4 Tips for Setting and Keeping Boundaries
Your loved one is a recovering drug or alcohol addict. You want to do everything you can to support him or her. But it’s possible to help too much. Sometimes you may offer help when it’s not even needed.
Boundaries are important. It’s healthy to know your limits. To have a healthy relationship and life, boundaries must be in place.
What should you think about when establishing and respecting boundaries?
1. Know that it’s OK to create them.
You may feel afraid or guilty when setting boundaries. You may wonder how the other person will take to the boundaries and if he or she will understand why they’re there.
For example, it’s hard to say no to someone you care about. A parent may feel like it’s impossible to say no—the love that he or she has for the child is too great. As a parent, you may also think it is your duty to be there for your child, no matter what.
Remember that boundaries show self-respect. Yes, you can be there for your child, but no, he or she can’t take advantage of you.
2. Be aware of your place in the addict’s life.
Your relationship to the person may determine the kinds of boundaries you set and if you might have a problem adhering to them. Friends probably won’t have as hard of a time sticking to boundaries as a relative would.
Sometimes it’s not your relationship to the addict, but the role you have in the person’s life. If both parents are out of the picture, a sibling may take on the role of a parent, becoming the caretaker. He or she may then treat the addict as his or her own child.
3. Make the boundary lines bold.
If two people communicate the same way, and have similar personalities and perspectives, it’s easy to create boundaries.
The problem is when the two people differ, like in personalities or cultural backgrounds, because they’ll think about and deal with everything differently. For example, one person may think that challenging the other about his or her opinions is healthy. But if the other person is sensitive, he or she may take this confrontation as disrespect.
You know how you are. The person you’re concerned about is close to you. Are you two similar? If not, you may need to clearly define the boundaries.
4. Don’t let boundary lines fade.
If you start feeling discomfort or resentment, it may mean that the boundary lines are becoming wavy.
One way to prevent this is to think of your discomfort or resentment level on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. During an incident or interaction with the addict, if you feel like your level for either is between 6 and 10, address the roots of these feelings. Ask yourself “What is causing me to feel this way?” and “Why does this bother me so much?”
How do you know when it’s the addict who is ignoring the boundary? The minute you feel uncomfortable may be the first clue.
It’s OK to have boundaries, and you should. You may ask yourself, “What kind of parent/sibling/friend would I be if I place boundaries?” You’ll be one of more assistance. Sometimes you can be of more help if you’re not helping.