How to Set Boundaries with Someone who is Addicted

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Boundaries are key to a healthy relationship with any loved one, but they are especially crucial to relationships with those in your life who are suffering from addiction.

Boundaries are the guidelines that you establish regarding how you want to be treated by others and what makes you comfortable. They allow you to be you without compromising your morals, values, or happiness. Boundaries can shift and change over time, and when you’re dealing with a loved one who abuses drugs or alcohol, you may need to consider establishing strong boundaries.

Weak boundaries can make you more vulnerable to lying and manipulation, which, unfortunately, are common behaviors from people in the throes of their addiction. These individuals may be good people who are simply controlled by their addiction. This can make it difficult to set strict emotional guidelines and boundaries. However, doing so can actually contribute to their recovery.

Signs You Need to Strengthen Boundaries

Setting boundaries in your relationship with an addicted loved one can bring control to an otherwise chaotic situation. Signs that you need to strengthen or set stricter boundaries include:

  • Repeatedly setting boundaries in the moment but not following through (e.g., Warning “If you come home drunk again, you can’t continue to live here” without actually enforcing the boundary)
  • Protecting the individual from the consequences of their actions by lying or making excuses on their behalf
  • Experiencing theft of money or belongings
  • Avoiding confrontation or conflict with the individual

Examples of Boundaries

The necessary boundaries for your relationship are not “one size fits all” and will be unique for every family, relationship, and situation. However, people with an addiction exhibit some common behaviors that can be addressed by the following boundaries.

  • No drug or alcohol use around you or in the house
  • No drug-using friends or significant others around you or in the house
  • No assistance with legal issues
  • No assistance with financial issues
  • No more lies or excuses on his or her behalf

Setting these boundaries can be difficult and uncomfortable, especially when you’re close to the addicted individual. Helping him or her will be your first instinct, but you need to ask yourself whether you’re really helping and, if so, at what cost?

Choosing to enforce real boundaries in your relationship can give your loved the one the motivation he or she needs to pursue treatment. Boundaries also protect you and your mental and emotional health.

Written by Rebecca Jones, Marketing Specialist

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