Setting and maintaining boundaries is hard. It hurts loved ones in addiction who need and want connection and it hurts those who want their loved one close.
Boundaries make some people ‘feel’ alone, not worthy, unloved, angry, and a number of other things.
But feelings don’t make something reality.
The reality is every parent (or other family member) loves the addict. They know their loved one deserves and is worthy of a life outside of addiction. They are worthy of success and a comfortable, meaningful living filled with love, joy, and purpose. They believe their loved one is capable if they are willing to fight addiction towards recovery. Fighting one’s own mind is hard and intense.
Why do families inject boundaries into the situation?
Life in addiction is chaos and painful. Addiction behaviors tend to suck the air out of those closest to the addict. The repeated cycle within addiction eventually requires you give in and live in the addiction or you decide to stop and live outside.
Loving from the outside seems like it will be easier. I’m here to confirm, it’s not. You will worry about where they are, if they are sober, high, passed out, warm, fed, or alive. Each morning you wake up and check all messages, and social media. You search for confirmation of life.
Your day is spent at work still wondering, checking, and hoping they make it through the day. Until you repeat it all night.
Eventually, you realize you are still living in the addiction. You are cycling in your own mental mess. You find ways to disconnect from digital private-eye mode, and you try to engage your life.
It takes effort to teach your mind new thoughts, new habits, new ways to love. To survive this, it is required.
Because the truth is, addiction doesn’t just change the addict, it changes everyone who loves them as well. Guarding our heart eventually becomes a priority. Controlling our thoughts is imperative to function day to day.
Boundaries are the first step to family recovery. Like it or not, once you live in another’s addiction, you will need a program to recover one day. The trauma can be paralyzing. You will encounter anxiety, sleep disturbances, depression, hopelessness and a myriad of other symptoms. While we reach into our faith, there is no hiding from the beat down of addiction.
Boundary setting may or may not include a complete disconnect. You have to do what it takes to help yourself. Remember, this is your recovery not their’s. You came to this decision because your mental wellness matters. More than likely you are at the end of yourself, now you have to surrender. If limited phone calls are necessary, so be it. If no contact for a number of days or months helps, then make that your priority.
Don’t fear your boundaries. Fear losing yourself. We have no control, we can’t fix or save our loved ones. I reached a point of acceptance in the hardest truth of all, substance use of any kind can lead to death. It is my greatest fear but no longer stirs deep anxiety. I am at peace in knowing I am not a savior. I wish I was; I wish I could snap my fingers into safety and lifelong recovery. We all know we do not have that power.
This is life with loved ones fighting addiction. We learn to love completely but differently. Some will think we are cruel or heartless. They’ve not walked in your shoes, or experienced the point of brokenness that led you here. They don’t know this road.
Love your loved one in a way that works for you, but stop doing all those things that don’t. For the first time, you are in the drivers seat of this journey. You are taking back your mind and life. It may be complicated and bumpy, but you will find your way.
You can listen to the podcast of this article here.