Recovery Coach Lauren 4/29/22
Setting boundaries isn’t always easy or nice, but it’s necessary, spiritual, and empowering. Healing relationships in recovery takes time and effort on everyone’s part.
As we know addiction fuels many fear based behavior and other dysfunctional interactions with families and friends. Some of these interactions and behaviors can be the need to be in control, perfectionism, and hanging on to resentments. Many may say that just the person seeking recovery needs to focus on these things yet we all play a role. Everyone can focus on establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, interactions and communication with each other.
Just like in any relationship healthy boundaries for yourself are important. We always want to make sure that we are staying true to ourselves when engaging in any relationship. What our physical and emotional limits are. To ensure that we are having safe, supportive, and respectful relationships. Unhealthy boundaries and thoughts are means to manipulate and control a relationship to either keep people away or keep people where we want them.
“What I value I will protect, but what you value I will respect.”-Rokelle Lerner. Our boundaries are based on our needs and personal values, and who we are as a person. They also provide guidelines for how we communicate with others and what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable to us or for us.
When you or someone in your family is active in their addiction a lot of times we have unhealthy boundaries. Toxic and codependent relationships are normally what we see due to negative behaviors that can peak during this time. With that being said even a “normal” relationship can become toxic or codependent. We want to monitor and evaluate any and all relationships that we may feel is either toxic or codependent to ensure our safety and wellbeing.
Often time’s behaviors in a toxic relationship cause emotional or physical harm to one another. These relationships often have dishonesty, physical and emotional abuse, severe manipulation, and intense shame. Most times boundary violations and disregard for each other’s needs and values are heightened during these relationships. Relationships may not always start out this way and yes we may be able to maintain personal boundaries but it takes practice. Codependent relationships tend to focus on what others can do to meet our needs rather than focusing on how to take care of self. Our values and needs can become blurred and enmeshed within the relationship and not know where one person ends and the other begins. Sometimes when these needs are not being met a toxic relationship can form to try and gain control of the relationship.
How can we work towards changing these boundaries? There are clear cut situations where abuse or violence are present where boundaries are needed immediately. Then there are situations where you may not realize the need or feel too shameful to set limits due to the subtleness of the actions or the manipulation that comes after their actions. We may justify inappropriate behavior, blame ourselves, feel to shameful to talk about it or doubt our own ability to make the right decision. How we feel in a situation is our best indicator for knowing if a clear boundary needs to be set.
I will often times ask clients I work with how did that situation make you feel? Was your stomach in knots? Are you angry, resentful or confused? Are you second guessing your initial feelings? A lot of time we will already know if a situation is not good for us, that we are feeling manipulated or not sure how to just say no. If we have been in a cycle of unhealthy boundaries these questions may not always be easy to answer or if we can answer them they may be hard to follow because we are out of practice with healthy boundaries.
Setting healthy boundaries can be very difficult. Especially if we are used to enabling or manipulating the situations. When our loved ones are involved and we just want to try and keep them safe. We need to think of our motives and try and change the question to “Is this keeping me safe?” or “What is my motive for setting this boundary?”
Understanding that being “self-focused” is not about being selfish, but about self-care is important. When we practice self-care, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercise, healthy connection with others, spiritual growth, we become more resilient, can think more rationally and respond to situations in a thoughtful way. We become less resentful and more empowered to be present in our relationships with other because we are more present within our relationship with self.
It’s important that during this process we are keeping ourselves safe, and establishing clear boundaries. We can become consumed with other’s needs, feelings and well-being and forget about our own. If we can recognize our motives and if we are keeping ourselves safe we can then easily identify when and if there are early warning signs and thoughts or changed behavior.
Communication is key to healthy boundaries we think better of ourselves when we are direct, honest and respectful. When we aren’t confrontational, others are more likely to listen. Talking about our feelings and personal needs can be uncomfortable and put us in a vulnerable place. A good way to stay away from the fear of judgement or assumption is to use “I” statements and to stick to the facts. Keep the conversation on your experience not on the other person. For example, I feel lonely when I don’t come out on Friday nights. Followed with I would really like to join you guys next Friday.” “I” statements are less likely to provoke a defensive response. But keep in mind the purpose of setting boundaries is to let someone know you are not ok with their behavior. The person you are setting a boundary with may still react but if you are setting this boundary from a place of self – care you will be able to acknowledge the reaction, but not try to fix it.