Setting boundaries is essential for any relationship – but it’s critical if you have a relationship with an alcoholic. While under the influence, many alcoholics may act in abusive ways toward people around them. In those cases, it’s essential to establish which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. In other words, you need to set boundaries.
This article will explore the importance of boundaries and how to establish them when dealing with an alcoholic loved one. Hopefully, your behavior will help them understand the consequences of their actions and seek treatment.
6 Tips For Setting Boundaries With An Alcoholic
If you’re living with a person with an alcohol use disorder, you may feel trapped, helpless, and desperate to help them.
1. Learn about what it means to enable them
Enabling a person struggling with addiction means acting in a way that, intentionally or not, prolongs their addiction by helping them avoid its consequences. The following are boundaries you can set to prevent enabling them:
They can’t bring home any friends that enable their alcoholism.
They can’t drink at home.
Don’t lie to cover for them.
Don’t continue to trust them if they’ve lied repeatedly.
Don’t hand them money if you suspect they’ll use it for alcohol.
Don’t let them mistreat you verbally or otherwise.
2. Be assertive in communicating your limits and be honest with your feelings
You need to be able to communicate what your boundaries are. This means being assertive and firm in your communication. Being polite is encouraged, but don’t let them talk you into something that will perpetuate their alcoholism.
3. Stay calm when discussing alcohol use
When talking about alcohol use, don’t raise your voice or accuse them of being an alcoholic. You may both be very aware of their addiction, but hurling accusations will not help the situation.
Instead of losing your cool when alcohol comes up, point out specific behaviors that concern you and ask them to adjust. Make a list of behaviors that cross your boundaries and let them know you want them to change.
4. Be firm about your decisions
While under the influence, alcoholics may try to manipulate and control you. They may verbally abuse, threaten, guilt trip you, and use other tactics to get their way. You need to be firm and assertive when setting boundaries.
Behaviors you should always stand firm against include:
Yelling, cursing, and other forms of verbal abuse
Driving under the influence
Understand the way your loved one behaves and identify abusive patterns. Then stand your ground when they display them.
5. Create a support system for yourself
Support systems can include friends, family, and professionals. Taking care of your mental health is crucial when maintaining any relationship with an alcoholic. You can’t support them if you’re emotionally overwhelmed or burnt out.
6. Ultimately, you may need to keep your distance
Depending on your relationship and living arrangement, a final, extreme measure may be to stop interacting with them. Tell them why you’re doing it and explain that distancing yourself from them is the best thing for you, given the circumstances.
You can leave the door open to repair the relationship in the future. Still, they have to stay sober first, and they’ll have to be the one putting in the effort to make amends.
What Are Boundaries, And Why Are They Important?
Personal boundaries are the limits we set on how people can treat us. They help us stay safe. These are the benefits of learning to establish and respect boundaries:
Learning to listen and respect other people’s needs while still affirming yours.
Setting priorities and communicating them effectively
Avoiding conflicts and resentments by establishing good communication.
Establishing clear and healthy consequences for breaking boundaries.
Fostering mutual trust, respect, and understanding.
Learning to differentiate healthy boundaries from pushy or selfish behavior.
Many people have trouble setting boundaries and struggle to speak up for themselves, leading to dysfunctional personal and professional relationships. The most common results are low self-esteem, needing external approval, and fear of rejection.
Despite how hard they can be to set, boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships, especially when dealing with an alcoholic whose behavior often oversteps boundaries.
Now that we’ve established why boundaries are essential in all relationships let’s talk about ways of setting boundaries with alcoholics or recovering alcoholics.
Setting Boundaries With Alcoholics Is Hard But Necessary
You are not responsible for an alcoholic’s behavior or recovery. Still, if you decide to be a part of their recovery, you need to set clear boundaries so that they know when they’ve gone too far.
You don’t want them to feel like you’re trying to control their behavior. But you need to ensure that you’re protecting yourself and your family from the harm caused by their behavior.
If their environment is holding them accountable for their behavior, their alcoholic loved one will be more likely to understand the consequences of their actions. It may not necessarily accelerate their recovery, but it will establish clear boundaries for your relationship, something many alcoholics sorely need.