Ask4Recovery – 6/11/13 – How do I set proper boundaries in my recovery?

Hello friends! Today’s Ask…                       

How do I set proper boundaries in my recovery?

Ah, the question of boundaries. This can be a hard one.  The definition of boundary is ‘something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.’ I had no idea what boundaries were before I started on the road to recovery. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. The concept of setting boundaries was a foreign concept for me. They were blurred and nonexistent. When I was active in my addictions, people were like toys and I used them to manipulate to get exactly what I wanted from them. Ultimately, that is how I felt about myself as well. I was so far from living my truth and constantly manipulated and rationalized the destruction caused by my addictions. My loved ones bore the brunt of this. I expected them to be at my beckon call when I needed them and then blocked them out of my life as soon as I got what I wanted from them. I had no respect or regard for others, but most importantly, did not have any respect for myself. I had no identity and thus, had the inability to set proper boundaries, to assert myself, to express my feelings, or to effectively communicate. My relationships became enmeshed and my self-worth was very low.

Throughout my recovery I have learned what it means to set boundaries. I have learned that I can’t force my will onto others. I have also learned that it is okay to say no and not exert myself in every capacity to appease others. I have learned the meaning of ‘accepting others limitations.’ There are still times when I want someone to do something the way I want them to. Or to react a way I want them to. These expectations are just resentments waiting to happen. With the concept of boundaries comes the concept of acceptance. Acceptance of the person you are and honoring that person in each moment. With that honor comes a sense of identity and the ability to set proper boundaries. This is all a work in progress and I am learning something new about my boundary setting each day. The difference is now, I am aware and have the self-worth to set effective boundaries. Without admittance of powerlessness and surrendering to my addictions, none of this would have been possible!

How do you set proper boundaries? What has worked for you in your recovery? Let us know and join the movement!

Sending love,




6 thoughts on “Ask4Recovery – 6/11/13 – How do I set proper boundaries in my recovery?

  1. Like you said in addiction I had no limits or boundries.It took me a long time to figure what they were or even how I could put them in place.People pleasing insecuriy and confrontation avoidance were my biggest reasons to use.Growing up there was a lack of discipline and encouragement and when not taught young that you cannot have everything you want ,led me to believe that what I want when I want it was ok and we all know that was a recipie for diaster.Without boundries we are destined to travel further than we should into no mans land.

  2. Last night was the first time I was able to say no, and feel good about it, when my ex and I had made plans and she called me 3 hours late wasted and begged me to come over. Here is what I messaged her after she changed from begging to victimization, telling me how terrible and difficult I was and so on and so forth then hanging up on me because I wasn’t reacting the way she wanted me to.

    I was looking foreward to tonight, but I need to talk about everything with you when we are both completely sober. It won’t be a clear conversation. It’s alright, just please be safe tonight. I’m sorry that my actions made you feel victimized. I love you and I’m the only one that knows how much and no matter what i say you cannot see it right now. I can’t control the fact that you were hurt by the decisions I made. I would if I could. The only one that can is you. I hope we can find time to gain clarity in our situation soon. This is hard, I know. It’s really fucking hard for me because i have to feel everything full force with no way to numb or alter it. We are in different places in our lives and that’s okay. I can only pray that you find peace, security, and love for yourself. You are a strong beautiful girl that I love so fucking much. That is why I cannot be with you tonight. If I could make you understand I would. In time I believe you will. Goodnight

    Yesterday was my 6 month sober anniversary. The day before that was the first time I went to an AA meeting for myself and not to appease anyone else. About 1 month without her and I being sober together. She started drinking at the end of our relationship and as hard and painful as it is for me to see, it’s been a positive push for me to make efforts to make the boundaries I need for my recovery and stick to them!

    • Kyle – amazing! The way you expressed yourself was beautiful and it seems like you are being so true to yourself. It is a wonderful feeling as we begin to have self-worth and define ourselves outside of our addictions. Thanks for the input! You are a wonderful member of this community!

  3. Addicts, have problems with boundaries. Commonly people talk about “setting boundaries” — addicts talk about it constantly — but I think in my own journey in recovery I started throwing the lingo around before I was absolutely clear what it meant. I wasn’t “wrong” in my understanding of the terms and concepts — but I wasn’t clear.

    So first, let’s get clear on the “what it is” part:

    A boundary is a limit. “This is what I will do. This is what I won’t do. This is what I will not allow in my life. This is what I will not allow you to say to me. This is what I will not allow you to do to me. This is what I will accept from you. This is what I won’t accept from you.” It is a clear statement that says “No” to some behavior (an action or an inaction) from another person in any context, be it love, family, work, school, etc. And then it is the calm, consistent enforcement of that statement.

    These are my boundaries:

    Other people’s behavior does not dictate my behavior. If you lie to me I still speak the truth to you. If you steal from me I do not steal from you. My ethics and my principles are not changed by my anger or my fear, nor are they flexible in the context of “standing up for myself” (which in some situations is just “retaliation” in recovery drag.) You don’t get to decide how I behave by the way you behave.
    You can spoil your day — that’s up to you — but you can’t spoil mine — that’s up to me.
    If you want to behave badly that’s on you. But I’m not going to be part of it. I leave or you leave if you want to behave in a toxic or hurtful (to me, to you, or to an innocent bystander) manner.
    Helping someone is not the same as enabling someone. Generally I do not shield people from the consequences of their actions (or their inactions), and I do not expect them to shield me from the consequences of mine. I most especially do not shield an addict from the consequences of their using.
    I won’t support other people’s lies.
    I will not allow people to abuse me verbally, emotionally, mentally or physically — and while I am not responsible for the whole world around me, I will not sit idly by when others are being abused.
    Some of the above are inspired by what I’ve heard in NA meetings, and have become a part of how I try to move in the direction of spiritual principles Some I’ve learned from working the Steps, some from working with sponsors, some I learned from the work of our fore bearers — and some I learned the hard way, that is, by not having the boundary and thus being beat up and beat down — and then beat down some more. Because believe me, if you can’t set boundaries then every Crazy you meet has an All-Access Pass to every area of your life. (And an addict without boundaries is a resentment machine.)

    I’m not a superhero (much as I like to wear a cape now and then). Absolutely I miss the mark on these some days. And sometimes when I’m not spiritually fit I get confused as to my part in a situation, and then how to set and keep healthy boundaries feels complicated and overwhelming. (Tenth Step, anyone?)

    But if I start from clarity — if I know what a boundary is and consequently then what my boundaries are — I’m in a much better place to cope with things as they come at me.

    Or, to put it another way: As life hands me its lumps and miracles I’m going to be a lot more graceful in accepting both.


  4. I just learned so much from your post and I am sure all the members of the Ask4Recovery community did as well! I love how you say ‘As life hands me its lumps and miracles I’m going to be a lot more graceful in accepting both.’ All about perception. And once we have that clarity, things get much better! xo L

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