What exactly are boundaries?
According to the Merriam Webster Learner’s Dictionary, boundaries are “unofficial rules about what should not be done: limits that define acceptable behavior.” For a person recovering from an addiction, boundaries are essential. They are the foundation of building healthy relationships and living a healthy life. Having effective boundaries helps develop stability, trust, and respect. Without the appropriate boundaries, a recovering addict will not be able control their own life.
Substance abuse counselor Carole Bennett, in an article she wrote for Psychology Today, explains the importance of boundaries in a very simple way. She writes, “Boundaries are scary; they are an emotional line. If there is no follow through on ramifications, your intentions are quickly dismissed as frivolous, your credibility is shot and your word is like quicksand”.
The Importance of Setting Boundaries
For many people who suffer with addiction, boundaries are often blurred, easily confused, or do not exist at all. This lack of effective boundaries leaves the addicted person open to being easily manipulated or abused. Other people may take advantage of them or put them in dangerous situations.
Once appropriate boundaries are established, they help keep the individual safe from being taken advantage of, manipulated, or abused. Because the boundary lines are no longer blurred, being placed into harm’s way becomes a thing of the past. Recovering addicts must also learn to respect other people’s boundaries.
What Are Healthy Boundaries?
Healthy boundaries are an emotional line that establishes the kinds of treatment that are acceptable and the consequences that result if the boundaries are violated. In order to formulate healthy boundaries, an individual has to consider what is best for themselves. In an article in Psych Central, Dr. David Sack explains that setting boundaries is a “process of discovering who you want to be, how you want to interact with other people, and taking responsibility for the consequences of your choices.”
Once healthy boundaries are established, a person feels more comfortable when they are expressing their emotions, feelings, or thoughts. They are able to say “no” in a way that is comfortable for them when it is necessary. By setting clear boundaries, individuals are able to be themselves instead of trying to be what others think they should be. Healthy boundaries allow a person to be able to respect and honor their own personal beliefs, values, and opinions even though others may not be in agreement with them.
Additional examples of healthy boundaries include:
- Taking full responsibility for what you think, say, and do
- Showing respect for others, including their opinions and beliefs
- Having the ability to take care of your own needs
- Establishing a sense of self
It is important to remember that everyone is different and what works for one person may not be right for another.
Examples of Unhealthy Boundaries
Unhealthy boundaries are those that may cause an individual to act in a manner that could put them in harm’s way. These types of boundaries may make it easy for a person to become a victim of abuse or act in a way that is against their own best interest. Unhealthy boundaries are sometimes referred to as weak boundaries. For example, an individual may want to please someone else. To achieve this desired outcome, they will sacrifice their own plans, personal values, or beliefs. Sometimes, feelings of being used, threatened, or mistreated by others may begin to surface. They may find it difficult to assert themselves or be unable to express their feelings or opinions regardless of how they are being treated.
The following are additional examples of how unhealthy boundaries could affect an individual:
- Feeling guilty for saying “no”
- Losing your sense of self by allowing others to tell you what to do or make all of your decisions and choices for you
- Telling others how they should act, feel, or think
- Having feelings of being pressured to take the advice of others
- Taking responsibility for how others feel
Unhealthy boundaries are sometimes a way to build emotional walls to keep others out. They can be used to keep you from expressing your feelings, thoughts, or emotions. Weak boundaries can allow you to take advantage of or manipulate others. They stop you from being the person you really are meant to be.
Learning the Skill of Establishing Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries foster healthy relationships with people that care about you. They have respect for you, support your decisions, and have your best interests at heart. Learning the skill of how to establish healthy boundaries is an essential part of an addiction recovery treatment plan.
The trained professionals at Canyon Vista Recovery Center use a combination of traditional and holistic therapies to achieve the desired outcome of sobriety for those suffering with a substance addiction. They teach the skills needed to learn how to formulate and put into effect healthy boundaries. These skills are part of the overall treatment plan, where trained professionals work with both the recovering addicts and their loved ones to establish healthy boundaries that foster the strong sense of self that is needed to live a sober, happy, and healthy life.
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