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Setting Healthy Boundaries When Loving An Addict

Updated on September 13, 2019
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Through her passion for writing and coaching, Rachael shares her experience and support in the journey of loving an addict.

If you live with, or love someone struggling with addiction, you no doubt will have been confronted with actions and behavior that you find unacceptable. You have probably also felt that you had no control over these situations and accepted it all as part of the deal of loving an addict.

It is in fact possible, and certainly critical for YOUR recovery, to gain control over the behavior you will and will not tolerate from others. You do not have to accept that which is unacceptable.

Setting boundaries is one of the best ways of protecting yourself, and maintaining control of your environment while living in the unpredictable world of addiction. Boundaries are about self care and respect and allow you to keep those who have the ability to harm you at a comfortable distance until they adjust their behavior.

When we don? identify and enforce boundaries, we tend to instead passively accept the actions or behaviors of others, even if they negatively impact our life and allow others to treat us badly.

Setting And Enforcing Boundaries

  • Identify what your personal boundaries are. What are the types of behavior that you will and won? accept? If you are unsure about what your personal boundaries might be, start with the things that make you feel unsafe, hurt, disrespected, uncomfortable or angry.
  • You might decide to set, communicate and enforce smaller boundaries to begin with, and extend them as you feel more comfortable upholding these. A boundary as simple as not taking calls for a pick up, from an alcoholic spouse after a certain time, can be a place to start that will help you gain the confidence to set stronger limits in the future.
  • Plan ahead for what action you will take if your boundaries are violated. Setting consequences is what makes your boundaries most secure. Your consequences should be enforceable and relative to the violation of your rule. Be aware of not setting boundaries as threats or ultimatums.You must be willing to follow through with the consequences of your boundaries being violated otherwise they have no standing.
  • Communicate your boundaries to your loved one. Your loved one will not recognise your boundaries, until you communicate and demonstrate them. Do so firmly and with respect but do not justify, defend or apologize for your boundaries. They are what YOU want them to be and you do not have to rationalize them to anybody.
  • When you communicate your boundaries, pick a time when your addict is calm, more open to listening and more likely to be able to process what you are telling them. Setting your boundaries when they are already drunk, high or agitated will likely end in an argument and your message getting lost in the noise.
  • Recognize when others overstep your boundaries and execute the consequences you determined immediately. It is essential that once you set your boundaries, you do not change them unless YOU want to adjust them. Do not back down if your addict (or anyone else for that matter) does not respect your boundary and pressures you to remove it. If they won? respect you then need to follow through on your response to their violation.

Threatening The Boundaries

An addict will do anything to manipulate, flex and violate your boundaries because they will in no way suit them. Nor will you asserting yourself. They?l attempt to talk you out of upholding them or try and break them down with criticism about how pointless, disrespectful and selfish they are. This is when you need to stand even stronger in your resolve because any shift of boundaries after this type of pressure will give your addict the message they can keep pushing your limits and you'll always bend right back to where they need you.

Another threat of setting boundaries is losing balance and setting boundaries which are too rigid, so that you no longer connect at all with your loved one. You can still set boundaries that are secure, but also allow the person you love in, but on your terms.

New Skills

Asserting your boundaries can feel extremely uncomfortable and difficult at first but like many new, and beneficial skills you will gain as part of loving an addict, it will become easier as you practice and then perfect the skill of setting and protecting your personal boundaries. Over time, it will become more automatic to you and you won? need to waste energy on trying to discern what does and does not feel right in your relationship with your addict. You will trust yourself to control your situation and when the boundaries you have set are enforced and upheld you will experience a more peaceful level of living.


Photo credit:CarbonNYC

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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