Boundaries are a set of personal rules that one establishes with another or a group of people. When these boundaries are crossed, they can allow one party to take action with good reason. In early recovery, boundaries help to shape how an individual gets treated during this time. In friendships, this could mean not pressuring them to attend social occasions where there will be drinking and other substances. The rules can change depending on the person; they might vary within the same person as they progress and become more resilient in recovery.
However, recovery is an effort that needs to move at the pace of the individual going through it; boundaries help them to continue to grow and build healthy relationships with others and themselves. If you are in a situation where you need to set boundaries with friends and family, here are some things to consider.
Friends and Family
When building a healthy support network, you are likely beginning with friends and family that love and support you. However, this might not always mean that they understand your experience. Sometimes, their desire to keep you happy interferes with your recovery. Setting boundaries with friends and family is essential for multiple reasons. It preserves everyone from trying to guess how everyone feels; therefore, setting boundaries helps your family know when you are open to them and when you need time to practice self-care.
Setting boundaries helps to put your mental health first; therefore, if your friends and family are making plans that you are not comfortable with, they can identify this and either find an alternative or respect your decision not to attend. For those around you that continue to persist at the expense of your deteriorating mental health, then it is a clue that they are not capable of being in your support system because they are currently toxic to your recovery.
Friends Who Still Use
It is difficult enough to set boundaries with friends and family that want to help, but what happens when there is a temptation to use offered as an option? Setting boundaries with friends in recovery is different than setting boundaries with those still actively using drugs and alcohol. When you are in a situation where you need to confront those actively using, it is best to sever the ties with this person to avoid relapse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people with a substance use disorder will relapse. However, cutting ties with those using can help prevent you from being triggered by social pressures.
Setting Boundaries Within
Boundaries are also a form of self-care. When you focus on self-care, you are then taking the necessary steps to preserve your health. Part of this is overcoming the part of your brain that convinces you that you can hang out with people who actively use substances. Over time, it gives you more confidence to start considering that you can do what you want when you want; however, this false sense of control can lead you directly back to using drugs or alcohol, justifying that you can have “just one.” In reality, these are irrational thoughts and need recognition.
When setting boundaries within, you will want to figure out your stressors. You cannot set boundaries until you figure out what causes you stress and triggers. Look at each situation and try to determine where in the situation you might be vulnerable to relapse. Once you have figured out where the vulnerabilities lie in a given scenario, form a game plan on which boundaries to set. Is it driving yourself to and from occasions? Is it putting a trusted friend in charge to look over you and make sure you don't make a mistake? Finally, how will you respond if you or another does break a rule? Being able to answer these questions helps keep your recovery and mental health first. Practice saying “no” and let others know how you want them to speak to you.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Combining healthy acts and staying consistent helps to generate momentum, accountability and preserve the meaning of why you have boundaries. When you put in the work, stick to it, and track your achievements, you begin to behold the power of resilience because you do not want to damage your hard-fought efforts and gains with a drink or a drug. Try to create a schedule that incorporates exercise, nutrition, sleep, and mind-body activities. You can also participate in some of these acts with friends and family. Carrying out these activities with others improves the strength of your bond and trust with this person because you are making gains together. Take time to figure out what healthy habits you can implement into your daily regimen, and set a consistent plan.
At START UP RECOVERY, we provide help to those in recovery who wish to establish a healthy support system built upon good habits, and of course, boundaries. Your best success occurs when you take charge of your life and recovery. While you cannot control how others ultimately treat you, you can control how you behave and respond. Setting boundaries act as a set of rules that you cannot break and, therefore, help keep your accountability, voice, and recovery strong. START UP RECOVERY strives to help instill in you confidence because we understand how difficult navigating recovery around friends and family can be. Ultimately, it is about taking ownership over your experiences to ensure you have the best opportunities for personal and professional growth in life. If you find it hard to find your voice to set boundaries with friends and family, seeking professional help may be the next step. To learn more, reach out to START UP RECOVERY today by calling us at (310) 773-3809.