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Setting Boundaries in Early Recovery

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

Medically reviewed by

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

January 23, 2019

Setting boundaries in the early stages of recovery can help to ensure that recovery is consistent and progressively successful. It also helps make sure that loved ones are included in the recovery process, but not controlling it.

Why Boundaries Are So Crucial

Boundaries are what set us apart from friends, family members, and others. They are vital in treatment because they keep you from being negatively influenced by the actions and behaviors of others around you. They also help keep you from being manipulated in an unhealthy manner.

Unfortunately, when you’re suffering from drug addiction, it’s very easy to let your boundaries fall. After all, you’re under a lot of strain and may be desperate for help. That’s understandable, but unhealthy or poor boundaries create a series of behaviors and situations, including:

  • Difficulty saying no
  • Sacrificing your values, plans, and goals
  • Problems with sharing your opinions
  • Feelings of victimization or mistreatment
  • Manipulation of others for personal gain

Setting strong personal boundaries to strengthen your resolve, boosts your self-esteem, and focuses you on what truly matters.

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Setting Your Own Boundaries

It’s important to understand that boundaries are not the same as barriers. You’re not shutting people out of your life: you’re just avoiding serious personal problems, such as interdependence. This situation occurs when your emotional well-being relies on the approval of a person who also relies on you. This negative situation often occurs during drug addiction, particularly between a user and their dealer or other people with whom they use drugs.

It can also occur between you, friends, and family members. They are going to have a lot to say about your treatment and addiction, but unfortunately, they may overstep their boundaries and try to force you to do things that you don’t want to do or which may even be unhealthy for your recovery.

While you should always respect your loved one’s opinions, you simply can’t let them steamroll you. During the early stages of recovery, feeling bullied or overpowered by poor boundaries can drive you to depression, create anxiety, strain your relationships, and threaten the progress of your recovery.

Healthy boundaries set up relationships that:

  • Encourage sharing thoughts and feeling
  • Respect opinions, even if they don’t agree with them
  • Allow you to live by your personal values and beliefs
  • Create a sense of ownership and responsibility

The latter point is so crucial during addiction recovery: taking ownership of your addiction allows you to take the first steps towards accepting you have a problem and being willing to get the help you deserve to overcome it.

How To Set Boundaries Early

You need to set up your boundaries as early as possible during the recovery process. There are a few reasons for that: first of all, it sets you on the right foot towards a respectful and healthy recovery. Second, it helps others around you understand your goals and gives them a set of guidelines on how they can help you.

Set up your boundaries early in your recovery by doing the following:

1. Write down your personal beliefs – Understanding what you believe helps create a strong center around which you can build your boundaries.

2. Create understandable limits – Early in your recovery, people are going to try to influence you as much as possible. Communicate the limits of their influence to them, even if it upsets them. Your recovery is more important in the early stages of recovery than their hurt feelings.

3. Assert yourself – Don’t get bulldozed by assertive or aggressive people who ignore your boundaries. Speak up and let them know that you aren’t comfortable with their actions.

4.  Avoid being rude – While you should be assertive, you shouldn’t be rude or aggressive. Politeness is key here: healthy boundaries are supposed to be respectful, not harmful.

5. Understand the boundaries of others – Although your boundaries are important early in your recovery, you also need to respect other people’s boundaries. For example, if your mother has said she will no longer lend you money, respect her wishes.

Reconnect If Possible

A big part of setting up boundaries involves eliminating negative people from your life and reconnecting with people that may have been alienated during your addiction. Make a list of people that influence your addiction and find ways to exclude them from your life. These influences likely include:

  • Old dealers
  • Drug-using friends
  • People who cause stress
  • Situations and locations that may trigger relapses

After creating this list, you need to turn your attention towards people who you have hurt. This can include friends, ex-lovers, and family members that you mistreated because of your addiction. Letting them into your recovery can give you a great support group, especially if these people know how to respect the boundaries you have created. It is important to surround yourself with people who will take your recovery seriously and be there to support you in a positive way.

Contact Us Today To Learn More

At, we can help guide you towards setting up strong personal boundaries that respect you and your loved ones. We can also help set you up with a treatment facility that honors those boundaries and which works with your needs and personality to help you achieve a life of sobriety. Contact us today to get started.

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