Take a minute to think about fences. Many times these fences are created for protection; they keep pets from running away, guard your home and possessions from damage or theft, or stop unwanted visitors from entering your property.
They’re clearly visible, and those who cross these boundaries do so knowing there may be consequences -- but you can unlock the gate to let in those who you trust to respect your space when you’re ready.
Now think about your adult child struggling with addiction. You open your heart and your house to them, without any fences or boundaries, and they continue to take what they can without thinking about the consequences; that’s not unusual behavior for those deep in the throes of addiction.
They’re already struggling so much; it only makes perfect sense that you don’t want to build a fence around your life and close yourself off from continuing a relationship with them. You want them to continue to feel welcome, you want to do what you can to help and support them. You don’t want to do anything that makes them feel rejected, hurt, alienated, or adds to your pain, and you also know you can’t keep letting them in uninvited.
The truth is that you need these boundaries to protect yourself as you find the strength and empowerment to help your addicted child inch toward choosing recovery. With some guidance and the right approach, these — the RIGHT boundaries — will work to strengthen your relationship with your child instead of damaging it or pushing them further away.
Have you recognized these signs that it’s time to start thinking about boundaries?
Often, mothers of addicted children are too close to the situation to understand that it’s time to start creating boundaries. Consider these symptoms:
Have you found yourself trying these approaches?
- 1You think bargaining will help. For example, you tell your addicted child that you'll provide them with a car to use if they look for a job or go to work.
- 2You plead with them to change. You say, "Honey, I love you so much and it hurts to see what's happening to you. Please go get help -- it would mean so much to me and your family."
- 3You think silence is the best way to keep peace and say nothing. You avoid turmoil deliberately because you know so much conflict isn't good for anyone.
I want to recommend trying another approach — learn why.
Conversations with addicts almost never go the way the parent wants them to go. Every conversation with an addict always comes back to the disease trying to get from you what it needs.
As you may already know, your concept of logic and reason doesn’t get you anywhere. When you state what you think is a “boundary,” the disease will try to figure out a way around it. You can do nothing about how the disease behaves.
You do have 100% control over how you behave in your end of the dialogue, so let’s focus on that. One of the keys around how to set boundaries that strengthen your relationship instead of harming it is in how that boundary is expressed.
Here’s something you can do today.
I have something I want you to try, and it involves learning how to communicate your own needs, calmly and clearly. It is 100% about you. Mastering this is a critical step towards creating “real” boundaries, transformative boundaries. Which are very different from wishes or fantasies. Here’s a guide to take you through this.
Set aside just 5 minutes of quiet time on your calendar for the next 3 days in a row; consider this as an appointment with yourself. Put your phone in another room, turn the notifications off, and document the results of your experiment here, on the 5-Minutes of Quiet worksheet.
Download "I Will Communicate My Needs (calmly)"
Ready to learn the next step towards setting boundaries?
Want to go deeper into how to deliver truly “Transformative Boundaries” with love and support? And want to get some guidance on how I chose my actual “Transformative Boundaries?”
Click below to watch my workshop. I give lots of examples of boundaries I set within my own life with my addicted son.
Watch my workshop on setting Transformative Boundaries