The family unit is often recognized as a person’s main source of learning as they develop and mature from infancy into adulthood. Families become the first place where a child learns how to manage their emotions and communicate with others. However, it is important to recognize that there is no such thing as a “perfect” family.
Many individuals may struggle with learning appropriate emotional and communication skills because they are learning from family members that may have never learned how to regulate those skills themselves. Others may grow up in chaotic households or avoidant households, where family members’ thought and behavior patterns follow suit to mimic their specific home situations.
Many people who develop substance use disorder (SUD) may have initially been exposed to some of these environmental home risk factors. Others may have grown up in relatively balanced homes but may still have been triggered by their home environment or its members, which also could have contributed to initial or repeated substance use. During recovery, a person must reflect on the factors that played a role in their substance-using habits and be ready to find new ways to navigate those factors. When it comes to family, setting healthy boundaries is an essential way to keep the peace between a recovering individual and their family members.
What Are Boundaries?
Personal boundaries are the limits that an individual sets for themself to actively safeguard their well-being. Boundaries help an individual protect their:
- Emotional well-being
- Physical space
- Sexual needs and safety
- Ability to function
In general, boundaries can exist in all different relationships and situations. They allow a person to form a sense of identity and help them feel secure while they go through the uncertainty of life. While unhealthy boundaries tend to result in a person feeling manipulated or controlled, healthy boundaries help a person feel validated and ensured about their own self-worth and their worth to those around them.
Why Are Boundaries Essential in Recovery?
Many people do not learn the importance of setting boundaries until they receive treatment for mental health or substance use disorders. This may be because a person has not yet learned how to identify their own needs, or has not learned the most appropriate way to respond to their own needs. On the other hand, some people struggle with the concept of setting boundaries because they don’t know how to set a clear boundary with someone. However, in recovery, boundaries become essential.
Healthy boundaries in recovery help individuals discover who they are and what they can bring to relationships to ensure that the relationships are supportive, safe, and respectful. They help recovering individuals maintain their personal values despite what others may think. Most importantly, setting boundaries helps an individual make their recovery the highest priority in their life by giving them the power to say “no” to unhealthy situations and circumstances that may jeopardize their healing journey.
How to Set Boundaries With Family
There is no question that when one family member struggles with addiction, it affects the entire family unit. Each member may attempt to maintain a sense of normalcy and routine by unconsciously developing unhealthy habits. When this happens, family dynamics may become even more chaotic, which often perpetuates substance use among family members. As a result, the family can be at higher risk of having its members becoming codependent on one another or enabling substance-using behavior.
During substance use treatment, an individual will begin to work on creating healthy boundaries in their life to keep them on the right path in their healing. For families, boundaries can help limit enabling or codependent behaviors and allow each member to stay focused on their unique journey.
Examples of Boundaries
Knowing how to set boundaries starts with recognizing examples of healthy boundaries. One person’s boundaries may not look anything like the boundaries of someone else, whether they are in recovery or not. Some examples of family boundaries may include:
- Asking family members to remove all alcohol and other drugs from the household environment while a recovering member is still living at home
- No longer lying for a family member when they ask because of how unhealthy lying makes them feel
- Keeping an individual’s recovery private from extended family as they work through the process
- Keeping respect a priority during conversations with family members and choosing not to interact if members are unable to uphold standards
Tips on Boundary-Setting
When it comes to setting boundaries, there are a few things to keep in mind. Once a person identifies problem behaviors and triggers in their family dynamics, they may want to:
- Set limits on the way that they would like to be treated within the family
- Listen to and honor their own instincts. If something seems uncomfortable, their boundaries may be being violated
- Speak up during the times when boundaries are invalidated or violated
- Respect the boundaries of family members to ensure personal boundaries will also be respected
- Regularly engage in self-awareness to evaluate and alter boundaries when necessary
It’s important to remember that creating and maintaining boundaries with your family will be a key part of your recovery from any substance use disorder. Learning how to communicate your healthier boundaries to your family will empower you as you build your new life in recovery.
Creating boundaries is an essential part of the recovery process. Boundaries help to ensure that an individual is supported and respected with their own needs. When a family member is impacted by addiction, the entire family unit is affected. Boundaries within the family help to keep the peace among its members and challenge codependent or enabling behaviors. Spero Recovery is a residential treatment facility that recognizes the value of setting boundaries, especially within the family unit. We understand that boundary setting can be difficult and uncomfortable, but we encourage you to honor your own needs. During our treatment program, we will help you actively challenge your substance use triggers while motivating you to create boundaries in your life. Although we will guide you, you are ultimately responsible for identifying your own needs. To learn more, give us a call at (303) 351-7888.