Setting healthy boundaries is a great way to build trust previously lost due to an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Addiction is a family disease that affects everyone connected to the addict. So what should family and friends do (and not do) when someone they love is addicted?
Addiction is a disease of the body, mind and spirit from which people can and do recover. Like any other disease, no one intends to get sick or wishes it upon someone. Addiction recovery is a process of healing from the different layers of pain, disappointment, shame and guilt that come with addiction.
What not to do:
- Do not think you can control the addict or the addiction. Understand that the addict and the addiction are beyond your control. You can only control yourself.
- Do not enable the addict or alcoholic. There is a difference between helping and enabling someone. Helping someone is doing something for someone which they are not capable of doing themselves. Enabling someone is doing for someone something they can do and should do for themselves. Helping looks at the long term benefits and consequences, whereas enabling only looks at the immediate situation or drama.
- Do not make threats you won’t be able to follow through on. Addicts/alcoholics will continue to push any boundaries to the limits and weaken your resolve. Set limits you can keep and then keep them.
- Do not shame or scorn the addict/alcoholic. Addiction is a shame based disease and does not need any more shaming to fuel itself. The addict/alcoholic often suffers from chronic shame which includes different levels of low self-worth, low self-esteem, self-hatred, and a distorted self-image.
- Do not make excuses or cover up for the addict/alcoholic. Allow them to experience the full consequences of their addiction. Do not deny or minimize the addiction or its severity. Trying to fix their problems, manage their lives or control the addict’s behaviors only prolongs the addict from learning to be accountable and responsible for their actions. They are kept from learning the valuable lessons they need in order to grow and change.
- Do not allow your emotions to get the best of you. You have ridden a roller coaster of emotions long enough; it is now time for you to get off the ride. If you find yourself getting overly emotional in dealing with the addict/alcoholic, step away until you can be calm. Addiction creates drama, so be prepared for how you will act before the drama begins.
What to do:
- Be patient while the addict/alcoholic is in recovery. Recovery is a journey not a destination. Recovery will happen in several stages and may not happen in a neat line.
- Do what you can at the moment. There will be situations where you will be hesitant or confused about what to do. Make the best decision you can at the time and move one. Learn what works and doesn’t work and act accordingly. Remember to fully accept that you made the best decision at the time with the information you had available.
- Do focus on yourself not on the addict/alcoholic. Loved ones need to focus their efforts on staying healthy. You can’t help the addict if you are not healthy and cannot help yourself. You and your families’ well-being depends on it.
- Set boundaries for your long-term health and sanity. Lovingly (and frequently, if necessary) insist that your boundaries be respected and state the consequences for any violation of your boundaries. Follow through on these consequences. See your follow-through as an act of love that builds trust for yourself and the addict/alcoholic.
- Do identify and recognize the different areas of life that have been neglected as a result of your preoccupation with the addict/alcoholic and begin to rectify any damage done.
- Do practice letting go of your need to fix, manage or control the addict/alcohol or situations and circumstances that arise from the addiction. This is sometimes called "release with love”.
- Do seek help for yourself and other family members. Getting outside help is often critical for complete healing and growth. It can also provide a healthy perspective on your situation and interactions. Seek out a therapist, counselor, Al-Anon, Nar-anon, Smart Recovery, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics or some other group that focuses on those who are affected by an addict/alcoholic.
Change will take time but will be a beautiful journey of uncovering, discovering, and recovering your lives. You will not only survive, but thrive.
Remember: Progress, not Perfection
New Hope Recovery Center provides individualized treatment for all clients. We understand that each client is unique. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you can reach us at 888-707-4673 (HOPE) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written By: New Hope Recovery Center
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Written By: New Hope Recovery Center 888-707-4673 email@example.com
When an emerging adult has an alcohol or drug abuse problem or addiction, parents are on the front lines trying to intervene and offer support. It can feel like an emotional roller-coaster trying to address actions and behaviors that are both worrisome and unacceptable. The stress is even greater when the young adult is away at college. Developing healthy boundaries will help bring sanity to what seems like an insane situation.
Often parents feel out of control and perplexed about what to do with continual unacceptable behaviors from a young adult they love, who is abusing or addicted to drugs or alcohol. The first step is to set boundaries: clearly articulate limits of what is and is not acceptable and then specify the consequences of going beyond these limits.
Boundaries are important to keep parents from going beyond loving support into the realm of enabling an addiction. With clearly set boundaries, parents no longer need to yell, be frustrated, or feel conflicted and they can maintain sanity in their lives.
1. Identify and discuss your boundaries regarding drugs and alcohol, particularly once your son/daughter is in high school
For the best chance of success, first identify your own boundaries with drugs and alcohol. What is and is not acceptable to you? Once that is clear, sit down and discuss these boundaries with your son/daughter. This will likely be an ongoing discussion through high school and certainly before college. Be firm and respectful. Take time to listen and process any reactions you hear. Before you finish, let your son/daughter know that it is always acceptable to reach out for help without consequence. This is also the time to clarify that consequences will happen if your son/daughter is dishonest and you learn of a problem after the fact. The goal is to have open and honest communication and to provide your son/daughter with an inner compass about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
2. Be clear about the consequences of unacceptable behavior
Knowing the potential consequences is a big motivating factor for emerging adults to avoid problematic behaviors. Explain the consequences that will follow unacceptable drug or alcohol use. Have your son/daughter discuss how those consequences could affect his or her life. Point out and discuss that there are alternatives choices to avoid these situations. Going through this process will help to strengthen the voice in your son/daughter’s head to mindfully make the right decisions. At the same time, knowing the consequences will help motivate choosing the best options.
3. Develop a plan for how to respond when boundaries are crossed
This is perhaps the most important step. Plan ahead what you will do if your son/daughter does cross a set boundary with drug and alcohol issues. Make sure your partner or spouse agrees. If helpful, speak with other parents or a counselor for some assistance. You will obviously hope for the best, but you must be ready if a boundary is crossed. By planning ahead, you can act decisively without letting emotions affect your thinking or discussions with your son/daughter. Letting emotions overrule your plans may lead to consequences you do not intend. Calmly and clearly restating the consequences and the result will help your son/daughter learn that you are there to help but that there are limits that must be respected. This is one of the most loving things you can teach your son/daughter.
4. Seek support for YOU
As your son/daughter transitions into adulthood, expect that there will be bumps along the way. It is normal to want to protect your family, but it is important that you recognize the difference between support and enabling or rescuing. This is a challenge every parent faces when struggling with how to hold an emerging adult accountable while loving him or her at the same time. If you feel uncomfortable setting and enforcing boundaries, seek out support. Family, friends or a professional can help. It is important to take care of yourself and get guidance if you feel unsure. You will want to be firm in maintaining your boundaries, even when it is hard.
For parents who are the front line responders to drug and alcohol issues, there is hope. Use these tips to develop healthy boundaries and seek out support as you work on making new changes. Setting and enforcing boundaries will clear away the chaos and allow peacefulness and calm to return to your life.
If you become concerned over your son/daughter’s alcohol or drug use, know that professional addiction treatment is usually the best way to get your child’s life (and your own) back on track. New Hope Recovery Center has extensive experience treating Emerging Adults with alcohol and drug addictions and can help you and your family. For more information call 773-883-3916 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trust can be strained or broken by an addiction. Restoring the trust needed to rebuild relationships takes time. There are 5 steps a recovering addict and their loved ones can take to improve the process of building trust. The first steps in restoring trust are to 1) be honest and 2) have open, frequent communication as discussed in our earlier posting. In this article, we look at the next two steps - all parties should accept accountability and set clear and healthy boundaries.
Accountability: Accountability is important on many levels. The recovering person should ask loved ones to hold them accountable if a loved one sees the addict making unsafe or non-sober choices. By inviting others to hold them accountable, the recovering person increases their support and decreases the chances of relapse. Another way accountability is important is for the addict to accept and acknowledge how their use has affected other people - only then can they identify how relationships were impacted, accept appropriate responsibility for what has occurred and move forward in the relationship with a focus on restoring balance and trust.
Loved ones must understand that they cannot “make” someone stay sober. They can be supportive and can mention unsafe and non-sober choices, but ultimately the decision of sobriety is completely with the recovering addict. Loved ones should also examine and accept any areas where they may have positively and negatively impacted the relationship or are impacting it moving forward. By accepting responsibility for their own actions, and being accountable for these actions, loved ones can begin to move forward in their lives and relationships.
Healthy Boundaries: Setting and respecting another person’s rights and boundaries promotes and restores trust. A using addict’s judgment and thinking are impaired, so they frequently make poor decisions. Once sober, loved ones must understand that the recovering person is capable of making better choices and allow room for the recovering addict to begin to make choices and decisions. It can be tempting for loved ones to continue to make all decisions for the recovering person “for their own good”. This can send a hidden message that the recovering person is not capable of making good choices, which can undermine their self-esteem and disempower them. It is important for each person to make choices and take responsibility for the choices made. Parents of emerging adults must still make important decisions until their child has the maturity and sobriety to make reasonable decisions.
Family members may have trouble letting go of responsibility for the recovering person because they don’t want to be taken advantage of, or they remember how, things were in the past. As both the recovering addict and their loved ones move toward healing, the responsibilities and boundaries must change. By engaging in open and honest communication about what each person wants and what each person fears, setting new boundaries and allowing for greater independence will be easier.
By engaging in frequent, open communication, maintaining honesty, setting healthy boundaries and taking appropriate accountability and responsibility, trust will more quickly return to the relationship.
New Hope Recovery Center is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Chicago. We lovingly treat those addicted as well as their family and friends. We understand that addiction is truly a family disease and that everyone affected must receive the support and guidance needed to heal from its consequences. If you or someone you love has had their life negatively impacted by drugs or alcohol, please call us at 773-883-3916 or via email at email@example.com.
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