Setting boundaries is a part of everyday life, but it is especially critical for those in recovery. Boundaries that are too rigid or too lax can both be damaging in their own ways. Early in life, boundaries can have a profound impact on a child’s personality and relationships in the future. Strict boundaries may cause them to suppress emotions or have distant relationships, while lax boundaries can make it difficult for them to develop identities or a sense of responsibility, something that is especially important for young adults at this point in their life.
Boundaries are a two-way street; however, and while you must be comfortable with establishing your own, you must also respect your child’s boundaries. This is critical in the development of healthy relationships and is important to address in addiction treatment.
How to Set Boundaries With Your Teen
When a young adult is addicted to drugs or alcohol, establishing boundaries may be one of the few ways you can help. Enabling your child’s behaviors will not motivate them to seek help. Instead, by setting boundaries and clear-cut consequences should they be violated, teens who struggle with addiction may finally realize they are in need of help.
Preventing your child from experiencing the full weight of the consequences of addiction can make it nearly impossible for them to understand the amount of danger they put themselves and others in. Often times, the needs of the family suffer as the needs of the young adult take precedence. This can create resentment and further damage already fragile relationships. Setting boundaries can help remove some of that stress and allow family members to regain some control over their own lives.
Healthy Boundaries in Teen Addiction Recovery
Healthy boundaries require you to consider what is best for you. What may work for you might be too intrusive for others. Before establishing boundaries, there are numerous things to remember:
- You have a right to your personal feelings, values, and beliefs
- It is important to identify underlying emotions to have meaningful interactions; this encourages honest, direct communication
- In addition to setting expectations for how you want to be treated, set limits as well; for example, you might choose to be around only sober people
- If your boundaries are violated, it’s okay to speak up; it’s okay to say “no” or express if something is not right
- Trust your instincts when you are unsure about whether or not your boundaries are being pushed
- Defend your boundaries; there will be times when they will be tested
Unhealthy Boundaries in Teen Addiction Recovery
Unhealthy boundaries, or weak boundaries, can be revealed in a variety of ways. They may cause a person to act against their own best interest or become victims of mistreatment or abuse. Examples of this may include:
- Sacrificing personal values or plans to please someone else
- Allowing others to define them by making decisions and choices for them
- Feeling guilty for saying “no”
- Feeling used, mistreated, or threatened by others
- Hesitation in expressing opinions or asserting themselves
- Feeling pressured to take others’ advice
- Taking responsibility for the feelings of others
- Telling others how they should think, feel, or act
The Relationship Between Boundaries and Consequences
Boundaries are accompanied by consequences. Consequences must be something you are willing to enforce. If you have expressed your boundaries and set limits regarding certain behaviors, you must also establish consequences. In recovery, one common boundary limits and provides consequences for others’ use of substances. In order to protect sobriety, boundaries must be in place to avoid enabling peers and environments. Unfortunately, you cannot control the boundaries of your child, which is why it is important to establish concrete consequences and enforce them when necessary. If they continue to put themselves in danger of relapse, they must be willing to reclaim responsibility and ownership over their own life and sobriety.
Check out the video below by Dr. Holly Daniels about Healthy Boundaries for those in Recovery.
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Additional Benefits of Setting Boundaries in Recovery
Reconciliation With Loved Ones: One of the most difficult parts of recovery for many is reconciling with loved ones. The negative behaviors that accompany substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly damaging for relationships and difficult to overcome. Boundaries play a role in this as well. They can help loved ones learn to take responsibility for their actions while simultaneously protecting others who are involved or close to the situation.
Eliminating Negative Influences: Just as it is important for family and friends to set boundaries, it is important for the person in recovery to do so as well. Setting boundaries can help eliminate negative influences and protect sobriety. While some boundaries can be difficult to enforce, such as those with old friends, it is imperative to learn how to say “no” and end relationships with those who threaten your recovery. Focusing on getting regular exercise, proper nutrition, support, and developing relationships with sober peers can help strengthen boundaries.
What To Do When Boundary Setting Doesn’t Work
At this stage in their lives, learning how to establish healthy boundaries is critical for a young adult or teen’s addiction recovery. It can strengthen their relationship with their family and help them build the confidence they need to maintain their sobriety. If you feel your boundaries are constantly being broken, and consequence are not proving to have an effect on your child, it could be time to talk to someone about treatment.
It’s because of these age-specific needs that young adult drug treatment can be more effective than an all-ages recovery program. Click here to find out more about the benefits of young adult treatment centers.