Friday, June 27, 2008

Creating Boundaries

Creating boundaries is an important skill to learn in order to respond in a healthy way to the addicted person in your life.

The key to your ability to create real boundaries is your willingness to hold the addicted person responsible for their addict behavior for the benefit of the family, not to manipulate the addicted person into better behavior. This is a skill that must be learned.

I have talked with family members that wanted to create "consequences" for their addicted loved one for a variety of bad reasons, because the family was angry at the addicted person, or because they wanted to punish the addicted person for being addicted, or the family wanted to manipulate the addicted person into treatment.

The first thing to understand is that the family does not create consequences. The family creates boundaries, and the addicted persons behavior results in consequences. One aspect of boundaries are clear rules or limits on behavior that everyone in the family is expected to honor, including the addicted person. Developing boundaries involves both perception and emotion. Being able to see that your loved ones addiction is not your issue can be very difficult. Boundaries help create a dividing line between the issues the addicted person must deal with in order to get help and issues that the family members must deal with for their health. Family members often spend too much time trying to solve their loved ones addiction and as a result they begin to loose touch with their own needs and identity.

Some family members have asked the question, what are examples of creating boundaries.? The most important examples of creating boundaries are invisible and are created through support and education. They involve an internal shift involving the understanding of addiction and learning to not overreact to your emotions. Family members are able to create healthy boundaries when they begin to understand that their loved one can only recover when they take responsibility for their own issues, family members can't do it for them. Healthy boundaries are created when family members can overcome the guilt, the anger, the disappointment, and the perception that they are responsible for this situation and are expected to make it better.

Remember the three C's: You didn't Cause it, You can't Control it and You can't Cure it.

When family members begin making this internal shift then they can create healthy boundaries that don't involve manipulation, anger, punishment and they will be able to follow through and uphold these boundaries.

Anyone can look as though they are creating a "boundary" but if it is done for the wrong reasons it just keeps the addicted person and the family members more enmeshed in an unhealthy dance.

If you enforce a rule or boundary and you are doing this because it is good for you and your family your on the right track.

If you enforce a rule or boundary and it is about trying to manipulate the addicted person your on the wrong track.

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