Maintaining Your Boundaries During Recovery

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With the holidays around the corner, you’re bound to be bombarded with questions and expectations. Your extended family might ask inappropriate questions about your treatment. Your friends might ask you to attend parties where substances are present. Your loved ones might ask you to give up valuable time in favor of holiday shenanigans. This all might come with a whole lot of stress and discomfort. What can you do to keep your boundaries intact while dealing with family and friends who expect you to “play nice” even at your own expense?

Knowing When to Say No

In early recovery, it’s a good idea to have a healthy and accurate understanding of your limits and boundaries. In treatment, you might learn the basics of forming boundaries, but practicing it with people you care about might still feel new and scary. It takes time to build up the confidence and positive self-image to enforce rules that keep you safe. However, over time, it’ll feel normal.

Take time to become aware of what you are or are not okay with. The period before the holidays might be a great time to think about your boundaries and consider when things are too much. How much time are you willing to give up? What type of treatment are you willing to tolerate? What are your expectations from others? What are your rights? When these expectations clash, then it’s time to say, “no.”

Recognizing Your Comfort Zone

People are constantly pushed to live outside their comfort zones, but some comfort zones are okay. Comfort zones exist to keep us safe. It’s just another way of thinking about boundaries. When you were experiencing severe addiction, you might not have been aware of what made you uncomfortable. There might have been times where you felt guilty for not being open enough. You might have accepted being treated in a way that was less than you deserved. Having others not respect our boundaries can negatively impact our self-esteem and image.

When discovering your boundaries, you need to be aware of your comfort zone. Notice what treatment makes you uncomfortable. This also includes how you treat yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable spending all of your free time with your family, think about how much time you are comfortable spending. If you don’t feel comfortable going out somewhere where substances are present, what scenario would you be more pleased with? Staying in your comfort zone, especially in early recovery, can boost your self-esteem because you’re taking time to care about how you feel.

Focusing on Self Care

Choosing to prioritize yourself isn’t selfish, especially if your priorities align with your needs. If you need time for yourself, it’s your right to take it. This includes alone time, personal hygiene, exercise, and sleep. Other people’s needs don’t come before yours. Everyone needs thirty minutes of exercise, eight hours of sleep, a space to de-stress, and time to make sure you are eating healthy food. These are perfect rigid boundaries to set.

Communicating Respectfully

It might feel frustrating when others who claim to care about you don’t respect your need for boundaries. However, not everyone has bad intentions when they aren’t respecting them. Some might be completely unaware that they violate boundaries or ask too much from you. That is why it’s best to communicate your limits clearly and respectfully. If your friends want you to be the designated driver at a party that you’re not interested in going to, simply tell them, “No thanks, I’d rather stay in.” If they push it, explain, “I don’t feel comfortable being around substances this early in my recovery.” It might feel scary being honest with your friends, or you might feel like a stick in the mud, but your personal safety is still understandable and always relevant.

Setting Boundaries Takes Practice

You might not get it right at first. There might be times where you allow your boundaries to be disrespected and trampled on. However, don’t take this as a sign of failure, but rather that you still need to practice enforcing your own rules. It can hurt to have your boundaries violated, but remember that you are a person deserving of respect. Reassess your limitations and where to draw the line.

If you have a friend or family member who consistently violates your boundaries and doesn’t reciprocate respect, that might be someone to consider cutting out of your life. Making this call can be difficult, especially if you aren’t commonly assertive. Still, over time as you set your boundaries and keep them, you’ll keep the people who do respect you and your boundaries close, and over time those who don’t respect you won’t be in your life.

Setting boundaries and maintaining them requires a level of self-respect that takes time to develop. In early recovery, it can be hard to keep and enforce boundaries. However, as your self-esteem grows, you’ll find it easier to draw the line. Focus first and foremost on self-care. It’s easier to justify prioritizing your needs when saying “no” to things far from your comfort zone. You don’t want to go out to that party because you need sleep. You aren’t interested in spending time with that uncle you don’t like because you have a class you’re paying for, and you can’t miss it. Boundaries exist to keep you safe.

At Jaywalker Lodge, our therapists teach our clients about boundaries. If you’ve gone through treatment, you’ve probably learned about the importance of boundaries, but enforcing them is a whole other game. To learn more about how to set healthy boundaries, call us today at (866) 5299255

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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