How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Recovery

Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT, Chief Clinical Officer at Cliffside Malibu

Do you have that one person in your life who often pushes you past your comfort level and tries to make you do things that you are not comfortable with? How about that person who is constantly in drama mode, trying to involve you in their problems? These are just two examples of types of relationships with unhealthy boundaries. Now that you are seeking treatment for substance abuse, learning to set healthy boundaries with others will be an important part of maintaining your recovery.

Healthy Boundaries Should Match Core Beliefs

Everyone has their own core beliefs and values, often referred to as morals, which frame their ideas about the world and themselves. These beliefs are at the core of who you are. Core beliefs may evolve and grow, but don’t usually change drastically. If you have a drinking problem or other substance abuse problem, your actions are usually in conflict with those core beliefs. In simple terms, no one ever says they want to grow up to have an addiction.

One of the reasons many people begin abusing substances is because of unhealthy boundaries with others. You may have experienced trauma and are trying to self-medicate. You may have grown up in a family where substance abuse was part of your culture and upbringing. Friends or others may have coerced you into beginning to drink or use substances with them. In all of these scenarios, unhealthy boundaries led to you acting in conflict with your core beliefs about substance abuse.

The Impact of Social Support in Recovery

While you should always take responsibility for your actions, studies have shown that social support has a significant impact in determining whether or not you will be able to maintain recovery. For example, in a 2019 study published in Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, a significant change in setting boundaries increased the ability to maintain abstinence from substances.

Many people with substance use disorders lack significant social support either because they are isolated from others or they lead dysfunctional lifestyles with unhealthy relationships. Setting boundaries and seeking healthier relationships after treatment can be crucial to maintaining your recovery.

Learning New Ways of Interacting After Treatment

Setting healthy boundaries is the process of aligning your life with your core beliefs and values. Going through treatment, abstaining from substances and making daily efforts to maintain your recovery involves having healthy boundaries with yourself. Not allowing guilt or shame from your past to dictate your behaviors today shows that you are being true to yourself.

Setting boundaries with others can be intimidating, but also allows you to feel stronger and more self-assured. Talk to others clearly and confidently about what you need to maintain your relationship with them and also maintain your recovery. Open communication empowers you and allows others to choose to respect your boundaries and stay a part of your life, or to miss out on all of the blessings that you bring to their lives.  While these sacrifices may seem harsh, this new and empowering way of interacting will help you become stronger.

Types of Boundaries to Reinforce Your Recovery

If you abused substances or made unhealthy choices with certain people, your relationship with them will likely change. Letting these people know that you no longer participate in old habits or attend the places and events that you once did helps demonstrate your commitment to recovery. Distancing yourself from people or their triggering words or actions that could put you at risk for relapse is another type of boundary. Setting boundaries with people regarding your time, mental and emotional resources and how you interact can all be extensions of the communication skills you learned in treatment. You also need to set boundaries, sometimes even with your closest family members and friends, about supporting you and your time in attending meetings, daily exercise and self-care.

How to Enforce Boundaries in Recovery

The first lesson in enforcing boundaries is to acknowledge that you are now in control of your own life. You may not be able to control others, their reactions to you or environmental factors, but you can enforce the boundaries you set about how you interact with others. If a partner tells you not to attend recovery meetings, you can choose to go anyway. If a friend comes over with alcohol or other substances, ask them to leave. If a family member with a drinking problem triggers you by continuing to drink at family gatherings, you may decide to leave. Enforcing your boundaries is how you exercise your agency over what you have control over. Enforcing healthy boundaries is how you align your life with your core beliefs.

Setting healthy boundaries in recovery can be difficult, particularly if it is a new experience for you and others in your life. Our luxurious Private Rehab Treatment in Malibu allows you all of the comforts you deserve with the privacy you need to heal. Contact us at (855) 403-5641 to find out more about our legacy of transforming lives.