Five Essential Types of Boundaries

Boundaries.

The word alone might spur tension or hesitation, but boundaries are necessary and beneficial to addiction recovery.

Though the type and number differs by individual, here are five common areas to boost:

Material

This may be one of the easiest to put into practice. Despite the “sharing is caring” mantra, there should still be limits to how and when your possessions can be accessed.

This might mean setting times when a vehicle is available for family use or declining to loan out expensive electronics to someone who doesn’t take care of them well.

Plus, this is a good way to practice, as it is more definitive and concrete to allow or disallow access to an object than it is to manage a less tangible part of ourselves.

Mental

Prepare for the holiday dinners with boundaries that affirm your right to individual thoughts, beliefs, values, and opinions.

While it’s important to allow for flexibility in our thinking and open-mindedness in perspectives, it is still true that we can stick to our guns about what matters to us and ask others not to force their opinions.

One way to give a signal that a push is unwelcome is to say, “I hear and respect your thoughts, and ask that you respect mine, even if I disagree.”

There may be thoughts and beliefs we adopted or confirmed through addictive behaviors and depressive or anxious thoughts. These may seem logical or true to us but are not necessarily so to the external world. Without invalidating, it can be helpful for people, specifically a therapist or trusted supporter, to push back and challenge the validity and evidence for such statements.

Emotional

Much like mental boundaries, emotional boundaries may be pushed during therapy and treatment.

However, there is good reason to approach such conversations with caution and in a supportive environment. Thus, it is essential to know what your lines are and what kind of topics and behaviors are unhelpful or even toxic for you outside the walls of treatment.

Make clear the difference between things that bother you and true “triggers”. Despite common culture’s adoption of the word or phrase, triggers are specifically defined as immensely distressing stimuli – smell, sound, sight, etc. – that bring about feelings or memories of trauma.

Due to the very intense experiences and struggles of those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other trauma-related reactions, it’s important to be direct with those around you in terms of boundaries.

Some find discussion about addictive substances like alcohol or specific drugs, parties or risky decision-making, or past actions that are tied to old and maladaptive ways particularly challenging.

It is healthy to set a fence around those chats, that “this isn’t a topic I will discuss with you” or “I will walk away from conversations about this.” While we don’t want to avoid per se, there is logic behind removing yourself from things that are emotionally detrimental or threatening to your recovery.

Keep in mind that this set of boundaries may also include putting a stop to brushing off of emotions or excessive venting that you feel unable to take in.

One tip that can help you and your support network is to start tough emotional conversations or share-sessions with a check-in “Are you in a good mental health place to hear me out about something today?”. Set the expectation that it is okay if someone needs to focus on their internal dialogue and state at the moment. It is healthier for all involved for everyone to acknowledge their limits.

Physical

The topic of more conversation as society takes a closer look at sexuality and the #MeToo movement, these boundaries are essential to feeling safe and in control of your body and environment.

This can include how close or far away you ask someone to be (personal space is allowed!), unwillingness to tolerate unwanted remarks about physicality or sexuality, or setting a standard that hugs are not required at a family function if it isn’t comfortable.

In a culture that can feel pressurized to move quickly in relationships or “go with the flow” to not upset the status quo in social situations, this can be tricky to implement.

Create some statements that feel firm but calm, then try them out even with a therapist role play at first.

Time and Energy

You can do anything, but not everything.

Before saying yes to every commitment or allowing others to soak up more of your availability that you intended, get clear about what reasonable boundaries you can set.

Further, be clear when someone’s tardiness becomes problematic for your schedule and discuss ways to address it in the future. Stand firm in timeframes when you prefer not to be disturbed by phone calls that aren’t an emergency and know that your talents and presence have worth. While it’s kind to offer up free labor and favors when you can, remember that it is a gift and not an obligation.

Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable at first but the result is respect for you and your needs. You deserve for your desires and limits to be acknowledged and to receive the best care in return. At Steps Recovery Centers, we know that returning to everyday life after treatment can be challenging, so we work with you to prepare and build life skills to use throughout your journey. Call us today at 385-250-1657 to talk with our trained clinicians about the services that could be right for you. 

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