When we get sober, we look behind us and find there is much damage left in our wake. The people closest to us felt the negative affects of our behavior, and many of them set boundaries with us. From cutting off contact to ending financial support, people in our lives did what they could to distance themselves. As we healthily rebuild our lives, it’s time to make amends for the harms we have caused. We work to become the healthiest versions of ourselves possible, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Unfortunately, not all of our loved ones follow on that journey, and we may find that we are the ones who need to set boundaries.
How Do I Know if I Need to Set a Boundary?
It can be hard to know when to set boundaries with anyone, let alone someone we are close with, and may have harmed in the past. A problem in these close relationships is that we overlook things that aren’t okay with us. Similarly, we know something doesn’t feel okay, but we let it continue longer than we would otherwise. Acting upon guilt and shame leaves space for us to misbehave. If you are allowing someone to cause you harm because you feel guilty about your behavior before recovery, consider expert help. You can go to a therapist or sponsor to work on letting go. Here are some other signs that you may need to set a boundary with a loved one:
- Interactions with them leave you feeling emotionally drained
- You regularly feel defensive with them
- You always say yes to their needs without considering your own
- Your opinions and feelings are disregarded
It’s essential to consider your interactions in the present when you take an honest appraisal of any relationship that is causing you discomfort. Part of recovery is to amend the wrongs we have done to those in our lives. On the other hand, we do not deserve to be mistreated or abused simply because we feel guilty.
Where Do I Start?
If you want to set a boundary with a loved one, start by examining your feelings about interpersonal limits altogether. Having been on the opposite side of a boundary, we may not like the concept. While we were still sick in our addiction, boundaries felt like a punishment and stood in the way of our substance use. In recovery, we get a chance to see how boundaries can be used for good. In fact, this tool is essential to our personal well-being and repairing relationships. We get the opportunity to teach people how to treat us by kindly drawing a line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Rather than continuing to damage a relationship, we can grow towards a healthier one.
As always, it’s beneficial to rely on a support group when making decisions about your relationships with loved ones. Outside sources can help provide insight and view a situation without emotional attachment. There are simple ways to proceed forward after you’ve sought the advice of others.
- Honor your feelings – You are entitled to your emotions. Before sitting down to have the conversation, talk with a friend, or do some journaling. Express any doubts you have and release them. Give yourself permission to ask for what you need.
- Consider if a verbal conversation is needed – Pause to consider if this is a boundary you need to communicate verbally. In some situations, you can make a decision about the way you are being treated and hold yourself to it. Others will require informing the person what is and is not acceptable going forward.
- Be clear, direct, and kind – Remember that the person is someone you love and care about, and communicate that. Invest time in considering what you’ll say so that you send a direct message and establish a clear boundary.
- Consider your relationship and how they communicate – Consider the nature of the interactions you’ve had with your loved one. Be aware of what things may trigger negative emotions in them. Avoid triggering them so that the conversations can be calm and kind.
- Keep your support group close – Let the people in your support group know when you plan to have the conversation. That way, they can be available when the conversation is over if needed.
When a conversation takes place, it’s fair to consider your history with someone. Keeping this in mind, tailor your communication for them individually. Communication should always be open on both sides. Leave space for them to ask questions and contribute to the conversation, keeping in mind the boundaries you are setting. Remember that there is love between you, and there should also be respect from both parties. Your relationship can grow and get closer if you are both willing to let it.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.