A boundary is a limit, the point at which something ends. An interpersonal boundary is the limit you set on the behavior of others and on your own behavior based on clear and sensible thinking. Boundaries control when and how others approach you or behave around you, such as, I will not allow a hug from someone I do not like. I will not allow drugs or alcohol in my own home. I will lock the door on my bedroom when I need to be alone. I will not allow smoking in my home or in the presence of my children. I will not allow drinking in my car.
Boundaries allow you to take care of yourself and live a value-based life. I believe exercise is my form of mediation and I will exercise each day. I believe that my body is my most important asset and I will not abuse my body with drugs and alcohol. And, I will not allow someone to dictate the time or type of sex I have. Honesty is my basic value and I refuse to allow someone else to talk me into dishonest behavior for whatever reason.
Boundaries allow you to maintain confidentiality about your personal information and protect yourself from the negative emotions of others. I will only share information and feelings about my past addiction when it will advance my personal growth. I have my own ideas and I do not have to depend on others for solutions. I can defend with clear information my right to choose not to drink or to use drugs.
Boundaries can be reinforced by words and action. Walk away from a person who is trying to convince you to have a drink. Think and say the words: I do not drink. Both words and actions can be effective ways of communicating boundaries. Boundaries are ways to protect you such as refusing to go rock-climbing with friends when you are not trained for this sport; refusing to go to a party where drugs will be used; or refusing to have sex without a condom. Use well thought out boundaries to protect yourself from inappropriate behavior and your self-esteem will grow.
Define in writing the behavior you will or will not carry out to maintain safety and self-respect such as: I will not get drunk and make a fool of myself. I do not use alcohol and drugs to make friends or have better sex. I do not get caught in a lie, because I tell the truth, even when it’s difficult. If I am with someone who becomes violent, I leave. I exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well. I forgive myself for my mistakes.
Boundaries, when they are clear, specific, and reasonable are enforceable. You tell your ex-wife you will talk with her about financial problems and you will not accept your former addiction as a reason to agree to pay more support. You tell your friend you will go skiing with him, but you will not go to the bar afterwards. You tell your friend you will not go to the club where you used to buy drugs. When people are unwilling to respect the boundaries you’ve established based on self-respect, self care, and core values, you end the relationship.
To begin to decide where you need to set boundaries, go back to your stress inventory and look at the situations where clear boundaries would have helped reduce stress and prevent relapse. Circle the ones that require a boundary. Were they boundaries for your own behavior or boundaries you needed to set on behavior of people around you?
Think about the other areas in your life where boundaries would have helped to achieve a goal: relationships, school/work, physical/ mental health, home/community, and communication.
Return to Chapter 2 and to the list that you made of the names of the people who taught you to use drugs and alcohol and encouraged you to continue using. Add these people to the physical or emotional columns on your “Self Care Recovery Boundaries Worksheet.” Develop physical or emotional boundary actions to keep yourself safe from these people, such as “Do not answer phone calls from Sally, my former dealer.”
Using your “Self Care Recovery Boundaries Worksheet,” at the end of this chapter write your own relapse prevention boundaries. Write them for your person, body, space, home, car, exercise or recreation. Write them for your feelings and how you will manage sharing, intimacy, and relationships. Write them about your knowledge and how you will improve your skills and problem-solving, and use your own solutions for recovery. Write them about your life values that you will no longer ignore or allow others to ignore. What is important to you that will help you meet your life goals and maintain your self respect and your self-care? Make sure you have written boundaries to help you keep on track.