Personal Boundaries in Addiction Recovery


Boundaries are the limits we place on others in order to keep ourselves safe emotionally and physically. Positive self-esteem and self-worth are important in being able to effectively set and maintain healthy boundaries. The insight that is required to set healthy boundaries comes from knowing your limits, values, and emotions.

For many individuals, boundaries are an important part of the recovery process. Boundaries are entirely unique. What may work for one person may not work for another. It’s important to understand the different types of personal boundaries so you can assess which ones need to be placed in your life and relationships as you work through your recovery.

Physical boundaries

Physical boundaries help protect your personal space. They include letting others know when it is okay and not okay to touch you as well as what kind of touch is appropriate (hugging, shaking hands, etc.). An example of setting a physical boundary is asking someone to take a step back when they are standing too close to you.

Emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries help you to establish responsibility for your feelings and emotional responses. Emotional boundaries can mean knowing when to share personal information or be vulnerable to someone else.

An example of setting an emotional boundary is telling someone you’re not ready to talk about a traumatic experience with them if you don’t feel ready.

Material boundaries

Material boundaries help protect your possessions and money. They include setting limits on what you are willing to share with others. Material boundaries prevent you from feeling taken advantage of. They also prevent your belongings from getting damaged.

Family members or friends may set material boundaries with the individual in recovery. While they might’ve previously offered financial support in a caretaking role, you may decide that your financial well-being is your own responsibility.

Time boundaries

Time boundaries help you balance all of the moving parts in your life, like your work, hobbies, social life, and personal time. They include making a conscious effort to set aside enough time for all of these different areas.

An example of a time boundary is telling a friend you can’t spend time with them this weekend because you need to go to work. For someone in recovery who is trying to achieve certain goals, this may mean prioritizing work and life obligations instead of social time.

Tips for Setting Boundaries

There are many different types of personal boundaries, and they all need to be used together to keep yourself safe and your relationships healthy. Boundaries should be addressed early in your recovery. Here are some tips to help you set effective boundaries in addiction recovery:

  • Identify your motives for setting boundaries.
  • Clearly communicate and establish boundaries with yourself and others.
  • Learn to identify when boundaries are being crossed.
  • Remove yourself from the situation or relationship if you feel your boundaries are being crossed.
  • Try not to change or adjust your boundaries. Make them concrete.

If you’re having trouble setting boundaries with yourself and others, you may benefit from working with a therapist to improve your self-esteem and assertive communication skills. Learn more about outpatient therapy at Pyramid Healthcare.

Families, friends, and loved ones can learn more about setting and maintaining boundaries with someone who is addicted.

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