How Do I Set Boundaries with Someone in Active Addiction?

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Springing a hard conversation out of an argument, personal feelings of frustration, and other undecided upon times is confrontational. Confrontational conversations with someone who is active in their addiction are rarely helpful. The individual reacts instead of response, which can cause more argument or destructive behavior. You are not responsible for your loved one’s using. However, you are responsible for how you handle yourself and your emotions. To discuss boundaries, it is better to create a set time for talking. Working with someone who is under the constant influence of drugs and alcohol is a challenge. Getting a set upon time to talk about emotional matters may not be easy. If there is no way to create a sit down conversation, write a letter, send an email, or even a text. Boundaries have to be communicated in order for them to be effective. Boundaries which come out of nowhere are rebelled against. When there is clear communication about boundaries, there is no room for argument.


Outline what behaviors are no longer acceptable to you

Boundaries and ultimatums are two different things. Sometimes when dealing with a loved one in active addiction, a boundary has to closely resemble an ultimatum. Your boundary might be, as long as you are using drugs and alcohol, we cannot continue to communicate. Until you reach that point, there are other boundaries to put in place. Boundaries for active addiction could include:
  • You will no longer give them money freely
  • You won’t interact with them when they are intoxicated
  • You won’t tolerate lying
  • You will no longer accept their missing curfew


Working with a therapist personally is an important tool when you are on the other side of active addiction. With a therapist you will be able to discover what boundaries you need to set and what consequences you are willing to enforce when those boundaries get crossed.


Create consequences for what happens when boundaries are crossed

If there were no consequences for running a red light, red lights would be run more often. Accidents and tickets are consequences for running a red light. Boundaries aren’t written laws of the government, but they are verbal and sometimes written laws of a relationship. Like laws, boundaries have to be enforced. With your therapist, you can create consequences for what you are willing to do when those boundaries are crossed.


The most difficult part about setting boundaries and creating consequences is consistency in enforcing them. Addiction is in part a process of learning. With enough consistency, your loved one will learn that your boundaries are serious which might reflect to them the seriousness of their addiction.


If your loved one is struggling with addiction, the answer for recovery is simple. Simple Recovery offers a multiphase program oriented toward taking action to make change in one’s own life. Start your recovery today by calling us for information on our full continuum of care for addiction and co-occurring disorders: 888-743-0490