Woman facing away from drinking man struggling with how to set boundaries with an alcoholic

3 Steps for Setting Healthy Boundaries With an Alcoholic

Setting healthy boundaries with an alcoholic can be one of the most difficult and daunting tasks to take on. It’s important to understand that even though you may love and care for the person, their addiction is out of your control. However, it’s also very important to remember that while it’s okay to be supportive of the person, you must also make sure to take care of yourself first.

The alcohol rehab center at Promises Behavioral Health offers a family therapy program that can help you rebuild your relationships and establish healthy boundaries. Call 844.875.5609 for more information today.

Why Is Setting Healthy Boundaries Important?

Setting healthy boundaries with an alcoholic or addict is important for many reasons. Boundaries are a way of establishing respect, both for yourself and for the alcoholic or addict. They help to create a safe and secure environment in which the person struggling with addiction can take steps toward recovery without feeling overwhelmed. Healthy boundaries can also help protect you from enabling behaviors that could lead to a relapse. By setting boundaries, you can help the alcoholic or addict stay accountable for their behavior and make it easier for them to get the help they need. 

Additionally, setting healthy boundaries can provide a sense of stability in your relationship with someone struggling with addiction. By understanding what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t, both parties can better communicate respectfully and maintain healthier relationships. Ultimately, setting healthy boundaries with an alcoholic or addict is essential for protecting yourself, building trust, and helping the person struggling with addiction get on the path to successful recovery. 

3 Steps for Setting Healthy Boundaries With an Alcoholic

It can be challenging to establish healthy boundaries with an alcoholic. The first step should always be determining for yourself what behavior is unacceptable to you. Then, set the consequences for when that boundary is crossed, and learn to detach with love when your boundaries are not respected.

1. Determine What Behavior Is Unacceptable

The first place to start in setting boundaries with an addict is to figure out what behavior you find unacceptable. Over the course of the next week or month, write down problematic behaviors that you observe. Does this person make belittling comments? Are they rude to you? Are they late again and again? Or are they emotionally or physically abusive? Of these behaviors, what is unacceptable to you? What are you unwilling to live with?

Many behaviors fall into gray areas. That’s what makes this activity more complicated than it seems at first. Give yourself some time and make observations rather than just moving on to the next step. Additionally, making this list might also help you to better observe what common arguments you have with your addicted loved one. When you know that, you can try to avoid or diffuse future arguments.

2. Set the Consequences for When Your Addicted Loved One Crosses Your Boundaries

Now that you know what behavior is unacceptable to you, figure out some reasonable consequences if these boundaries are crossed. Setting boundaries with an addict is actually the easy part; it is enforcing them that is challenging. So many self-help articles on setting boundaries simply advise pointing out to the alcoholic or addict when they have crossed the line. Truthfully, this is not very effective, as you’ve no doubt already told the alcoholic a million times not to be late or not to drive drunk or whatnot. In fact, you’ve probably asked every which way possible to the point of becoming a nag. A boundary without a consequence is worthless.

3. Detach with Love

Some of the consequences will involve distancing yourself, and this is important. While it can be very painful to do, it is perfectly acceptable to tell them that you love them, but you cannot be around them while they are drinking or using. Al-Anon, a support group for friends and family of alcoholics, pioneered a concept they call detachment with love. This doesn’t mean you file for divorce the next time your spouse shows up late after drinking if that’s where you drew the boundary. It does mean you treat the alcoholic or addict with love while you step away from their toxic behaviors.

In this vein, some of the best consequences may involve creating distance between the addict and yourself. For example, if the person is late, don’t call and nag. Wait fifteen minutes and then move on without them. If the person is being rude or calling you names, go to a friend’s house. If you discover the person has lied to you, calmly confront them about it and disengage from whatever the lie was about. For example, if they lied about spending the grocery money, opened a separate bank account, and didn’t co-mingle funds anymore.

It is also important to remember that setting boundaries won’t always save the relationship. In time, you may find you rely on your addicted loved one less and less as you continue to enforce your boundaries. Separations may result. This may be difficult and painful, but soft, meaningless boundaries only enable addiction. In other words, having strong boundaries is not only the healthiest thing for you, but it’s also the best thing for your addicted loved one. The sooner they are forced to accept responsibility for their actions, the sooner they might be motivated to seek help and change.

Getting a Loved One Help for Alcohol Addiction 

When a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, it can be difficult to know where to turn for help. The good news is that many resources are available, and getting the proper support can lead to positive changes and lasting recovery. Here are some of the benefits of seeking professional assistance for alcohol addiction: 

  • Improved health – With professional help, individuals can take steps towards better health and well-being. This includes improved mental and physical health, as well as a balanced lifestyle.
  • Stronger relationships – Addiction can damage relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Seeking help for alcohol addiction can lead to stronger connections and healthier communication in those relationships.
  • Increased productivity – Once help is sought and recovery begins, individuals can achieve more. Professional treatment can lead to improved performance at work or school and help create a stronger sense of purpose in life. 
  • Reduced stress – Working with addiction specialists can reduce the strain that comes from living with an alcohol problem. With the right help, individuals can learn ways to cope with stress and lead a more balanced life.
  • Long-term sobriety – The most important benefit of seeking professional help for alcohol addiction is the potential for long-term sobriety. With treatment, individuals gain access to the resources they need to create a healthier lifestyle and reduce their risk of relapse. 

Getting help for alcohol addiction can be a difficult but worthwhile process. Above all else, it is important to remember that recovery from alcohol addiction is possible. With the right support, individuals can achieve long-term sobriety and lead healthy, balanced lives.

Discover the Benefits of Family Therapy at Promises Behavioral Health

Family addiction therapy helps strengthen relationships between family members and provides a safe space where everyone can openly communicate their feelings. This helps create healthy boundaries that can lead to a healthier lifestyle for the whole family. Contact Promises at 844.875.5609 or via our online form to learn more today.

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