Violating Our Own Boundaries in Recovery

As part of our recovery, some of the important work we’ll do is establish and maintain boundaries about things that are important to us. When we’re working towards sobriety, some of our boundaries will involve separating ourselves form people who use drugs, drink or otherwise engage in addictive behaviors that might be triggering or tempting for us. We might set boundaries around how we will be treated in relationships, especially after years of settling for unkind and even harmful treatment from others. When we’re in recovery, we want to create an environment for ourselves that is as conducive to our sobriety as possible. We want to be surrounded by people who support us and who are aligned with our values and goals. Setting boundaries takes work, and it takes conviction. It requires that we be resilient any time someone or something encroaches on our space, literally or figuratively. It pushes us to strengthen our willpower in the face of temptation. Once we’ve created our boundaries and decided exactly what we need for ourselves, we have to make sure we’re holding everyone in our lives accountable to respecting them. Anything less would be a violation of our boundaries and a form of disrespect. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves violating our own boundaries, even when we’ve worked so hard to put them in place and to be firm about them.

One of the reasons we violate our own boundaries is because we haven’t quite reached a place of solid self-respect and unconditional self-love. We’re still grappling with deep insecurities, which for many of us can take years to heal. We’re still feeling the effects of years of self-rejection and self-hatred. As a result, we can subconsciously feel as though we don’t deserve to have our needs met and our boundaries respected. We can start allowing other people to cross them, or even cross them ourselves. For example, if one of our boundaries is not to be in close proximity to people who are using or drinking, we might violate that boundary by spending time with an old friend at a bar where he or she is consuming alcohol. We might try and justify this decision by telling ourselves this is an old friend, not a fellow addict who wants to push us to relapse. We convince ourselves that making allowances here and there is fine, as long as we’re strict with ourselves over all. We find over time, however, that when we violate our own boundaries, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. We’re testing ourselves, and sometimes we’re not ready yet to pass the test. We find ourselves slipping. We might end up drinking with our friend when we were determined not to. Perhaps we never told them that we’re an alcoholic or that we’re in recovery. In situations like this, we’re not respecting our boundaries or our recovery process. In essence, we’re not respecting ourselves.

Another reason why we might violate our own boundaries is because we’re not quite ready yet to get sober. We usually can tell instinctively when we’re finally there. We might have hit rock bottom, and we know we simply can’t go back to our former lives of self-destruction and pain. We might have crossed a line with ourselves that we can’t come back from. We recognize that sobriety is our only option for survival. Until we’ve reached this point, though, many of us will attempt sobriety many times before finally being successful. We might not have a thorough relapse prevention plan in place. We might not have finished a treatment program. We might still be grappling with severe mental health issues that are fueling our addictions. We might not have the necessary support system in place. Until we’re really ready to recover, we might subconsciously undermine our own attempts at sobriety. We might self-sabotage, hinder our progress and violate our own boundaries.

There are various ways in which we cross our boundaries, and they don’t always have to do with our sobriety directly but can affect it indirectly. If we’ve created a boundary around spending time with toxic family members, for example, going back on that decision and spending too much time with them can impact our sobriety, especially if those family members that are triggering for us cause us to want to bury our sadness, anger and frustration with our drug of choice. If a boundary is in place to help us with our sobriety and then we cross it, we’re running the risk of getting off track and potentially relapsing.

We might create boundaries around making sure we’re not expending too much energy without giving ourselves space and time to replenish our internal reserves. We might cross this boundary because we’re pushing ourselves too hard. We might be acting out of fear – fear that we’ll fail at our sobriety, fear that we’ll be judged harshly and unfairly for our addictions and so we avoid judgment by overworking ourselves, fear that we’re inadequate because we haven’t succeeded so far. We might be judging ourselves and beating ourselves up, denying ourselves empathy, understanding and patience.

Boundaries are an important part of our healing. The more we can abide by them and respect them, the more we learn to respect ourselves. We grow in self-love. We start to have more faith in ourselves. We show ourselves that we believe in ourselves and that we deserve to hold ourselves and the people in our lives to certain standards of respect and consideration.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.