CREATING BOUNDARIES FOR SELF – keeping it simple…
Living with a loved one’s addiction in your life is hard enough without your loved one consistently and constantly breaking boundaries. There seems to be no trust, no respect, no barriers to treating family or friends badly – and the chaos, resentment, hurt, and harm keeps building.
How do I know this???? From my personal experience, from the family members I work with and from the addicts I work with too. Everyone, without fail, tells me that 'their' loved one is not who they were before alcohol or drugs, that they were not bought up like this, and that they would never say or do the things they say and do now.
When someone is desperate to get their loved one to change they often try many different things, one of these things everyone usually tries - is setting some boundaries. The problem with boundaries is that your loved one seems to have no regard for any sort of boundaries and trying to have boundaries that they respect often ends up in chaos, in abuse and in feelings of desperation.
Boundaries are helpful because they are designed to 'keep people safe'. Boundaries may be in the form of 'law' or in the form of agreed 'what's okay / what's not okay' for self. Boundaries extend from self to others, so that the so called 'line in the sand' is known and there to prevent harm.
Boundaries need to be boundaries around what is ‘right’ for you, these need to be boundaries that you can live with comfortably, because you need them for your safety. If someone or something oversteps your boundary, then there is an action 'you' need to take as a result of that.
It is no good having a boundary that you cannot act on. A common example I see goes something like this - ‘you can not live here if you bring drugs into the house’, sounds fair and reasonable to the average person. Problem is most often when the person brings drugs into the house – you struggle to follow up and then ask ‘what do I do’? I always say you need to do what you said you were going to do, which usually gets me the reply 'but I can't kick them out'.
That's okay if you can't kick them out - that is not the issue here. The issue is, without action and consequence ‘boundaries just become THREATS'. And we know threats of consequences have never been a guarantee people will do things differently – or that they will respect you. To learn more about why this is read my blog 'WHY ADDICTS DO WHAT THEY DO'....
Those caught up in Addiction cannot and do not respect boundaries – so unless you can proactively follow through with a boundary, they are pretty much a waste of time. Boundaries are set to help ensure your safety and wellbeing, whereas most often they are used in an 'attempt to try and chnage the Addict', this plain does not work.
As someone suffering a loved one’s addiction, you need to be able to respond not from an emotionally reactive space or let ‘fear’ be your decision maker – you need to get well, so you can work through what is right for you, and so you will not let yourself down.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in this situation with a loved one in addiction, it is a journey that takes everyone on a path toward self-destruction. Families get torn apart, conflict reigns, family members and friends suffer, often in silence and in ‘fear’. As they say when we are flying "if the oxygen mask drops down – put your mask on first before helping others to put their mask on".
The message is clear – before you can make a difference in your loved ones life – you need to save yourself first, and having effective boundaries that are 'right for you' are an important part of this. That means doing your own work to help you be less emotionally reactive and emotionally driven, to being proactive - comes form a totally different place.
Resolving the impact of your loved one's addiction on you is a critical first step toward helping & supporting your loved one, without this, nothing changes - it generally will just keep getting worse.
If you would like to know more - then lets chat:
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