The Importance of Healthy Boundaries in Recovery

Written by Modern Recovery Editorial Team

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Helping a loved one seek treatment and overcome their addiction to drugs and alcohol is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. Unfortunately for many, their efforts may be enabling continued substance abuse and perpetuating dangerous activities. However, by establishing healthy boundaries, you can create an environment conducive to finding long-term recovery success.

Enabling Without Boundaries

When you’re trying to help a loved one struggling with addiction, boundaries are easily blurred and violated. You may not even realize your boundaries have been crossed until you find yourself feeling angry, depressed or even resentful toward your loved one. All you want is for them to get better, and the desperate desire to help them see the error of their ways could ultimately be your own emotional downfall.

Without adequate boundaries, you run the risk of becoming an enabler. Enablers, despite their best intentions, perpetuate the cycle of addiction by preventing the person with a substance use disorder from fully facing the consequences of their actions. To maintain the relationship with your friend or family member without enabling them, you must establish healthy boundaries that not only encourage them to seek treatment but also protect your mental health and emotional well-being.

Identifying Crossed Boundaries

Think back to the last encounter you had with your loved one. At what point did things start to hurt or feel as though their actions were “just too much”? Typically, our minds respond with feelings like hurt, frustration, and irritation when our boundaries have been crossed. But frequently, we simultaneously may try and rationalize our feelings by falsely claiming they originated from something other than our loved one’s actions, such as our mood that day or the particular situation.

In general, you should consider what conversations and interactions with your loved one ultimately make you upset and leave you feeling emotionally drained. Pay attention to physical signs as well. Your heart rate may pick up, or your throat and stomach may feel tight. You might even start to feel anxious and shaky. These reactions are your body’s way of telling you when boundaries are being crossed.

Remember Your Values

Your values matter. While you don’t have to force them on anyone, you don’t have to ignore them to appease others, either. You should narrow your top values to a list of three or four. From there, create sentences beginning with “I” to start cultivating your list of boundaries.

For example:

  • I will not allow drinking, smoking or other drug usages to take place in my home or around me.
  • I will not give away my money to support a drug addiction, but I will offer support in other ways.
  • I will not be someone’s therapist and drain my own emotional resources, but I will listen and help my loved one find the treatment they need.

Write your boundaries down or keep them on your mobile device as a reminder to hold true to your values. Bending, even a little bit, is to enable the poor decisions of your loved one and further perpetuating their substance abuse problem.

Healthy Boundaries and Recovery

Without healthy boundaries, you run the risk of being overtaken by the consequences of your loved one’s substance abuse. By taking on the weight of their problems, you ultimately take the responsibility they need to assume to get help. It’s okay to feel guilty for expressing your boundaries for the first time, especially if you’ve become the primary source of care and support for your loved one in the midst of their addiction.

Just remember you are not responsible for their willingness to get treatment. You must protect yourself, both mentally and emotionally. A balance can be maintained by still helping them look for rehab centers together and providing resources to help them learn about treatment. The best thing you can do for you and your loved one is to lead by example and show the importance of self-awareness and accountability.

Respectfully asserting your boundaries now will give you the emotional distance you need to help your loved one get treatment without becoming entirely consumed by their problem. Addiction is a very personal problem, but recovery doesn’t have to be undertaken alone. If you want to help your loved one, you must first help yourself by learning how to build healthy boundaries. If you are seeking assistance in finding the right resources to guide your loved one into recovery, contact Modern Recovery today.

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