Setting Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

When you are in recovery, ensuring that you take proper care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial. You need to remain healthy to have the energy, motivation, and willingness to continue on your path to healing. To do this, you need to make sure that you surround yourself with people and things that are supportive of your recovery. Being able to say “no” and set boundaries is vital to learn to maintain your sobriety. When struggling with substance use, boundaries were most likely not a priority -- learning this skill will take time. However, as you learn to set boundaries, you can begin to protect yourself from unwanted or unneeded individuals and activities that are not conducive to your recovery.

Setting Boundaries and Addiction

Those that have struggled with addiction may understand what it means to have no boundaries. Many individuals find themselves being treated poorly or in situations that are not supportive of their wellbeing. Even so, these individuals often have a hard time saying “no.” But why does this happen?

Many people who have problems with setting boundaries often have a troubled past concerning their caregivers. Most likely, they had parents or guardians that neglected them or did not show them what healthy boundaries look like. These children often grow up not knowing how to ask for help, adequately express their emotions, or even form healthy relationships with others.

However, there are children with caregivers who restrict them with too many boundaries, causing them not to grow independently and learn how to live an independent life. They may grow into dependent people, needing someone else to tell them what to do. They may even become victims of manipulation and find themselves in unhealthy friendships and relationships. Once a person is introduced to drugs or alcohol and develops dependence, it can be challenging to escape -- they may rely on the person feeding their addiction.

Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

Many individuals may not know that they are upholding unhealthy boundaries because they don’t know what healthy boundaries look like. Understanding the differences can aid in setting healthy boundaries and taking care of oneself.

Unhealthy Boundaries

  • Letting others tell you who and what you should be
  • Putting down others based on their beliefs and values
  • Allowing yourself to be put down by others
  • Impulsive behavior(s)
  • Trying to force others to take on your personal beliefs
  • Ignoring your personal beliefs and values for the sake of someone else’s happiness

Healthy Boundaries

  • Saying yes only when you want, not because you have to
  • Being able to say no without feeling guilty
  • Sticking to your values and beliefs
  • Stating your feelings in a straightforward manner
  • Treating yourself and others with respect
  • Respecting other’s beliefs and values even when they do not align with your own

How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Recovery

Setting boundaries is crucial to your recovery; they protect your mental and physical health. Learning how to implement them in your daily life can be intimidating, but once you get the hang of it, you can begin to uphold them throughout your recovery. You should be setting boundaries concerning your religion, ethics, thoughts, time, personal space, emotions, sexuality, energy, and culture. Start by asking yourself what is important to you and who you are as a person. Remember that boundaries can change over time. Whatever you believe now can change, and that is perfectly fine. The best way to find out what is important to you is to listen to your instincts and understand your rights. These include:

  • The right to be treated with respect
  • The right to accept your mistakes
  • The right to say no without guilt
  • The right to uphold your needs at the same level as others

When you are starting to set boundaries, you should work on being assertive. Use “I” statements to describe how you feel while still being respectful to others. When you use these kinds of statements, you show that you are confident in what you are saying and can set and uphold a boundary. You should enforce the boundaries you are setting by learning to say “no.” When you figure out how to reject someone’s request without feeling guilty, you can begin to experience self-respect in your recovery. From there, you can set more boundaries as you start to feel more comfortable.

The key is to start small and build from there. It is not easy to start being assertive when you have been complacent for so long. However, it is possible to start standing up for yourself and develop a sense of love and respect for your inner being. As you uphold your boundaries over time, your recovery will become even stronger, and you will find yourself happier.

Learning to set boundaries in addiction recovery is crucial to maintaining your sobriety over time. You cannot expect to fully heal if you allow others to invade your personal space and treat you without respect. Sticking up for yourself and knowing who you are and what you want will do wonders for the healing process. It is not uncommon for many individuals struggling with addiction to struggle with setting boundaries, making it essential to understand the difference between unhealthy and healthy boundaries. From there, you can begin asking yourself who you are and what is important to you so you can know what your boundaries will be. Should you ever need help setting boundaries or upholding them, you can contact the team at Northstar Transitions to get started. We are trained to help our residents improve their healing over time through various means, including self-respect and healthy boundaries. Call us today at (303) 558-6400 to learn more about the importance of boundaries in recovery.

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