Re-entering the world in early recovery can be a huge challenge. You’re going to encounter loved ones and friends who will have a lot of opinions about how you should live your new life. Some “friends” might even tell you staying clean is stupid or ask you to do things that are now unhealthy for you. They might enable you, say you are being selfish, guilt you, or manipulate you.
This can be a recipe for disaster if you aren’t used to asserting yourself and setting boundaries. Keep reading to learn how to set healthy boundaries that can help protect your recovery efforts from those who don’t have your best interests in mind.
What Are Boundaries?
Boundaries are rules and limits we set for ourselves that define our values and self-worth. Boundaries can be physical, mental, or emotional and are often referred to as our “comfort zones.”
Boundaries are essential to a successful recovery for many reasons. They can help you resist temptation, take responsibility for your words and actions, improve your ability to communicate, and boost your self-esteem. When you enforce these limitations with your loved ones and friends, it might feel like you are putting up walls. But boundaries aren’t barriers — they are rules to keep you safe both emotionally and physically.
What Unhealthy Boundaries Look Like
Unhealthy boundaries are common in dysfunctional relationships. If your relationship is codependent or abusive, chances are that boundaries aren’t mutually respected. Unhealthy boundaries can make it difficult to say no despite feeling uncomfortable, make you feel like you can’t share your opinions openly, or cause you to sacrifice your values and goals for others.
When a boundary is violated, you feel it in your gut. Your mind might say yes, but your body is saying no, and ignoring your feelings often hurts your self-image in the long run. A negative self-image can make you want to use it again because you don’t feel in control of your actions.
Unhealthy boundaries like ignoring personal beliefs to make others happy, accepting unwanted favors, negative self-talk or thoughts, and refusing to ask for help ultimately come from a lack of self-respect. It’s important to know yourself and your worth, but getting there can be difficult.
How To Set Healthy Boundaries
The first step in setting healthy boundaries is knowing what they look like. If unhealthy boundaries are caused by a lack of self-respect, then healthy boundaries are all about displaying self-respect. A healthy boundary should keep in mind your values, goals, and feelings in mind. You should feel free to be yourself, not who others think you should be. Instead of negative self-talk, you treat yourself with dignity. Instead of trusting no one or trusting everyone, you develop trust over time.
In early recovery, you will need to learn your limits, values, and goals. It helps to know why these boundaries are being set because knowing why you are saying no can make you feel more confident about the decision. If you don’t know what your values are, take the time to think about them now.
A huge benefit of healthy boundaries is improved communication. Once you know your values, what matters to you, and what those boundaries look like for you, you will need to clearly communicate them. Keep in mind that respect and healthy communication goes both ways. Express how you expect to be treated by your loved ones and friends, but also listen to their values and respect their autonomy as well.
Learn To Say No
As you gain your confidence, practice saying no. If you are a people pleaser, this might be difficult or even scary at first, but your well-being is what matters here. Listen to those gut feelings when things don’t feel right. Your body will tell you something is wrong before your mind understands why, thanks to human instinct.
When you begin to assert your boundaries, you might get some pushback, either from well-intentioned people or from toxic people. It may be hard at first, but it’s important to commit to your boundaries. They are there to help you. Sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in what other people think. But remember that those are their thoughts, not yours, and don’t reflect on who you are.
The hardest step will be eliminating toxic people and places from your life. You might have relationships with people who still use or cause you unnecessary stress, and places that can trigger a relapse. It’s important to consider these in advance so you can form a plan on how to deal with them. This might include deleting contacts from your phone and social media, having tough conversations, or cutting people off entirely. It might feel extreme at the moment, but your mental health is well worth it.
Enforcing boundaries can be terrifying if you aren’t used to it, but there are countless benefits to those who are in early recovery. When you enforce boundaries, you feel more in control of your life and your actions. It’s essential to respect yourself enough to say no to avoid relapse. In the process of setting boundaries, you will become more comfortable with who you are and recognize that you have needs and rights. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and personal space. You are allowed to live autonomously and grow healthy, loving, and respectful relationships. Not only will these boundaries give you agency, but they can save your life. Here at Renaissance Ranch, we know how vital it is to set healthy boundaries in early recovery. We recognize the importance of communication, respect, and knowing your self-worth. To learn more about our programs, call us today at (801) 308-8898.