Boundaries are an important part of any relationship, whether with friends, family, or a partner, but when the other person is an addict, they become crucial to the survival of the relationship. Learning to set healthy boundaries with an addict will enable you to move on with your life without taking responsibility for their actions, so that you can live a healthy life. While the act of creating and enforcing boundaries can be difficult and may even seem impossible at times, boundaries are crucial for your own health.
In some cases, boundaries can help you to stop enabling an addict who uses you to fund their addiction. In other cases, it can help you to demarcate what you will and will not do, so that you can maintain your own physical, emotional, and financial health. Setting boundaries with an addict will allow you to get your life back, and will hopefully force your loved one to realize that they need help.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
Saying No – Saying no is one of the hardest things that you can do, especially for close family or spouses. Addicts get angry, can beg, can plead, and can manipulate, and will often be extremely convincing when lying. It can also be difficult to say know when you understand that you are their only option, and that they might need you for food, a place to sleep, or a ride. It is important to demarcate where you are willing to help, set boundaries so that you say no and they listen when you are not willing to help, and to ensure that you only help with things they need. In some cases, you may be met with anger or even violence in the face of a rejection, but sticking to your boundaries, you tell the addict that they can no longer use you for care or funds.
Don’t Take Responsibility – If someone you love doesn’t pay their rent, it is not your responsibility to fix it. If they get into a substance-use related car accident, it is not your responsibility to bail them out. And if they pass out, it is not your responsibility to get them to bed. While it is important to show compassion, it is not your responsibility to fix their problems. Many of us feel that if we just try harder, get them out of this one thing, or fix everything for them, they will see the light and leave their substance. This never happens and they will keep needing you and needing your help. It is important to step back, explain that they must fix their own problems, and offer help and care only when you want to. This does not mean you have to withdraw emotionally, only that you are offering primarily emotional support rather than taking care of their lives for them. At the same time, by refusing to take responsibility, you refuse to be guilted into believing that their addiction or their problems are your fault.
Refuse to Argue – It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and argue, name call, or consistently bring up things from the past, but it doesn’t help. In fact, by consistently creating and bringing up emotional trauma, you are hurting yourself. At the same time, addicts are often irrational and capable of self delusion to the point where they may have actually convinced themselves that they don’t have a problem. By setting boundaries, refusing to get into arguments, and avoiding name calling or bringing up past problems, you set a clean slate for each day, so that you can choose to have a good day without being angry or upset over something that the addict will not listen to anyway.
Banning Drugs and Alcohol – Creating a strict no drugs or alcohol policy in your house or car should be a priority. It is important to be very clear that you will not allow either into your home and to set strict repercussions if the rule is broken. These repercussions can vary from the substances being thrown out to you calling the police, but should match the situation. Importantly, if you state that you will do something if your rules are not followed and you don’t follow through, your addict will likely lose respect for your boundaries.
Refusing to Lie – Close friends, family members, and partners often find themselves in the position of lying to family, friends, and coworkers to the benefit of an addict. Unfortunately, this behavior only protects the addict and enables them to continue using. By refusing to lie, you establish your own integrity, refuse to take responsibility for the emotional consequences of their actions, and relieve yourself of stress and guilt.
No More Excuses – Living with an addict means lowering your expectations, or failing to have any at all. While it can be difficult, seeing your addicted loved one as a potential guest who may be there or who may not, but it doesn’t matter either way, is the best policy to take. This means taking care of chores and household responsibilities yourself, getting rid of things they are supposed to take care of that you can’t or don’t want to handle, eating dinner anyway if they don’t show up precisely on time, and going to bed at a reasonable time instead of waiting up for them. If they don’t show up, they didn’t show up, and their excuses aren’t necessary. By refusing to get angry at them for not being there, you reduce the addict’s ability to manipulate and hurt you, so that you can move on, be happy, and live your life without waiting on them to get better. Addiction is ugly, and unfortunately, it can take some people a very long time to get better. By setting healthy boundaries, you ensure that the addict in your life is not hurting you, or you take care to minimize the damage. Setting boundaries can be one of the hardest things you ever do, especially if it means watching someone lose their home, their job, or their prospects. While it is our first nature to take care of the people we love, stepping in for them every time only enables their addiction. If you can, it is important to work towards getting your loved one into treatment. An addicition rehab center can work your loved one through the process of physical detox, while giving them the tools to battle their mental addiction, so that they get their life back. The Oceanfront Recovery Addiction Treatment Program can help with the process of recovery from substance abuse addiction or alcoholism. Our experienced clinicians focus on bringing the underlying causes to the surface with a modern and effective recovery program in a tranquil environment. Contact us at Oceanfront Recovery today for a confidential assessment.