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July 24, 2022

How to Set Boundaries With Someone in Recovery

Life can feel like an emotional rollercoaster when someone you love has addiction challenges. Before your loved one sought treatment, they may have acted as if they were ready for recovery one day only to lie to you the next, leaving you disappointed and upset. In another case, your loved one might have stolen from you days after asking you for help, leaving you angry, hopeless, and confused. Luckily, you learned to establish healthy boundaries with your addicted loved one in order to help protect your emotional wellbeing. Once your loved one has completed addiction treatment and is in active recovery, it’s important to continue setting firm boundaries to help them stay sober and healthy.

Why Healthy Boundaries Are Essential In Active Recovery

Boundaries don’t have to be complicated. At their core, boundaries are rules and guidelines established to protect your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those you love. In other words, boundaries reflect your personal values and determine what you will and won’t accept from others. Establishing healthy boundaries can be beneficial for all relationships, but drawing a line in the sand between the kind of behavior you will and won’t allow becomes especially important when you’re dealing with someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, even if they are in recovery.

Addiction is a chronic disease that hijacks the brain, causing your loved one to do almost anything in order to use their preferred addictive substance. For example, addiction can cause your loved one to lie, steal, manipulate, cheat, falsify documents, neglect responsibilities, and hide and use drugs in your house.

Your loved one has worked hard through treatment and beyond to understand how addiction manifests in their lives. The boundaries you set prior to treatment can still help guide your loved one when they complete treatment, especially if they are also attending a 12-step program at the same time, although some may need to be modified and adjusted. With boundaries in place, you can let your loved one know how you expect to be treated, how you’ll support them, and what kind of behavior you will and won’t accept from them now that they are sober.

Boundaries can also help you:

  • Learn to say “no” to loved ones, especially if they are showing signs of a relapse
  • Develop better communication skills with your loved one about their addiction
  • Improve and maintain your emotional and mental wellbeing if your loved one relapses or struggles with addictive triggers

At the same time, boundaries can help your loved one:

  • Maintain their sobriety in a loving but structured environment
  • Take greater responsibility for their actions than they did before treatment
  • Resist the temptation to return to unhealthy habits
  • Make 12-step groups and other peer support a regular part of their life

The boundaries you set aren’t meant to control, manipulate, or keep your loved one at an arm’s length, but they should help set some parameters around the relationship now that your loved one is in recovery. For example, you can let your loved one know that you expect them to attend their 12-step program a certain evening each week and that you will make alternate plans for your time. This boundary lets your loved one know that you love them and are willing to help them, but that they must also maintain a sense of personal responsibility for their sobriety.

But in order for boundaries to work effectively, you have to set them in place and enforce them.

How to Establish Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

family setting boundaries with teen in recoveryEstablishing boundaries might make you uncomfortable at first. When you speak with your family member or friend who is now sober, let them know how much you love them, but also let them know that for the sake of your own mental and emotional health, there are certain behaviors, habits, and patterns they shouldn’t return to. Be loving, honest, and polite. Most importantly, communicate clearly but with a supportive tone.

For example, if your loved one has recently completed residential addiction treatment but continues to struggle with strong cravings, perhaps it’s time for them to consider outpatient treatment to further their recovery. If they have just finished outpatient treatment, you may want to discuss setting firm ground rules for their activity while at home.

Whether you’re nervous about the entire process or are more than ready to put some boundaries in place, the following tips can help you establish healthy boundaries for your loved one who is actively recovering from addiction challenges.

  • Think about your values and beliefs. Before you establish any boundaries, you need to think about your values and beliefs. You can begin this process by considering what’s important to you. Do values like honesty, compassion, loyalty, ambition, consistency, reliability, courage, and cooperation inspire you? Build your boundaries on the beliefs and values you hold highest in your life. You should also think about what frustrates, angers, and upsets you. If poor time management, selfishness, lying, and neglecting responsibilities bothers you, establish boundaries that limit this kind of behavior.
  • Determine if your home will be a drug and substance-free zone. After defining and listing out your values, you need to decide if your house will be free of any addicting substances when your loved one completes treatment. This can be a hard decision to make when someone you love has substance use challenges, but if you’re serious about safeguarding your wellbeing and helping your loved one stay sober, you need to make an informed decision about how to manage this issue.
  • Learn to say “no”. Boundaries aren’t effective until they’re enforced. That means you’ll need to learn to tell your loved one “no.” Telling your loved one “no” when you have become accustomed to meeting their needs can be challenging, but the point of establishing boundaries is drawing the line between what you will and won’t accept. You’ve gone through the challenges of active addiction alongside your loved one, so now is your chance to draw a firm “line in the sand” about the behaviors and activities you refuse to accept now that they are sober.
  • Communicate your expectations. Once you’ve thought about your values, decided whether your home will be drug-free, and stopped enabling your loved one, it’s time for you to communicate your boundaries with your loved one. You don’t need to lash out in anger or point out all the ways their drug or alcohol addiction has hurt you in the past. Be supportive but firm and stand your ground. When your loved one violates a boundary you’ve set, let them know that they’ve crossed the line and allow them to apologize. They need to understand where they went wrong or they’ll continue to break the boundary, especially in the early days of recovery.

Common Boundaries to Set for Someone in Recovery

Establishing healthy boundaries can help your loved one continue to overcome their substance use challenges. There are a number of boundaries you can put in place when someone you love is in recovery, but some of the most common include:

  • Not permitting your loved one’s former friends who knowingly use drugs into your home
  • Not allowing anyone’s drugs and drug paraphernalia into your home
  • Not making excuses when your loved one misses a peer support group meeting they had promised to attend
  • No longer visiting places associated with your loved one’s past substance use
  • Not allowing your loved one to avoid getting a job or going back to school
  • Not putting up with abusive behavior, whether it’s physical, verbal, or emotional, even if your loved one is frustrated by their sober lifestyle

Setting up boundaries for someone you love can be challenging. Even when you have boundaries in place, you need to let your loved one know that you support them. Explain to them that you’ll help them in all aspects of their sober life, from finding peer support groups to avoiding addictive triggers. On the other hand, however, you also need to let them know that you will not permit any activities or behavior that will help them return to their previous self-destructive behavior.

Flexible Addiction Treatment Programs For Someone You Love

Loving someone with dealing with drug or alcohol addiction can be a frustrating, overwhelming, and emotionally taxing experience. Luckily, here at Meta, we have flexible treatment programs that can help your loved one get on the road to long-term recovery. Our personalized treatment plans can help provide your loved one with the knowledge and support they need to make healthy decisions and take charge of their recovery.

Addiction doesn’t have to continue to control your loved one’s life. Call us today at (978) 776-3206 if you’re looking for an addiction treatment center with flexible treatment options that will provide your loved one with expert care in a comforting and caring environment.