Everyone has, at one time or another, had people who go past their personal boundaries. You may not always realize it happened. Sometimes it is a subtle “Are you sure?” when you already said “No.” Maybe it is a boss who keeps pushing for after-hours work projects to be completed quickly or working long weekends month after month, without recognition or extra pay. More often, it is personal relationships that don’t honor the safe space people in recovery work hard to develop.
If you are in recovery, you are likely to work on boundaries. This is some of the hardest work, and may even result in losing some friendships because they are simply too toxic to continue. Below, we discuss why boundaries are difficult to maintain and how to hold boundaries when people are getting too close for comfort.
What Are Boundaries?
Boundaries can shift for people in different ways and different seasons of life. They are essential to healthy relationships and setting yourself up for feeling less like a doormat and more like a human being. Sustaining boundaries can be tiring at first when you are not used to it. This is a skill many people don’t learn. However, in recovery, you will thrive if you can start to identify the spaces where you lack healthy boundaries, what it feels like in your brain and body, and how to set personal limits so you can maintain them long-term.
When you know where you stand, you find solid ground. Sort of like the REM song, be sure to stand in the place where you live. Where you live is in your body all day, every day. Nothing is going to change that. However, boundaries that are pushed to the limit can often make a person feel like they are not even in their body any longer.
It helps to consider what you can tolerate and what brings on the stress response (cortisol spike, agitation, heart beating faster, breathing harder). Notice the signs when certain people push limits and learn when to put your foot down. Start by writing them down, work them out in therapy or with a trusted sober friend, and learn how to set them up in a healthy way to keep the person from pushing past them time and again.
Be Bold and Blunt
Healthy boundaries are not going to be a dialogue with the other person. They may not even realize you’ve set boundaries. Be direct about what you need. Beating around the bush leaves the door open for them to take advantage. Language is key. The word “maybe” is not “no.” Even if the other person feels disrespected, learn how not to own someone else’s feelings on this. Partners in a relationship and friends who care for one another need to communicate openly and honestly about how they feel. This helps build trust to express challenges in holding boundaries. Some things to keep in mind:
- The other person or people will likely feel uncomfortable because this is new
- Don’t feel guilty asking for what you need
- Speak up when boundaries are pressed
- Let go of needing to be accepted by others through taking on their values and ideas
- Speak up when it happens and remind them of the limits you’re willing to accept
Setting limits boldly is tricky. People have a short memory when it comes to things until it becomes a habit. Make a positive, healthy habit out of telling others what you need and they should come around. If they don’t, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship.
Self-Care is Key
Recovery is all about self-care now and in the future. Addiction strips away the ability to take care of yourself and others you love. Now you are in recovery; make it a priority. This means giving yourself permission to be first on your list instead of last. Recognize the importance of your feelings and honor them. They serve as an important clue about wellbeing and happiness. Putting yourself first helps bring peace of mind because you don’t feel like you’re being walked all over. It is a healthy way to live your life even if others find it challenging.
The hardest thing to accept in recovery may be that no changes happen overnight. It takes months and even years of rebuilding your life to formulate new habits, boundaries, and relationships. Don’t stress over whether or not you’re “getting it right.” There is healing in just making little changes to create a lasting impact. If you are not sure what you want to do or how to do it, talk to someone.
Find a trusted sober companion, friend, or loved one who can help make this easier. If that doesn’t work, speak to your counseling team or therapists and ask how to make this stick. It will not be an easy task at first. It may even feel so hard you want to quit. Don’t give up. Boundaries are an essential part of being healthy in recovery. Do the hard work now if you want to maintain a lasting recovery.
Casa Capri offers personalized treatment designed to help women who are struggling with addiction find hope and a purpose. We provide a holistic treatment model that enables women be vulnerable in a small, intimate community with other women looking to heal. Our team of therapists works with women on boundaries, personal space, and developing healthy goals in recovery. If you are ready to quit using drugs or alcohol, call Casa Capri today: 844-593-8020
Melissa Holmes Goodmon, Founder & CEO of Casa Capri Recovery, obtained her BA in Psychology and is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (LAADC) specializing in women’s core issues. She is recognized as a leader in the field of mental health and substance abuse recovery where she has been an advocate since 2006.