When protecting your mental health and overall well-being, boundary-setting is an essential skill to master. However, many of us don’t understand the importance of this skill for decades of our lives, and it takes even longer to learn how to put it into practice correctly.
Yet, when dealing with a person with an addiction, your ability to set healthy boundaries could save their life. Addict don’t have boundaries. They’ll lie, steal, and prey on your love for them to get away with their addiction, creating substantial problems in their lives and yours.
Learning to set and hold firm boundaries expedites recovery, pushing the person with the addiction to recognize that they need help or will lose those who care about them. Boundary setting and respecting others’ boundaries are vital aspects in professional recovery centers, as patients learn when they enter programs for addiction treatment in Sonoma and around the country.
How can you set boundaries with an addict without destroying your relationship entirely? Here are 7 tips to help guide your steps through this difficult time.
Recognize Enabling Behaviors
Loving the other person unconditionally is a beautiful trait. But you enable them when you love them so much that you are always keeping them from facing the consequences of their choices.
Enabling gives the addict the subconscious protection of believing that no matter how badly they get trapped in their behaviors, you will step in and keep them from hitting rock bottom. You must set boundaries that teach the person with the addiction that their behaviors and actions are unacceptable. You still love them but will not permit their choices to affect your life.
Set Clear Expectations
When it comes to setting boundaries with someone else, you must clearly explain your rules and your non-negotiables with them. You can’t assume that because you decided to build fences around your mental health, they’ll recognize them and immediately follow your wishes.
Prepare yourself for the expectation that this conversation won’t go well, but be willing to have it anyway. Decide what behaviors you will not put up with and what you’re willing to lose if they cross your boundaries after you’ve clearly established them. You may lose their relationship for a while as they go through this substance use journey, but you’ll have the peace that comes with knowing you aren’t a part of their downward spiral.
Don’t Expect Immediate Remorse
One of the dangers of setting boundaries is that you assume your loved one will hear your words and quickly see the error of their ways. Chances are, they won’t believe that you’re serious, and, as a child tries to push the boundaries of their parents while young, they will keep coming back to you with the same behaviors to see if they can wear you down. Stay strong, and do not let your guard down even once, or the whole process will start over again.
Choose the Right Time to Speak
Timing is everything. Never try to set boundaries with the addict when they’re under the influence or when you’re upset. Setting boundaries should clearly come from concern and love. Consider having others with the same goals present with you. Avoid blaming and shaming. Talk to your loved one about your fears about their behaviors and how you want to see them healthy again.
Have a List of Actionable Non-Negotiables
Part of setting clear boundaries is explaining what they look like and including the consequences of not following them. For instance, you may want to make it clear that you will not permit any addict substances around you, including NyQuil, which some addict use when desperate. If the person lives with you, inform them of the consequences, which may include calling the police or having them move out.
Set Limits on Company
Yes, your loved one may be an adult, but they aren’t acting with the reason and logic that comes with their age when they’re addicted. You may want to prohibit certain friends from coming over if you don’t see them as good influences.
Clarify That You Aren’t Saving Them
Addict always have to choose to save themselves. But they usually won’t until they learn that no one else is going to swoop in and protect them from the consequences. Make it clear that you won’t lie for them if their choices get them in trouble, and you won’t support them financially, bail them out, or hire an attorney for them.
As you set these boundaries, remind them and yourself that their addictive behavior is a choice, and they can choose to get help, too.
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