Relapse prevention

setting boundaries

Setting boundaries while you’re in recovery

Setting boundaries while you’re in recovery

An addiction – whether it be to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, virtually anything – is a challenging road to navigate.

Even when you’re in recovery, your addiction is likely to take a toll on you, your friends, and your family members. In other words, the people you’ll be relying on the most while in recovery are also the people with whom your relationship will likely require some mending.

But mending these relationships is hard work. Addiction is known to fuel many fear-based behavioural patterns, like control and resentment.

During recovery, it’s of paramount importance that you take the time to set healthy boundaries within your support system to keep your interactions and communications civil and stress-free.

On the tail end of a challenging addiction, it’s extremely likely that you’ll pursue the approval of those closest to you in everything you do.

Keeping your interactions comfortable, then, can have many positive effects for everyone involved, and it can even decrease the likelihood of backsliding.

Why is boundary setting important for recovery?

A personal boundary can be defined as a physical, emotional, or mental limit that people set for themselves in order to safeguard their overall well-being.

They can help you feel balanced and in control of yourself. As such, the importance of setting boundaries clearly and honestly is very important in helping you recover smoothly.

Boundaries can…

Encourage self-esteem

With every boundary you set for yourself, you are reminding yourself of your own importance.

Throughout the course of your addiction, you’re likely to come to judge yourself too harshly and come to think of yourself as worthless. For every boundary you set, you are regaining your worth.

Encourage confidence

Setting boundaries involves putting yourself out there. It takes emotional vulnerability and clear communication.

You’ll find that setting a well-defined, healthy limit with someone you love will increase your self-assurance.

Provide good mental well-being

When setting boundaries, you’re given a sense of responsibility and self-awareness.

Not only can it help you feel proud, but it can help you develop healthier channels of communication and cultivate compassion, too.

Help deals with resentment

If you fail to set healthy boundaries, you are essentially giving others permission for their actions toward you.

An inability to confront and verbalize anger leads to resentment, and residual resentment leads you to return to the coping mechanism with which you’re most familiar – your addiction.

What boundaries should you set?

The boundaries you set should be based on your needs – not anyone else’s. Therefore, some of these may apply to you, while some may not:

Physical boundaries

Even around your family members and close friends, you may be uncomfortable with physical contact – even something as benign as a hug or a handshake.

This is perfectly normal, so if you feel uncomfortable being touched, let them know!

Emotional boundaries

Ensure that you are managing your own emotions for yourself, not to please others.

If you take responsibility for the moods and feelings of others, you’ll be unable to distinguish between your own emotions and those of your friends/family.

Mental boundaries

Your thoughts and opinions are worth hearing! Assign value to them (and to yourself) by making it clear that your opinions should be heard.

Conversely, make sure you’re keeping an open mind while hearing the thoughts of others, too.

Sexual boundaries

Say no when you feel uncomfortable. Nobody but you are in control of your sexual boundaries.

Material boundaries

If you’re asked to loan people things that you aren’t comfortable lending out – money, cars, clothes, anything – maintain clear limits with your friends and family in a way that’s assertive and steady.

How to set boundaries through your recovery

People have different communication styles. Many value direct, honest feedback, while others prefer a more tactful approach.

It’s important when communicating your boundaries to adopt an approach that covers all bases. In other words – be firm and direct; don’t be overzealous and rude.

Words matter, especially when communicating boundaries. After all, you’re telling somebody you love that you don’t find their behaviour acceptable. The best way to be respectful is to:

  • Stick to the facts;
  • Avoid assumptions;
  • Use ‘I’ statements; and
  • Focus on your experiences, not the other person’s.

For example, say ‘I find it uncomfortable when you pat me on the shoulder like that,’ followed by ‘I’d prefer a handshake or a high-five from now on.’

Remember, the purpose of setting boundaries is to let someone know that you aren’t okay with their behaviour.

They might still react defensively, but if you’re setting a healthy boundary from a place of self-care in a respectful manner, you’ll be able to acknowledge their reaction without feeling like it’s your job to fix it.

Just out of rehab and stuck at home? Here are a few at-home techniques to avoid relapsing

Just out of rehab and stuck at home? Here are a few at-home techniques to avoid relapse

With so much uncertainty in our lives because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to feel isolated and unsure of what do. For those working on their recovery journey outside of rehab and trying to avoid relapse, these feelings – coupled with boredom, agitation, or anxiety – can make for an environment and mental state that promotes risky behavior and relapse.

To reduce the chance of this happening, here are seven tips to help you avoid relapsing while remaining socially distant.

1. Stay aware of how you’re feeling, emotionally and physically

Physical and mental self-care are more important than ever with the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing the common signs of relapse and being able to identify your own triggers are crucial in staying sober.

Mood swings, poor nutrition, and fantasizing about substance use can all be potential precursors to relapse. Addressing these feelings and taking preventative measures to deal with them will lead to greater emotional and physical wellness, as well as decrease your chance of using.

2. Make use of your free time to avoid relapse

Boredom and detachment are major culprits in relapse. They make the pull of substance use that much stronger. If you find yourself with a lot of free time on your hands, it’s important to keep yourself occupied to avoid falling back into old behaviours and risk relapsing.

Practicing a favourite hobby or investing time into a new one are great ways to enjoy yourself and feel productive. Exercising and creative outlets like writing, painting, or playing an instrument are great ways to distract oneself while keeping one’s mind and body engaged.

3. Incorporate holistic wellness practices into your daily life

Holistic activities such as yoga, meditation, and breathing work can help to center yourself and bring much needed balance during all this uncertainty.

Spend time on building out a proper nutrition plan to ensure you’re eating well, too, and make space in both your schedule and your home that is dedicated to exercise. Even spending a short time each day on holistic wellness practices can make a great difference in one’s physical wellbeing and mental outlook, as well as the cravings that are brought on by restlessness and apprehension.

4. Don’t be hard on yourself if cravings arise

Cravings are an unfortunate and almost universal part of recovery and rehabilitation. Getting down on yourself for feeling them is not only unproductive but dangerous.

Indeed, feeling guilty or ashamed for cravings can wind up leading to an unhealthy emotional state that makes it hard to avoid relapse. Accepting that cravings will occur and learning how to manage and move beyond them, however, is an incredibly valuable step in your recovery journey, and in turn it helps reduce your desire to use.

5. Maintain communication with loved ones and those you trust

Even if you can’t go out and see them, it’s important to connect with the people in your life who mean the most to you. Make a list of emergency contacts whom you can reach out to if you’re suffering from cravings, or notice symptoms of emotional relapse such as anxiety, poor sleeping patterns, and mood swings.

Be it family, a sponsor, or support group members, having positive individuals to talk to during this period of isolation will provide much needed encouragement and help to keep you accountable on your recovery journey.

6. Identify your enablers and avoid high-risk scenarios

Especially during times of uncertainty and loneliness, the desire to see old friends who still abuse drugs and alcohol can be strong.

Avoiding these enablers and the high-risk scenarios they present is hugely important to staying sober and to help you avoid relapse. Instead, if you feel overly secluded and in need of personal connection, reach out to supportive and positive forces in your life, such as sober friends and family members, sponsors, or counsellors.

Know that it’s okay to ask for help

No matter the circumstance, it is important to remember that it’s always okay to ask for help. Recovery is a process, not a single event, and your path to sobriety will, at times, be complicated and difficult.

If you ever feel stuck in a situation you can’t deal with alone, or need help navigating negative thoughts or severe cravings, reach out to those you trust or seek the advice of a treatment specialist.

Relapse prevention and aftercare programs exist to help those who are struggling with life out of rehab and encourage you to make positive steps on your recovery journey. Knowing when to ask for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and can make the difference in staying, and keeping, sober.

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