When you are in the throws of addiction, the concept of boundaries can become blurred or lost entirely. This is because substance abuse dramatically changes the way we think and act. Healthy relationships in addiction rehab take a concerted effort on everyone’s part – in a lot of ways, recovering addicts need to re-learn how to form healthy relationships and boundaries. If we do not learn how to apply boundaries to our personal relationships, we open ourselves up manipulations, abuse, and codependency that can continue to feed our addictive personality.
Personal boundaries are limits that we set for ourselves as a way to protect our well-being. These limitations can be physical or emotional in nature.
If we observe a healthy relationship, it becomes readily apparent that people work to define specific limitations. This helps create a rapport that is safe, respectful, and supportive. Sometimes a healthy boundary can be something as simple as setting aside time to be alone, or only sharing emotionally sensitive information with people that have illustrated a level of responsibility and trustworthiness.
In addiction rehab, recovering addicts have a tendency to set unhealthy or loose boundaries. It is extremely common for people in recovery to overshare with people that have not illustrated their commitment to the other person. This opens recovering addicts up to negative influences and manipulation. Alternatively, unhealthy boundaries can be used by addicts to manipulate friends and family as well. In both scenarios, recovering addicts lack of boundaries only serve to feed the mentality of addiction – putting them into situations that contribute to their chances of relapsing.
Put simply, unhealthy boundaries generally result in the recovering addict being either codependent (overly intrusive) or emotionally unavailable (distant or cold). In contrast, healthy boundaries result in a person protecting what is important to them while respecting the wishes of those around them.
Boundary issues can come from a variety of different places, but for most people, they come from our past experiences and relationships. Maybe you were brought up in a household with very strict, distant boundaries. Or maybe you were in a codependent relationship for an extended period of time. Harsh boundaries can lead to an inability to express emotions and can cause people to become emotionally distant. Having no boundaries can lead to a lack of a sense of self. This can be detrimental to our self-image and it can cause us to feel lost or incomplete when we are enveloped in a relationship.
In addiction rehab, it is important that we actively work to break these habits and relearn how to form healthy boundaries and relationships. Failure to change our behavior can result in feelings of isolation, depression, and ultimately relapse.
Before we can start establishing boundaries in our relationships, we need to learn what good and bad boundaries are. Here are some examples of healthy and unhealthy boundaries:
When we set boundaries in our personal relationships, we aren’t doing it for ourselves. We are doing it as a service to others as well as ourselves. Working with others to reach a compromise is an important part of establish lasting, healthy relationships. It can be an extremely rewarding experience that is only possible when healthy boundaries are put in place. So how do we go about setting those boundaries?
Boundaries are limits that we set to protect our personal image and values. In order to properly set those protections, we need to know what we are trying to protect. We need to take a good, long, hard look at ourselves to discern who we are, what we value, and what we want out of our lives.
Letting people know what is, and is not, acceptable behavior toward you is a helpful way to set boundaries in a relationship. A great example of a limit is telling someone that you want to be spoken to as an equal, or that you do not want to be yelled at or spoken to in a condescending tone. Communicating these limits is extremely important, as it lets the other person know what you expect from them as a friend, family member, coworker, or lover.
Communicating your boundaries to others is important, but it will be irrelevant if you don’t actually enforce those limits. If you feel that someone is overstepping your boundaries, you need to speak up and let them know they are not treating you how you want to be treated. If they continue to overstep those boundaries even after being confronted, then it may be time to distance yourself from that person. In some cases, this may mean cutting that person out of your life entirely.
Having your own boundaries is a great step in the right direction, but relationships are a two-way street. If you want others to respect your own boundaries then it is only right that you respect the boundaries put in place by others. A positive, healthy relationship is one where both persons have made their limits clear and respect each other’s boundaries.
Defining and enforcing boundaries can be difficult, especially when you are still in addiction rehab. When you have been living and acting as an addict, you have likely developed a lot of unhealthy behaviors and habits that will need to be broken and unlearned. That being said, overtime, creating and enforcing boundaries will become second-nature.