Now that we have discussed self care and being a loving person, it’s time to get to something that’s even a bit more challenging for some of us: setting boundaries with the addict. This is actually different than getting to the end of your rope and throwing the bum out. Though it may include telling your loved one to leave, boundary setting in recovery is about figuring out what you can and can’t live with and letting the addict know your limits, hopefully before you get to the point of total desparation and hatred….

To figure out what boundaries you might set, think of your life with the addict.

Are they actively using drugs or alcohol or, if you are not sure, are you suspicious that they might be?

If your answer is yes, how is their using affecting their life AND YOURS? Are things at all out of control? Do they have a job? Are they taking care of all of their responsibilities or are you?

Are you supporting them in any way? Giving them any money? Paying their rent? Making their car or car insurance payments? Are they living in your house? Are you feeding them? Buying their clothing? Taking them and their friends/family out to dinner? Giving them spending money?

In other words, are you taking care of responsibilities they should be taking care of, thus freeing up any little bit of free money they may have for their drugs or alcohol?

If so, you may want to look at that for a couple of reasons.

One, your help, which could be called enabling (see a future blog entry for more on that), may be helping to kill them.

Two, by taking care of responsibilities they are capable of taking care of on their own, you are stripping them of the satisfaction of being fully adult members of society. And while it is certainly your right to do so, is that really the contribution you want to make to their life or to society as a whole?

Being in relationship with a using person means having to make some tough decisions.

Are you being woken up in the middle of the night by someone coming in late after partying and making lots of noise? Are you having a hard time falling asleep because they don’t come in until very late and this makes it hard to have a good night’s sleep to prepare you for the next day? Do you find your food gone in the morning after someone who had a huge case of the munchies ate it all up overnight? Are you working while your addict is hanging out at the house all day and yet you are the one keeping the place clean, doing all of the cooking and cleaning? Is money disappearing? Are you missing jewelry? pictures or other precious belongings?

Setting boundaries means setting ground rules others around you need to follow if they want to be in relationship with you. Boundaries are designed to make your life better, safer, more enjoyable. They put you less at the mercy of other people’s moods or whims. When you set boundaries that work for you, you can breathe easier, life gets simpler and those around you begin to have to take care of their own responsibilities more.

So as you can see, boundary setting is good for you AND for the addict, though they may not think so and doing so may be the hardest thing you have ever done…

That’s why you’ll want to read about the fourth foundation of family recovery: getting support! Come back tomorrow and let’s talk about that one together. In the meantime, send me your comments or questions or give me a hollar through the Contact Us button above.

Looking forward to seeing you In The Rooms!

All the best,

Coach Bev

Beverly A. Buncher, MA, CEC

Family Recovery Coach




  • http://facebook Kat

    totally going through the whole setting boundary thing now and hopefully gunna stick with it because i’ve broken alot of boundaries i’ve set and it did nothing but hurt me in the end and i really feel as if this is the right move for me

  • Donette Mcvea

    We are truly blessed to have you writing and sharing.

  • http://www.nar-anon.org Tish4naranon

    NAR-ANON FAMILY GROUPS is a support program for the friends and families of addicts. Together we learn how to set healthy boundaries of self-protection (boundaries are not about punishing others, but rather, protecting ourselves from the chaos and insanity that addiction brings into our lives.

    Please refer to our World Service Office website for meeting information (in any locale around the world): information changes constantly and this is the “only” way to make sure you’re looking at current info: http://www.nar-anon.org

    Also, please know that we have a Nar-Anon Family Forum: http://www.naranon.com/forum

    No matter your situation, Nar-Anon can help you get through it!