Setting healthy boundaries is essential to the health of all relationships, especially with someone addicted to alcohol. Unfortunately, most addicts become skilled at violating the boundaries that usually exist unspoken between people. This can lead to lying, manipulation, and resentment. However, knowing how to set boundaries with an alcoholic you love can foster a healthy relationship and be a significant factor in your loved one’s recovery.
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What Are Boundaries?
Boundaries are dividing lines or limits placed between people. These divisions of demarcation reflect that you are a separate person—physically, emotionally, and possibly financially. Boundaries inform the other person that you expect to be honored as a separate person with personal dignity, responsibilities, and obligation. The respect that boundaries promote will help ensure mutual respect in the relationship with your loved one.
Why Are Boundaries With An Alcoholic Important?
Alcoholics have typically already violated boundaries in relationships and grown accustomed to living without any recognizable divisions in relationships. This results in frustration and distrust in building healthy connections with anyone addicted to alcohol.
Boundaries are often important for safety reasons. Substance abusers try to push the boundaries of a relationship that can eventually place you or them in unsafe situations. When you honor a boundary, your loved one feels the consequences of their actions early and is made accountable for their behavior.
3 Important Boundaries
All relationships with alcoholics are different and may require a unique combination of boundaries. Some of the typical boundaries include:
- Physical. This boundary may include allowing them to live with you or not. A physical boundary may also be necessary for public displays of affection or physical contact.
- Emotional. Emotional boundaries can help you avoid feeling emotions that your loved one is experiencing. This is crucial because an alcoholic in recovery experiences many emotions, such as guilt, shame, and anger. Boundaries can help you avoid trying to fix them to avoid feeling these emotions yourself.
- Financial. Alcoholics often depend on others for additional money due to the expense of meeting the needs of their addiction. It is important to clarify that family members will not provide the money they might need for alcohol, bail if arrested, or legal fees associated with drinking.
Guidelines For How to Set Boundaries with an Alcoholic
Setting boundaries with an alcoholic can be a constant work in progress since those with addiction often test them. Here are some guidelines to help set up and maintain these boundaries:
- Set personal boundaries. Make sure you have boundaries set up in your personal life to help you live a rational, healthy, and productive life.
- Be firm. It is often called tough love. It will sometimes seem harsh, but you must be strong to maintain the boundaries that will help your relationship and ultimately help your loved one in recovery.
- Remain calm. Avoid establishing boundaries immediately after a conflict. It is best to establish when everyone can discuss them without being emotionally charged. When a boundary does get violated, react calmly to remove yourself from the situation and wait to discuss what happened later.
- Remember the purpose. It is important that you keep sight of why you need boundaries. It is not to control your alcoholic loved one, but to establish how you want to relate to them. Boundaries help define how you expect to be treated and protected in all circumstances.
Sanctuary Recovery Foundation
At the Sanctuary Recovery Foundation, you will find a safe, clean, and encouraging environment that promotes recovery. Our twelve-step programming can help you attain and sustain sobriety and a fulfilling life. Contact us to learn more about our programs and sober living homes.