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Healthy Boundaries: Supporting Your Loved Ones in Recovery

Substance use disorder is something that impacts everyone in the wake of the disease…especially family members, close friends, and loved ones. When someone you love is suffering from the disease, they act in ways they would not typically act under normal circumstances. This can consume your life, and can often make family life feel unmanageable.

Establishing boundaries is an incredibly powerful way to manage the way that substance use disorder impacts your family life. Healthy boundaries help establish guidelines for living and relating to others. If they are reasonable and clearly communicated, they provide security for everyone involved. Boundaries prepare you for what to expect in your relationships, and likewise, what might occur if that expectation is not met.

What are boundaries and why are they important?

When a loved one is active in their disease, everything in life can begin to blend together. Their problems become your own, and the line between where their suffering ends and yours begins can become undetectable. A boundary must be something that is measurable and specific, reasonable, and enforceable.

Boundaries allow you to detach with love–not from the individual, but from the disease itself. When you detach with love, you stop protecting the disease. Boundaries provide you with a sense of individuality and allow you to focus on your feelings, problems, and needs, which ultimately allows you to better support your loved one in need.

Recovery is multi-faceted, one component being the recovery and healing of the family. Communication, vulnerability, and strong boundaries are some of the most important components of family recovery.

What should you set boundaries around?

The need for specific boundaries can vary, but here are some helpful things to think about when assessing your personal situation:

  1. How will you allow others to treat you?
    This protects you from being harmed by others.
  1. How will you treat others?
    This protects others from being harmed by you.
  1. How will you treat yourself?
    This allows you to regulate your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Some examples of specific boundaries are:

  • No substances, nor persons under the influence are allowed in the house
  • No disrespect is tolerated
  • I will not purchase alcohol or substances for you (your loved one)
  • I will not give you money for said substances

Base boundaries off of how you feel…

You will know a boundary has been violated based on your emotions. What specific things make you feel anxious, upset, or stressed? These are the things that you should be working to set boundaries around.

Have an open and honest talk as a family with your loved one

It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Establish open communication with your loved one in recovery, or in active use, and make your boundaries clear to them. State your parameters, and the consequences that will occur should those boundaries be violated. For example, if you tell your loved one that no drugs or alcohol are allowed in your home, they must honor that. You might convey to them that if they violate this boundary, they must find somewhere else to stay.

Because the disease feeds on gray areas, loopholes, and blurred lines, make your expectations as clear as possible.

Seek additional support

One of the ways to heal yourself is to take the time to do so. When a loved one is suffering, it can become so ingrained in you to help them that you forget to help yourself. Though often forgotten, self-care makes you more sensitive to the needs of others and ourselves. Do things that support your personal well-being—pray, meditate, paint, exercise, etc.

As you work to take care of yourself and support your loved one in recovery or in need of recovery, seek the collective wisdom and support of a 12 Step group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. To find a meeting in your area, visit https://al-anon.org/ or https://www.nar-anon.org/find-a-meeting


For more information, resources, and encouragement, ‘like’ the Fellowship Hall Facebook page and follow us on Instagram at @FellowshipHallNC.

About Fellowship Hall

Fellowship Hall is a 99-bed, private, not-for-profit alcohol and drug treatment center located on 120 tranquil acres in Greensboro, N.C. We provide treatment and evidence-based programs built upon the Twelve-Step model of recovery. We have been accredited by The Joint Commission since 1974 as a specialty hospital and are a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. We are committed to providing exceptional, compassionate care to every individual we serve.