For addicts, boundaries are a tricky concept. When you are addicted to a substance, boundaries break down for a number of reasons. Because drugs or alcohol become your priority, you may disrespect other people’s boundaries in order to get access to the substance. Furthermore, you become entangled with people as they try to help you and end up enabling your use.
It is also often true that addicts are particularly sensitive people. We tend to over identify with other people, and can end up taking on their problems and burdening them with our own.
Upon leaving rehab, it is necessary to implement firm boundaries if you are to avoid relapse. Implementing boundaries is not easy as a recovering addict but it can be done.
Tips to ensure you draw a line between you, your friends, and family.
1. Cut contact with some
Unfortunately, the reality is that it is not viable to have certain people in your life while you are still on the path of recovery. You may care for a person who you used to do drugs with and is still addicted. However, by spending time with them, you are far more likely to relapse than to help them recover.
You will need to decide whether to cut contact with certain people. Those who put you most at risk should not be part of your day-to-day life. This may be true of family members or friends who do not use substances but trigger or shame you nonetheless.
Some day, it might be possible to start communicating with these people again when they no longer use substances.
2. Empathize without rescuing
Addicts are very sensitive people. For this reason, you might feel the urge to come to the rescue of friends or family who are struggling. Unfortunately, this often leads to relapse, as instead of relieving their burden, you take it on for yourself.
It is important to understand that you can empathize with someone without coming to their rescue. Listen to them and you may even be able to help in a small way. But the moment you start to feel weighed down by their problem, or guilty for not doing enough, it is time to withdraw.
3. Make house rules
If you are living with other people, it is crucial that you make explicit house rules. Especially when living with family, people become overly entangled in each other’s lives. You may be used to walking into family members’ rooms without knocking and they may do the same. Maybe they expect to be updated with everything you do, think, or feel.
Sit down with the people you live with and tell them what you need. Tell them that a closed door means you want to be alone. Tell them that by asking too many questions they make you feel patronized to rather than heard.
They may not understand exactly why your boundaries need to be strictly implemented, but even the most willful person can follow clear guidelines, especially as you reinforce them in the early days.
4. Keep your routine sacred
In recovery, a clear routine keeps you grounded and on the right track. By getting to sleep at a specific time you can get up at a time that works best for you. You can go about your day with energy and do what needs to be done.
Keeping your routine becomes difficult when someone wants to go out with you at night or do something spontaneous during the day. A little spontaneity is important, but ultimately routine takes precedence in recovery.
Rather than going out when you know it will ruin your schedule, find a way to spend time having fun with people by scheduling them in.
5. Share helpful information
Sometimes, people simply don’t understand why you need your boundaries. With some more information, they may catch on really quickly. However, you might not be the best placed person to share this information, especially if they are taking your boundaries personally.
Share interesting articles with them that explain exactly why boundaries are so important. Not everyone respects an expert opinion, but most people will take it less personally and be able to think about it in a more objective way.