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Setting Appropriate Boundaries with the Addict

Almost every single one of us can attest to having a loved one who has suffered from addiction either to alcohol or drugs. They often lie, cheat and mostly steal things to cover their tracks which become really problematic to our lives, work and even dealing with them.

Thanks to science, we all now understand that having an addiction is a brain disease. It brings with it some of the dominant symptoms that can even change how your brain is functioning. One thing we all need to clarify on is that one's character or behavior does not cause addiction nor does it happen as a result of being morally weak.

Have you ever wondered why it has been a bit tricky to get your loved one to stop their addiction by only loving or reasoning out with them? That is because an addict is someone who is sick just the same way another person is chronically ill as well. The best way to help them is through a professional treatment. So how can you convince them to seek treatment?

They need to feel uncomfortable in the kind of lifestyle they are leaving so that they consider treatment as the only option remaining. Otherwise, they are bound to continue with their addiction as they have no reason to stop.

Are You Familiar With The Concept Of “Loving Your Child To Death?”

Addiction takes the time to develop, and the addicts usually go through a series of stages which will eventually lead to their fall. It takes time for one to recognize and more than anything else, it also takes the time to heal. You are bound to find it hard when you try to intervene to convince an addict that treatment is the better option.

As hard as it is to accept, the simple truth is that most of us are enabling their addiction. Enablers contribute to the addiction problem as well as when it also comes to resolving it. Almost every addict has someone who is allowing them to continue whether that be a child, spouse or parent.

No matter how good your intentions are, the effects that arise from enabling are always damaging. Different people have their different reasons for enabling, but the question is, what measure can you take so as to put an end to it?

By having such measures in place, you will be providing the addicts and alcoholics in your life with a chance to start a new life through a proper healing process. For both your sakes, you have to have some autonomy. Set personal boundaries that are to be followed strictly. Do not bend the rules or support any behavior that you find to be unacceptable.

No matter what they would say or do to you, just remember that you are doing it for their good. Once they hit rock bottom, that is normally the only time that they will accept the fact that they need to become sober and once it happens, that hatred they have, easily turns into gratitude. You can’t give an addict choices, especially when their decisions affect you personally. By setting both personal and emotional boundaries, your loved addict will have a clear expectation to follow.

Boundaries and Addiction

One might ask what boundaries have to do with addiction. Think of it a psychological fence between two or more individuals with the sole purpose of establishing guidelines for actions, responsibilities and encouraging proper behaviors.

It all lies in creating a healthy relationship between you and other people. You will be compromising what makes all that when you have weak boundaries or even much worse when the boundaries do not exist at all. Poor boundaries take away your personal space, freedom and allow you to lose yourself to your feelings.

It means that there are higher chances of being lied to, stolen from and even cheated on. Therefore, setting personal boundaries with the person you love that is addicted is the first step to making them seek help for their addiction.

Things can be a bit harsh, but their addiction recovery will depend upon you powering through it. Make it clear that from now on you will not be enabling them by providing money which is likely to be used for drugs, alcohol or anything related to their addiction.

How Do You Tell Your Loved One About The Boundaries?

It is of great importance that you make sure your addicted loved one knows that you and the family have established new rules in the house. First of all the whole family has to help you decide and agree on the terms and consequences before letting your addicted loved one know that things have changed around the house.

At this point, you should be prepared for this conversation to be emotionally charged. I mean it is not like you expect to tell addicts that they will no longer be able to get what they need especially from the family.

Be prepared for the conversation ending with your loved one refusing to get help also; it is not a failure but the start of the next step. The boundaries that you decide to follow afterward can be what will help them admit to their addiction and choose to seek treatment. That being said, how can you tell your addicted loved one about the set boundaries and consequences that await when they break the rules?

  • The first and most important thing, choose that time when they are not under the influence
  • Convince your whole family to be present at this moment as it shows a united front
  • Always begin the conversation from the place of love. Do not just go straight to the point condemning or blaming them. Talk to them with so much love. Explain how everyone who is present there wants to see them get healthy and happy
  • Tell them how you came about to decide what you want to do and that it is all out of love. Explain that you would like it very much if they choose to seek help, but you cannot force them to do it. And the only thing that you can do is react to their actions.
  • Tell them the boundaries that the family has set along with the consequences that will happen if they violate them
  • Finish by requesting for them to seek help

Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Situations may vary from one home to another and one relationship to the other. Therefore the following boundaries may not be a “one-size-fits-all,” but it can be a good place to start with when you want to set boundaries with an addicted loved one.

  1. No drugs or alcohol in the house or around me
    Let them understand what substances are allowed in the home and which ones are not allowed. Also, make sure that you follow by telling them the consequences of violating those boundaries. Will you force the addict to move out and find some other place to stay? If you find them with illegal substances will you call the police? Make sure that you are ready to reclaim control of your home no matter how hard it may seem.
  2. If arrested, I will not bail you out and neither will I pay a lawyer to defend you
    This kind of boundary will force your loved one to assume responsibility. Setting such a limit lets them know that they are adults and they can do whatever they want to do, be it right or wrong. But at the end of it all, they should be ready to face the consequences. Make it clear that their addiction is something that should and must be confronted if you are to continue helping them anymore. He or she should conform to the rules and behavioral boundaries that you expect and what the law requires.
  3. The house is out of bounds for drug-using friends
    Even if your loved one is not using at the moment, it does not mean that his or her buddies are not using as well. Your loved one might be ready to seek help or already in the process, but the friends around them are also critical when it comes to this process. If you also do not want anyone who is high in your home, then you should not have to put up with it. Also setting such a boundary will help to reduce the adverse effects of addiction on your family.
  4. Ridicules and insults are completely prohibited
    Retain the values and self-worth in your home. This rule helps you to re-establish respect and integrity that you and your family hold through defining what kind of language and actions are acceptable. Always remember that it is your right to receive respectful and decent behaviors including from a drug addict when in your home.
  5. If you are not back home on time, you are not welcomed to join us
    Most family members tend to put the addicted individual first. You constantly worry about your addicted loved one and the problems that you all have to go through as a result of their addiction. This worrying robs you of the peace of mind. Setting this boundary will help you to find that peace of mind which is lost to you, you will be making them to assume responsibility for themselves too.
  6. I will not cover for you anymore no matter what
    It will benefit everyone in your family when you finally ask your loved one to start acting responsibly. Addiction certainly is built on chaos and lies which grow more and more. Come up with such a boundary that will do away with such lies and confusion and finally force your loved one to own their behaviors.
  7. I will not provide you with any more money
    Do not let addiction turn you into a scapegoat, pleaser, caretaker or a doormat to be used. Making a decision to not support them financially is one way to start focusing on your health and well-being in general. It is also in a way helping them with their addiction.

The relationship with an addict can be a very difficult one. The challenge you will face is to be able to care for them without losing yourself in the process. That is why it is essential that you come up with consistent and self-respecting boundaries.

I know it can be frustrating to maintain such a relationship but you will find out that most of the addicts are actually good people once they seek help in recovery. Most of these relationships are worth your effort to try and save. My best wishes and good luck on your journey.