Loving someone with a drug or alcohol addiction can be challenging. Substance abuse and addiction can change how people think, feel, and behave. If you love someone with substance use disorder (SUD), you must establish boundaries to protect yourself from the devastating effects of this condition.

Many people believe boundaries are walls meant to keep other people out. This belief may keep people from creating boundaries with the people they love. However, setting boundaries in relationships protects your relationship during challenges.

This article will explore the importance of setting boundaries with an addicted person. You will learn:

  • What personal boundaries are
  • Why boundaries are critical during addiction recovery
  • How to identify healthy and unhealthy boundaries
  • Tips on setting healthy boundaries
  • Where to find addiction treatment and support

If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol or drug addiction, you are not alone. Reach out to the First Step Behavioral Health specialists to learn about our addiction treatment and recovery programs.

What are Boundaries?

A boundary is a physical, mental, or emotional limit you can set around yourself to protect your body, mind, and emotions. Every person has a right to personal space, opinions, and thoughts. Setting healthy boundaries can protect these when others intrude.

Addicted people and their loved ones need to maintain healthy boundaries as they navigate recovery. Good boundaries can help to protect each family member, partner, or friend as they work toward long-term addiction recovery.

Setting boundaries is not always easy. People may feel uncomfortable, especially at first. Learning how to set boundaries takes practice. However, seeing boundaries at work can help people feel more confident in doing this.

Why are Boundaries Important During Recovery?

Healthy boundaries create space for your needs, ideas, and values. They allow you to focus on your priorities and let you express yourself.

Boundaries also act as guardrails for communication with others. They tell others what you will and will not accept.

Some personal boundaries that can help you feel safe include:

  • Saying “no” if someone does something that you do not like
  • Asking for what you need from others
  • Responding with respect if someone refuses an offer
  • Developing trust slowly over time
  • Considering the pros and cons of maintaining a relationship with someone
  • Expecting respect from others
  • Focusing on your personal values, even if others do not agree

Learning how to set and maintain healthy boundaries with an addicted loved one can protect your dignity, needs, and feelings as you navigate a challenging time. It can help you have a healthy relationship with yourself and others and protect your mental health.

Some of the most significant benefits of setting boundaries with an addicted loved one include:

  • Taking responsibility for your behaviors
  • Maintaining self-respect and dignity
  • Deepening compassion for yourself and others
  • Improved communication
  • Learning to say no without feeling guilty
  • Improving your mental and physical well-being
  • Learning to resist the urge to respond to unhealthy interactions with unhealthy behaviors

Healthy boundaries are critical to protecting yourself in a relationship with an addicted person. Boundaries can protect you but may also create a healthier environment for your loved one.

How to Recognize Healthy and Unhealthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries can help you communicate what you will and will not accept from others. They can help you maintain your dignity and lead to healthier relationships.

However, there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries. Unhealthy boundaries can come from a place of love and concern but can lead to toxic relationships, burnout, and more.

Some examples of unhealthy boundaries include:

  • Being unable to tell your loved one “no.”
  • Dropping everything as soon as your loved one demands help
  • Not asking for help when you need it
  • Doing things that go against your values out of fear your loved one will reject you

These and other unhealthy boundaries can allow an addiction to take root and grow. Over time, you may feel resentful or bitter. Or, you may develop the desire to control others with your boundaries.

It is essential to learn how to create and maintain healthy boundaries with an addicted loved one. Working with a therapist or addiction counselor can help you identify and establish healthy boundaries.

How to Set Boundaries With an Addicted Loved One

Understanding the need for boundaries is one thing. Setting them is another. Establishing boundaries can be challenging, especially if you have never done it before.

Here are some tips to help you create healthy boundaries.

Define your values

Consider what is most important to you. This may be honesty, kindness, or other values. Then, think about how you can act in a way that aligns with those values.

Communicate your limits

Tell your loved one what behaviors you are unwilling to accept. Inform them how you want them to treat you.

Speak up

If your loved one crosses a line, remind them of your boundary. Be assertive and firm when reminding others of your boundaries.

Respect others’ boundaries

Be respectful of your loved one’s boundaries. Treating them as you’d like to be treated can help to maintain a healthier, more functional relationship.

Setting boundaries can feel challenging. However, maintaining good boundaries can keep everyone in a relationship safe, even during difficult periods.

Find Help Now

If you or someone you love struggles with substance abuse or addiction, you are not alone. Reach out to the First Step Behavioral Health specialists to learn about our treatment and support programs.

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