Drug and alcohol abuse doesn’t just send the addict down a dark path, but it impacts everyone close to them as well. Because of the strong emotional and physical connection, loved ones get dragged down as the addiction takes a grip on the person.

Addiction changes people. Relationships are tested to the breaking point as addicts lie and steal to get their fix, causing the people they love to lose trust and feel anger, disappointment, frustration, and even fear. And when the family intervenes to force the addict to get help, the individual who isn’t prepared to give up their drug use will feel hurt, defensive, and betrayed. But because of unconditional love, we hold on to hope that the addict will seek treatment, find themselves again, and rebuild their lives.

The Importance of Establishing Boundaries

When a loved one goes to treatment to reclaim their life from addiction, they will also take steps to mend damaged relationships. Establishing physical, emotional, and mental limits are critical to this process. As the unofficial rules that define physical and emotional limits and acceptable behavior, boundaries help rebuild the foundations for trust and stability.

For boundaries to be healthy, they shouldn’t be so harsh that they discourage your loved one and lead them to detach from you emotionally. Healthy boundaries communicate that maintaining your self-worth and self-respect is as important to you as supporting their recovery. Here are some examples of healthy boundaries that will protect you, while also motivating your loved one to enter sobriety, stick to their program, and resist relapsing.

“No drugs or alcohol in the home.”

Communicate with the addict that you don’t want any substances in the house that may trigger their cravings. It’s also vital to clearly express the consequences if they disrespect your wishes and sneak drugs or alcohol in the home. However, don’t threaten them with something you cannot follow through with.

“No to friendships that are based on substance use.”

It’s fair to ask your loved one to cut ties with friends who they know still abuse drugs. People who are active addicts won’t likely be supportive of their sobriety as they’re probably still in denial of their own addiction.

“No more defending unlawful addict behavior.”

Your only role is to support your loved one to commit to their recovery. This doesn’t involve bailing them out when their choices get them in trouble with the law. Each time you make excuses or pay for a lawyer to defend them, you send a message that they can continue to cross the lines, and you will be there to protect them from prosecution.

As the loved one of someone struggling with substance abuse or who is in recovery, it’s understandable to feel paranoid. Trust is one of the hardest things to rebuild once it’s been lost. If you don’t set healthy boundaries and commit to enforcing them, you may find yourself vulnerable to the lies and manipulation that are typical behavior for addicts. At the same time, you don’t want to be too closed off and prevent the healing process. When communicating boundaries, start from a place of love but be firm about the consequences if they cross the line.

Let’s continue the conversation on how to set healthy boundaries the right way. Call
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