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setting boundaries

How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Family Members After Addiction Treatment

Everyone needs to develop healthy boundaries around those around them and with themselves to practice self-care. However, for those in the early recovery days, setting healthy boundaries around family members is a matter of life or death. We’re not dramatic here; not having boundaries around family members after treatment can lead to relapse and potential overdose death. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Boundaries are a set of guidelines, rules, or limits we create to identify what are reasonable and safe ways for others to behave around us. Healthy boundaries are those boundaries that are set to make sure mentally and emotionally; you are stable. 

The easiest way to understand boundaries is to think about a “No Trespassing” sign. These signs define where you end, and others begin. These sets of limitations also help you protect yourself from how others choose to interact with you, as you have absolute control of communications, physical boundaries, and other limits to protect yourself. 

The Importance of Healthy Boundaries

They might seem insignificant at first, but healthy boundaries are a considerable component of self-care. Self-care, which can include setting boundaries, is an integral part of leading a mentally healthy life. Some advantages of having healthy boundaries after addiction treatment include:

  • An improved mental health state
  • Good emotional health
  • A sense of developed autonomy
  • A more developed identity
  • The ability to avoid burnout

Beyond learning how to practice self-care and self-respect, having healthy boundaries affects every aspect of our life. Those with healthy boundaries can better communicate their needs in a relationship. Boundaries help you make time and space for positive interactions and enables you to set limits to maintain healthy relationships. 

How to Set Healthy Boundaries Around Family

First of all, you must understand that setting boundaries around your family isn’t rude. These boundaries are there to protect your mental health and wellbeing, as well as your relationship with them. Here’s a simple wireframe that will help you set healthy boundaries:

  • Define: Make sure you identify what type of limitations you need to practice self-care and protect your wellbeing
  • Communicate: Be transparent with your needs and let your family members know the boundaries you’ve defined
  • Keep it simple: Avoid overexplaining the boundaries or the reasoning behind your needs; all they need to know is that you need them to respect your boundaries
  • Set consequences: Let them know why this is so important for you and voice the consequences of failing to respect your boundaries

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries give you a barrier between you and your family or any invading force. Your body, privacy, personal space, and sexual orientation are all physical boundaries. We already express these boundaries through our noise tolerance, body language, shelter, and verbal instructions. 

Examples of physical boundary invasions:

  • Inappropriate touching
  • Looking through your items, emails, texts
  • Not respecting your personal space

Emotional Boundaries

Just as important, emotional boundaries are there to protect your self-esteem and mental health. Not having emotional boundaries leaves you unprotected against other’s words, actions, and thoughts about you. Your beliefs, choices, sense of responsibility, intimacy, and behavior are all emotional boundaries. We express these boundaries when we stand up to them through verbal communication. 

Examples of emotional boundary invasions:

  • Not separating your family’s emotions from yours
  • Sacrificing your plans and goals to please others
  • Blaming others for your problems while dismissing your responsibility

Tips for Maintaining Your Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries isn’t the only step. It’s also crucial to learn how to maintain your personal boundaries. Remember, you’re not responsible for how others feel about your limits. No matter what, you have to stay clear, firm, and respectful about your boundaries. 

Some people, including family members, might be accustomed to abusing or manipulating you in different ways. These are the type of people who will try to test your boundaries and often push you to the limit. Plan on this, expect it but stay firm. 

Remember, to maintain your boundaries, you need to be firm in your belief. Your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting. You cannot successfully establish a clear limit if you send mixed messages by apologizing.

Sometimes people will challenge your boundaries, telling you they’re selfish. However, self-care must be a bit selfish sometimes. You have to put your self-care and mental health priorities before others if you want to help them. Don’t let anxiety, fear, or guilt prevent you from taking care of yourself.

It will take time, and you’ll get better at setting boundaries with time. Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. Eliminate toxic persons from your life—those who want to manipulate, abuse, and control you.

Don’t think these guidelines are set in stone. You have the power to adapt your boundaries as your needs change. It’s absolutely normal to recalibrate your boundaries from time to time. 

How to Express Your Boundaries

If you must, develop a script you can use whenever someone tries to challenge your boundaries. Having a script can also help you reinforce your beliefs respectfully and firmly. Let them know boundary violations will not be tolerated. Here’s an example of what your script could be like:

When you ____, I felt ___. 
Please don’t __________.
__________ is important to me.

To help you understand this better, your script should be something like:

“When you told our friends what’s been going on with my recovery, I felt embarrassed. Please don’t share things about me without my consent. My privacy is important to me.” 

Focus On Addiction Recovery

After addiction treatment, your primary focus is long-term recovery. Build a supportive group of people and family members that will help you thrive in recovery. Even when they’re your family, keeping toxic relationships around can hinder your mental health and trigger a relapse. If you ever need help building guidelines, contact us to speak with our therapists today. 

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