A relationship without boundaries can turn out to serve more harm than good. Boundaries are an essential part of any type of relationship. When someone you love is an addict, setting boundaries can go a long way in determining the quality of your relationship with that person.
Addiction changes people. Therefore, setting good boundaries can help clear the blurry lines between being a good support system or ending up in a codependent relationship. Without boundaries, the relationship can become toxic very quickly. An individual addicted to a substance doesn’t care about love, social interaction or family. His/her main focus becomes their substance of choice. That is all they care and think about.
An addicted person cannot be blamed for the way he/she behaves especially where relationships are concerned. It is psychological. The inability to stop consuming that substance makes them totally dependent on it. This can cause some uncontrolled habits and irrational behaviours.
Being physically and emotionally available to an addicted loved one can seem motivational. You feel needed and have a sense of responsibility for the addicted person. However, this can be detrimental to your relationship. This usually ends up being one-sided because the other person is not able to give back in the relationship.
Don’t get it wrong. Setting boundaries does not necessarily mean cutting your loved one out of your life completely. It just means you have to draw a line and step back a little. This will prevent your loved one from harming you or taking advantage of you. Plus, you will be physically and emotionally available for him/her when he finally recovers from the addiction.
This article contains vital information that will teach Canada residents how to set boundaries for addicted ones.
Related article: Does Family Counselling for Addiction Work?
What is an addiction?
This is a form of brain disorder associated with an uncontrollable craving for a substance so as to achieve an instant gratification without thinking of the consequences. It is usually characterized by the inability to stop consuming a particular substance or activity.
Studies have shown that 21.6% of Canadian citizens meet the criteria for drug abuse. According to the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey carried out some years back, results showed that an estimate of 8 million Canadian citizens is suffering from addiction.
It is total dependence on a drug, chemical, substance or activity irrespective of the psychological and physical damage it causes. It is not every addiction that is related to drug and chemical consumption. Some addictions are mainly activities such as eating, working, or gambling. In these situations, the addicts can’t stop partaking in these activities.
It is a chronic disease and it is life-damaging. An addicted person is totally cut off from social engagements, family and friends, they need the substance to survive each day. Addiction changes the way the brain responds to signals. Whenever there is a physical reaction to something, the neurotransmitters carry the signals to the brain. They are like messengers.
The brain then interprets these signals as either sleep, appetite, fear, pleasure etc. The chemicals in drugs and alcohol affect the functions of these transmitters. It heightens the fear and pleasure signals and tricks the brain into believing that it needs the substance to survive. Major psychological and physical effects of addiction are temporary memory loss, paranoia, mood swings, confusion, weight loss and lack of personal hygiene.
Dealing with an addict in the family can be very frustrating. However, setting boundaries for a loved one can put the situation under control. The next section tells you exactly what it means to set boundaries.
Related article: Sober Living: Is It Worth It?
What does it mean to set boundaries?
Setting boundaries for your loved one requires you to set limits to the things you will put up within your home or relationship. It involves you making a decision of the things you will and will not allow and sticking by it.
Majority of parents and guardians in Canada have complained that it seems like a mean thing to do. This is quite understandable especially when you know the addict is sick and needs medical and psychological help.
However, if you don’t do it, you are creating room for your addicted loved one to harm you and your relationship.
Boundary setting is a great strategy to employ if you want your loved one suffering from addiction to start taking responsibility for his or her actions. It is paramount that you set consequences if the boundary is violated. Make sure that you set feasible limitations. Demanding that the addicts stop their addiction is totally setting yourself up for failure.
Set boundaries that are achievable. Make sure you communicate it to your loved one clearly. Make them understand the consequences if breached. The last thing you want to do is to become an enabler. You do not under any circumstances want to enable the continuity of the addiction. You can control the situation by setting concrete boundaries.
A good example of a concrete boundary is banning all drug-using friends from visiting. Once the addict sees that you are keen on your boundaries, it is likely that he/she starts considering addiction treatment.
Sticking to boundaries.
Having to live and put up with an addict can be a very complicated living situation. Especially when the mood swings, paranoia and cravings kick in, it can be a handful. It is normal to feel guilty at first with the boundaries but you need to understand that it is okay to want some sanity in your home. You deserve some respect and appropriate behaviour from everyone living in your home including your addicted loved one.
It is not just about setting boundaries, they must not be breached. If not, it will all just be a waste of time. Sticking to boundaries can be a little bit difficult especially when the one you are dealing with is a close relative. However, it is possible to set strict boundaries and stick by them. First, begin by asking yourself these questions: What is the best thing to do for my addicted loved one? How can I show care without being an enabler?
Once you are able to provide sincere answers to these questions, you will realize that it is best to set concrete boundaries and stick to them. Do not set boundaries when you are angry or triggered by the actions of your addicted loved one. If you do that, you will end up setting unrealistic boundaries and will not be able to follow them through. For example, threatening to throw your loved one out of the house is not necessarily the best thing to do.
Make sure you are in a calm state of mind when you are setting your boundaries. Be prepared to commit and be consistent. Here are some tips to help you stick to the boundaries you set:
Educate yourself on addiction
Don’t get drowned with confusion. Be informed on this disease and how it can affect the addict. Understand the psychological, emotional and physical impact it has on the addict. Come to terms with the powers addiction has over an individual. It is beyond your loved one’s power unless they are taken to rehab for addiction treatment.
Be aware of the behavioural pattern
Learn more about the behaviours associated with addiction. It will give you a wider view and help you understand why those suffering from addiction do what they do. For example, it will help you understand why they steal, lie, cheat, become abusive and hurt the ones they love.
As much as possible, don’t expect your addicted love done to change overnight. Start with the boundaries. Be firm, consistent yet loving. Understand that changes take time and these habits are difficult to stop.
Be aware of the risks of being an enabler
With the rising numbers of hospitalized addicts in Canada, you do not want to put yourself in a compromising position by being an enabler.
Addicts can become violent and unstable. Not sticking to boundaries will give room for increased substance consumption which is very detrimental to your loved one. Learn more about why it is never a good call to be an enabler.
Related article: 6 Warning Signs of Relapse
Tips for setting boundaries
Addict or not, boundaries are essential to creating and maintaining healthy relationships. When an addict is involved, boundaries are the key to establishing guidelines for responsibilities actions and behaviours.
Without boundaries, you can easily be hurt, lied to and cheated on. You will literally lose your freedom and sanity. Therefore, it is high time you recognized your wants and needs, what you’d accept and not tolerate.
Confused on how to set boundaries? No need to worry, we’ll go through a few tips to help you achieve a rock-solid effective boundary. Remember the goal is to make your addicted loved one seek help.
Take a stand
Let your no mean no. Addicts can be selfish and manipulative. All they think about is themselves, and how to get a hold of their chosen substance. Instant gratification is all they seek and they must get it by all means even if it means being deceitful and manipulative.
When they come to you for help, it often the substance reaching out through them, not that person. So, when you say NO, do not falter. Addicts are often known to beg, question your love for them and use hurtful behaviour to get what they want. So even when your loved one is trying to play the guilt card on you, take your stand. You love him/her too much to concede to his/her demand.
Make sure your loved one has a sense of responsibility
It is very easy to feel a sense of guilt when your loved one is in pain or needs help especially financial favours. However, you know that giving them that money to get that substance is destroying their health. Addiction is a complex neuro-disorder which often arises as a result of various factors.
Some of these factors include childhood abuse, peer pressure, stress or it could be a coping mechanism to deal with past trauma. Either way, they made that choice. So, you do not have to feel guilty or ashamed because that choice is not on you!
The number one factor contributing to addiction in Canada is prolonged exposure to a substance or activity. Most times, family members are not in control of the choices their loved ones make. However, remember that they have a choice. The sole responsibility of deciding to go to rehab to get help solely falls on them. It requires willpower and motivation. You can be there to offer love and care to facilitate the process but do not take responsibility for the pain someone else is causing to himself/herself. They have the power to choose.
Let your love come with limitations
When you have an addicted loved one, it is very easy to be sold out to taking care of them. You give all of yourself to ensure that they get better. You can dedicate all of your time and energy to covering up for them, cleaning their messes, picking them up, bailing them out, driving them somewhere etc. You become totally invested in someone who is not capable to give back to that relationship.
As time goes by, the addict becomes more demanding, all your time and effort goes unappreciated and you can end up being frustrated. Detaching with love is the perfect way to regain yourself. Put yourself first. Take good care of yourself, then you can care for your loved one without losing it all. If putting yourself first means you will be unavailable, so be it.
Say no to drugs or alcohol in your home
It should be a ground house rule that whenever addicts are within the confines of your home, they are not allowed to drink. This should be established irrespective of whether they consume it outside the house or not. When they are taking their medication, you must be there to watch and prevent an overdose.
Attend addiction recovery meetings with them. Walk them through safety precautions of using drugs. The no-alcohol and drugs house rule should also extend to visitors. No drug-using friend is allowed in your home. Take a stand today.
Related article: Family Addiction Programs
Drug addiction recovery is a difficult process for both you and your addicted loved one. This is the more reason why the importance of setting boundaries cannot be overlooked. With quality boundaries in place, you are excluded from the emotional roller coaster accompanied by dealing with an addict.
Your focus will be on yourself and your well-being even while giving care to your addicted loved one. Remember to hold-firm on your words. Do not waver. Eventually, your loved one will be forced to start taking responsibility for his/her actions, causing him/ her to seek recovery.