Boundaries are physical or emotional limits you set in order to maintain your well-being. This can be difficult for anyone; it’s not necessarily something they teach you how to do in school. But when we’re in active addiction, we’re often so divorced from what we need that we don’t know what our boundaries even are. It’s also common to engage in relationships with unhealthy boundaries during active addiction.
Boundaries in Recovery
Boundaries are really important for recovery—and being sober gives us an opportunity to practice setting and respecting them. That doesn’t mean the second you quit drinking or using drugs, boundaries will come naturally. It really does take practice.
Recovery-specific boundaries may include only seeing certain people in your life when they’re not drinking or using drugs. It might mean not going to specific establishments. They may also be broader, and focus on protecting your mental health. The purpose of these sorts of boundaries are to reduce triggers in your life and prioritize your sobriety.
Identifying and Communicating Boundaries
Figuring out what your boundaries are requires listening to your feelings, which is something many of us work on in recovery. If you feel resentful in a relationship, that might mean you are doing more than you feel comfortable with and might need to set a boundary. If you are often anxious or sad around a certain person or situation, you may need to take a step back.
Conversations about boundaries can be uncomfortable. However, I’ve found that recovery teaches me to sit with discomfort without numbing out, which brings good things to my life. During the COVID-19 pandemic too, many of us have had practice having uncomfortable conversations about boundaries.
Respecting Other People’s Boundaries
Implementing your boundaries means showing yourself dignity and respect—and the same is true for respecting those of others. While it’s easy to say that you’ll always do so, that doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging. You might not be happy with the boundary; it might even be painful.
For instance, someone in your life may decide that they are not ready to be involved in your recovery. Remember that they have as much of a right to protect their well-being as you do yours. And if you are acting against someone’s boundary, it isn’t healthy for either of you.
In the case of the previous example, you want everyone in your recovery network to be there by choice, and to be willing to engage in mutual support. If you’re struggling to stick to someone’s boundary, reaching out to your therapist or a close friend to talk through your feelings can be helpful.
Boundaries can be difficult—both setting and respecting them—but they are ultimately one of the best things you can do for your relationships. When people respect your boundaries, you know that they respect you and what you need to thrive.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you learn your boundaries and how to set them, so you can build a great life in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.