contact Lighthouse with any questions or concerns you have. We are always here to give you the best tools to support you in your recovery.