Setting boundaries in any situation is important but can be complicated. Boundaries are necessary to remind you what is and is not acceptable- whether that’s in your diet, your relationships, or with your loved ones struggling in addiction. In early recovery it can be frustrating to figure out what boundaries to set, how to create these boundaries, and how to stay true to these guidelines so they aren’t crossed. Like any new skill, it may take several clumsy attempts before we begin to learn even the most basic principles. The important thing to remember is practice makes perfect and the more we practice setting healthy boundaries with our addicted friend or family member, the easier it gets.
A misunderstanding most people have is that boundaries are meant to teach a hard lesson to the one with the addiction. It is a common occurrence that families and friends mistakenly believe that the more harsh the consequences and the more strict the expectations, the more their loved one would “snap out of” the addiction. It doesn’t take long for most to realize that, sadly, the monster that is drug and alcohol addiction had no interest in learning anything from them at all. Therefore, your efforts when dealing with an addicted loved one must be turned towards protecting yourselves and those in the path of destruction.
As a friend or family member of someone suffering with addiction, you need to learn how to set healthy boundaries to protect oneself from this life-ruining disease. Even though your loved one will not like the boundaries at the time, you will all be so grateful for these in the future. You may think that the actions you need to take are too extreme, like kicking them out of your house, stop giving them any money, and ultimately cutting them off entirely. They may call you and say they’re hungry and need somewhere to sleep, but that’s when you tell them no and to call you when they’re ready to get help. This experience is going to be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, but in return your addicted love one will be so grateful for those boundaries because they will save their life. As their parents, friends, siblings, or partner, you cannot allow the monster of a disease to feed off of you anymore. Until the addiction disease has no one left to use, your loved one is unwilling to get help. Those boundaries that initially bring hate are the true motivation to start the path into recovery.