When we think about setting boundaries in recovery, we often assume they are related to minimizing or controlling external triggers and situations. Establishing boundaries to protect us from relapse usually involves doing things like avoiding certain toxic relationships, enablers and codependency.
When it comes to sustaining long-term sobriety, our internal boundaries are just as important. These refer to the internal struggles we battle as we work to maintain self-discipline and self-control. Learn how to create internal boundaries as you move forward in recovery.
What are internal boundaries?
Before we discuss managing internal boundaries, it’s important to first understand what this term refers to. Internal boundaries are tied to our thoughts, our will, and our emotions. Controlling our emotions , impulses and decision-making is the crux of creating effective internal boundaries and improving our coping skills.
The internal struggle is real. There’s a push and pull that occurs between the desire to remain sober when encountering external triggers, such as certain people, situations, adverse life events or exposure to substances, as opposed to interior triggers like cravings, negative emotions or stress. By setting internal boundaries, you define your own proactive plan for working through these triggers, rather than relying on external factors beyond your control.
How to set internal boundaries
Boundaries serve a critical role in recovery, as they help protect us from relapsing. They also serve to protect our mental health and general wellbeing by helping us better manage our environment and avoiding situations and relationships that harm us.
While in treatment, we spend a reasonable amount of time exploring the underlying issues that might have factored into our substance use disorder. During treatment, we participated in therapy that helped us identify our unhealthy emotional responses to various triggers, both internal and external that resulted in our substance use. Setting boundaries in recovery helps eliminate those poor coping mechanisms and take control over your thoughts and actions.
Consider these tips for setting internal boundaries:
- Strengthen connections with a sober support network: Surrounding ourselves with people who are also committed to their sobriety can provide us with social support we need to maintain our internal boundaries.
- Refine your relapse prevention plan: In early recovery, it’s easier for us to assess any potential triggers. Doing so can help you refine our relapse prevention strategy.
- Keep a journal. A journal can help us organize our thoughts, recovery goals and emotions. It can also help us create a new mindset in recovery. Just the act of writing these affirmations and thoughts down regularly can help us assert some control over your internal boundaries.
- Work with a therapist: Participating in ongoing outpatient therapy can provide us with a powerful resource for guidance in early recovery. Our therapist can offer tips and assist us in maintaining self-discipline and resolve along the way.
- Respect your truth: Setting new internal boundaries means we’re ready to honor our wellbeing by being true to ourselves Whenever we make a list of the reasons for each boundary, it helps us stay focused and resolute in enforcing them.
It takes time, patience and practice to change old habits. With some dedication and commitment, we can succeed. By managing our interior boundaries better, we’ll create a healthier mindset through which our new life in recovery can flourish.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.