Setting emotional boundaries is important for fostering healthy relationships. It is especially important to have boundaries with your friends and family during your recovery. Boundaries can help you maintain independence, privacy, and self-care. Setting boundaries is all about saying “no” when you need to. If you are too exhausted to participate in an activity, too upset to talk about a particular experience, or don’t have the emotional energy to give a friend advice you are not obligated to. Taking care of your own emotional needs should always come first during recovery. It can become impossible to manage your own emotional needs if you are stretched too thin.
Identifying Unhealthy Boundaries
Setting boundaries is about respect for yourself and others. While it’s good to be able to rely on people for support and for others to be able to rely on you, everyone has their emotional limits. Identifying boundaries requires you and your loved ones to be mindful of each other’s limits. If you find yourself leaning on one person a lot or if you notice that a friend seems exhausted or drained, you might want to ask that friend if you have been overstepping their boundaries. It’s important to be respectful when people might need to take a step away from being your emotional support. When people are dealing with stressful situations or are struggling to manage their own feelings, it might be necessary for them to pull away from other people in order to manage their own hardships. This is why it’s important to have multiple people in your support system, including support groups and therapy groups.
On the other hand, if someone is taking your help for granted, it might be necessary for you to establish some clear boundaries with that person. You can identify people who are overstepping your boundaries by noticing the effect that lending your support is having on your mental health. If the idea of lending your support to someone begins to overwhelm you, or if you feel like you can’t accomplish your own goals because you are constantly pushing your schedule aside to be there for a friend or family member, then it might be necessary for you to establish your boundaries. Over-extending your emotional energy can make you too exhausted to manage your own stress and emotions. If a person is particularly demanding of your time, it might be difficult to maintain self-care or other healthy habits. Your health must come first before you can be able to help other people.
Having an open dialogue with friends and family members can create a healthy, pressure-free space to talk about your role in each others’ relationships, your feelings, and expectations for one another. You will want to communicate what you both want from your relationship and what you have the capacity to give. This will clarify both of your boundaries. Talking about boundaries also might make it easier to say “no” to helping someone when you’re emotionally unavailable because discussing that you might have to say “no” beforehand can make it feel like more of a real option.
It’s important for both you and your friends or family to understand the importance of respecting each other’s boundaries and leave space to change the boundaries in your relationship as needed, depending on both of your circumstances. There may be times when you have more boundaries than a friend or vice versa. Emotional needs will frequently shift and it’s important to adjust boundaries to meet these changes.
Sometimes creating boundaries requires learning a new habit, especially if someone is used to relying on another person’s support. Creating new habits may require time and patience. However, it’s important that you uphold your boundary, otherwise, it will be easier for someone to ignore it. On the other hand, if someone sets a boundary with you and you aren’t sure if you have crossed it, ask them to specify what their boundaries are.
Cutting Out Toxic Relationships
If a person routinely does not respect your boundaries, it might not be a relationship worth keeping. However, it could just be a miscommunication. If you aren’t sure if someone in your life is understanding your boundaries correctly, ask them what they think your boundaries are and clarify any misunderstandings. If you’ve talked to a person multiple times and you’re still having issues with the person disregarding your feelings, then it may be time to cut ties. Remember that you are never obligated to help someone, especially when you don’t have the energy to spare.
A Healthy Recovery
During your recovery, people might have a lot of questions for you about your treatment or your struggle with addiction. It’s okay to tell people about your experiences at your own pace. There may be people who aren’t worth telling your stories to at all. It’s also natural to be guarded about experiences that are particularly emotional. However, it’s important to remember that your substance use disorder may have impacted people in your life and that those people might be going through their own emotional struggles surrounding events caused by your addiction. Sometimes it might be necessary to have difficult conversations with people, but it’s okay to want to have those conversations at a time and in a space where you feel safe.
Setting boundaries requires communication about your and your loved ones’ emotional health and the expectations that you have for one another. While setting boundaries may be a difficult conversation to have, especially with someone who relies a lot on your support, it’s important to prioritize your own emotional needs. Managing your emotions is important for your recovery journey and the people in your life need to be able to respect this.
At Shoreline Recovery Center, we believe in creating an environment where our clients can build friendships with open-minded people who may be suffering from similar struggles. We encourage patients to connect with their peers in order to build themselves a better support system. Our Shoreline professionals also offer family therapy in order to improve communication with patient’s at-home support systems. If you or a loved one is suffering from substance use, please call us at (866) 278-8495 to learn more about our programs.