Setting Boundaries After Addiction Treatment

People in recovery must be unwavering in their efforts to stay sober, which means standing firm and setting boundaries after addiction treatment. In 2015, The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine published an article by addiction medicine specialist Dr. Steven M. Melemis. The article, focused on relapse prevention, spelled out Dr. Melemis’s theory about the stages of addiction recovery. He postulated that recovery is a gradual process of personal growth and developmental milestones and outlined a set of five rules those in recovery must follow post-rehab.[1]  What’s notable about his theory of recovery is that the fifth rule – “Don’t bend the rules” –  emphasizes the importance of having a set of rules in the first place.

Why Do Those in Recovery Need to Set Boundaries?

Many people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol have neither the strength nor the skills to define their values and live according to them. But during addiction rehab, individuals learn about themselves, their triggers, and the root causes of their addiction.

Self-knowledge is then the starting point for establishing goals for recovery and figuring out how to maintain their sobriety outside of rehab. As part of their commitment to recovery, individuals need to set limits to ensure their safety and well-being. They must establish boundaries that serve to push back or shut out people in their lives who may not have their best interests in mind.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries After Addiction Treatment

Have a Clear Understanding of Your Values and Listen to Your Intuition

It will take time and much introspection to determine what you value and why. Here are some ways to help you articulate your core values:

  • Look back to see how you handled past decisions. How did you make those choices? Were they based on particular principles?
  • Try journaling about potential roadblocks you envision in your effort to stay sober. You might reveal some important insights about what you believe and how you’ll respond.
  • Talk to a therapist or counselor who can help guide you toward understanding what means the most to you.
  • Take one of the many online tests or personality inventories that analyze your answers to a series of questions. Although these tests aren’t always completely on target, they often reveal things about ourselves that we hadn’t thought about previously.

By discovering your core values, you’ll have a better sense of where to push back when someone violates what’s most important to you.

There may be times when you’re unclear whether or not what someone is saying or asking violates your boundaries. In those circumstances, it’s wise to listen to what your intuition tells you. That doesn’t mean you should always act based on emotion or hastily make a decision. Take the time you need to reflect on how a person or situation is making you feel in that moment before you respond. If something doesn’t sit right with you, it’s best to step back or away.

Communicate Clearly and with Conviction

Sometimes it isn’t easy to understand what those close to us are trying to communicate. They may feel equally confused about what we’re trying to get across to them. We may misinterpret someone’s words or actions because one or both parties need to do a better job explaining what they mean.

You’re a different person than you were before you started rehab. Even if you think those close to you know you well, the chances are that they will need you to clearly lay out your ground rules so that they can abide by them.

After you’ve made it clear what your boundaries entail, be prepared to enforce them. Now is the time to learn how to say “no” to the offer of drugs or alcohol or an invitation to an event where the addictive substance is available. Some people find it difficult to say “no” because they don’t want to appear to be disagreeable, impolite, or embarrassed that they’ll be asked why they’re declining. Recognize that you find it challenging, but work through your discomfort. You don’t have to agree to anything that can potentially threaten your sobriety.

Learn the Skills that will Guide your Long-Term Sobriety and Help When Setting Boundaries After Addiction Treatment

If you’ve tried and failed to stay sober, Silver Sands Recovery can teach you the skills you’ll need to break free from addiction for good. Our programs are customized to support your unique needs, and our experienced staff will guide you on your journey toward starting a new life. When you complete one of our programs, you’ll feel confident and capable of both establishing and enforcing your boundaries. To learn more about our programs and how you can prevent relapse, contact us here.



About the author: