Boundary Basics When You Love An Alcoholic

Boundary Basics When You Love An Alcoholic

Do you have your boundary basics down? That means you know what they are, why you have them in place, how to enforce them, and more.

Here’s the loving truth: When you love someone suffering from addiction, you must have your boundary basics down. You must have effective boundaries in place, and enforce them 100% of the time.

So let’s learn about boundary basics together.

Listen to the podcast episode here:

Read below for even more details and tools:

Before we dive in, let’s first lay the foundation about our community here. We’re a judgment-free community. That means all women are welcome who love someone suffering from addiction. We welcome all faiths, backgrounds, orientations, and world views with open arms. You’re safe here.

And your loved one certainly doesn’t have to be your husband. It could be your boyfriend, girlfriend, life-long partner, or significant other of any kind.

For years, I thought I had an idea of what a boundary was. I even thought I was implementing them in my home and my relationships.

But it turns out, I was wrong.

Boundary basics can be really confusing and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.

So, today I am going to give you a big picture idea of what a boundary is.

Step one in boundary basics: What is a boundary?

Imagine yourself walking along the beach and you find a stick. You take that stick and draw a big long line across the sand.

Boundaries are lines in the sand that tell others, “I’m not willing to cross this line. This is as far as I will go.”

“You can walk next to me, but there is a point I will need to stop. And when we reach it, I would love for you to respect me and stay with me, but if you must step over my line, you will need to do it alone.”

“I will no longer be walking with you. I might be waiting for you if you decide to come back and join me.  And I may miss you, or I may miss only parts of you. But I will not cross this line.”

My line in the sand is for my protection.

Boundary basic number one: What is a boundary? A boundary is your line in the sand to acknowledge what is okay and what is not okay.

Step two in boundary basics: Why do we need them?

You put boundaries in place to honor yourself.

It took me years to figure out where this line should be drawn.

I have said things like, “Yes, I will marry you.” when I really meant, “No, get sober first and then I will wear your ring.”

I’ve woken up my kids in the middle of the night to go bail my ex-husband out of jail. If I would have had my boundary basics down, and had a proper boundary in place, I would have left him there until he was sober and the kids were at school.

I turned down an invitation to attend the funeral of a high school friend so I could keep an eye on how many bottles he was consuming. If I would have had proper boundaries in place, I would have found safe care for my children, and attended the funeral to honor my friend’s lost life.

I lied for him over and over to strangers and family. Again, if I would’ve had my boundary basics down, I know my truest self is always honest, no matter the consequence.

I convinced myself that if he was just smoking marijuana, instead of drinking alcohol or doing cocaine, that was okay. My truest self knows that any person that struggles with addiction cannot partake in any of these substances. There’s no “good” or “better” substance of choice. Addiction is addiction.

Simply put, we need boundaries because addiction does not respect us.

And if you’re new to this community, you should know it’s very important to separate the person you love from their addiction. Think of addiction as the third party, a mistress if you will, in your relationship.

Boundary basic number two: we need boundaries to protect ourselves from the lies, broken promises, abusive, aggressive cycles of addiction.

Our boundaries will honor what we believe, and give us courage, confidence, and independence.

My boundaries were not honoring my truest self.

I kept justifying away the boundaries I knew I needed.

Why? Because I was scared.

I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. And I didn’t want to upset anyone. It seemed easier to just ignore that feeling inside me that was saying, “This isn’t okay, Michelle.”

I know you have gone through painful times. You might be in a great deal of pain right now.

So, please… use my rich history of pain to reflect and ask yourself, “Where are your boundaries being compromised?”

And even more so: do you know your boundary basics? What are boundaries that you have in place? What boundaries are working? And which ones need to be revisited?

Now that I am older and wiser, I respect my line.

I honor it and cherish my boundaries. I publicly acknowledge them and I will not hide them.

Boundaries serve me and protect me.  

What is your line? Have you looked for a stick on that beach you’ve been walking along and had the courage to make that line long and clear and deep? Or is your line little and easily erased when someone steps on it during their journey?

If you want to learn more about boundaries, join me in our online program called Love Over Boundaries.

You’ll complete the program with two major accomplishments:

  1. You will define your personal boundaries
  2. You will have the conviction and courage to enforce them

This is the perfect program to take after you’ve completed the Love Over Addiction program.

Boundaries are necessary skills for all women to master, whether you’re in love with a man or woman who drinks too much or suffers from substance abuse or not.

Understanding boundary basics can help improve your relationship with your children and friends as well as improve your physical and spiritual health.

Seriously… mastering the skill of setting and keeping healthy boundaries might be the best thing you’ve done for yourself.

Questions from our community:

What are some examples of boundaries?

The perfect example of a boundary when you love someone suffering from addiction is drinking and driving. Your boundary should be stated as follows: If you choose to drink and drive, I refuse to ride in the car with you. I will find my own way home.

Here’s another example: If you start raising your voice or yelling at me, I will politely excuse myself from the room. I’ll be happy to continue the conversation when you can speak to me kindly and with respect.

Why are boundaries important?

Boundaries are important no matter what, and especially when you love an alcoholic or addict. They are your own personal protection. You’ll find yourself with more confidence, courage, and independence. You’ll let go of doing things you’re uncomfortable with, because your boundaries will protect you.

How do you talk about boundaries?

When you talk about boundaries with your loved one, first and foremost, make sure they’re sober and not agitated.

Why do people get mad when you set boundaries?

The short answer is that people get mad about your new boundaries because they’re no longer getting their way. It’s normal to feel uneasy about the possibility of making others upset with you. Remember that you’re trying something new, protecting yourself, and honoring your own values, regardless of what anyone else may think.

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.

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