All About Addiction

What do a bad relationship and addiction have in common? They both involve dysfunctional boundaries. We show you how to set healthy boundaries in 5 easy steps.



  • What do a bad relationship and addiction have in common? Both likely involve dysfunctional boundaries.
  • Healthy boundaries are key to staying sober. How do yours stack up?

You’ve probably read articles about the importance of setting boundaries in addiction recovery, but most (if not all) of them were likely aimed at your family, rather than at you. But here’s the thing: learning how to set healthy boundaries for yourself is one of the most important things you can do to stay sober.

Read on to learn why healthy boundaries are so critical in recovery – and how to make sure yours are working for, rather than against, you.

What Do Boundaries Have to do With Recovery?

Boundaries are rules you set for yourself in your relationships. They define what is acceptable for you, in terms of how you treat other people and how they treat you. Your addiction, when you were using, violated your boundaries and those of your loved ones repeatedly, likely in a co-dependent pattern – and remapping that pattern is critical if you’re going to stay sober.

Respecting and communicating your own needs and preferences authentically, which is at the core of boundary work, is an extremely important skill. Few other skills will go so far in helping you to overcome your tendency to ‘escape’ uncomfortable feelings and learn how to deal with them without stuffing them down – through using or any other method.

Not sure how strong your boundaries are? Let’s take a look at some signs that your boundaries are out of whack – and how to get them back in check.


Symptoms of Poor Boundaries

Here are a few signs you need to work on your boundaries:

  • You trust no one (or you trust everyone immediately, without them having to earn it)
  • You let other people direct your life without questioning them (or you feel that it’s your right to control other people)
  • You struggle to say ‘no’ and feel badly if you refuse a request – and you expect others to say ‘yes’ to all of your requests too
  • You take responsibility for other people’s actions, feelings or thoughts – or you make them responsible for yours
  • You feel resentful toward, or angry at, people you care about on a regular basis
  • When you want or need something from someone, your default behaviour is to be passive aggressive or manipulative

Do you recognise yourself in this list? Keep reading to learn how to revamp your personal boundaries – and cement your recovery.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries in 5 Steps

When you set boundaries, you’re making rules that invite behaviours and situations you feel comfortable with, and protect you from what feels intrusive to you, both of which will help you to avoid the emotional states that lead to relapse.

Here are five steps to get you started:

1. Work on your self-esteem.

Addiction tends to bring on self-loathing. You probably did things you didn’t think you were capable of in the name of getting a hit – and you likely broke promises to yourself and those you love repeatedly. This often leads to, or perpetuates, deeply held feelings of guilt, shame or inadequacy. As you repeated the cycle, you might have even started to believe you’re a bad person.

Know this: what you did is not a reflection of who you are. Find a way to forgive yourself and repair your self-worth. It is only from this place that you can set and maintain boundaries you’re worthy of.

2. Figure out what your needs are.

Do you really know what do you need? You’re probably used to meeting your needs indirectly, by using and stuffing down your feelings in the process, or masking your feelings in other ways. Fortunately, uncomfortable emotions are great clues as to where your unmet needs are.

Lean in and explore them, rather than masking them.

3. Get comfortable with getting what you need.

Once you know what your needs are, figure out how to meet them and get comfortable asserting them.

Need an hour in the morning to meditate and exercise to avoid feeling burnt out by the end of the week? Protect that time, and don’t let anyone stop you from starting your day out with some much-needed ‘me’ time.


4. Set limits – and stay true to them.

Once you’ve got a sense of what your boundaries are, take steps to maintain them. That means setting limits with those that you love and interact with, as uncomfortable as that may be for you at first.

For example, you may have decided that it’s important for you to avoid going out with friends in places that trigger you. Let your friends know you won’t be going to those places with them any longer – and if they pressure you, don’t give in (but, critically, don’t demand that they go elsewhere on your account – you must learn to respect others’ boundaries, too).

5. Trust your gut.

Learning to trust yourself is paramount. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, trust your gut – is one of your boundaries being compromised? Take note and be firm with whoever – or whatever – is causing you to feel this way.

If someone repeatedly violates your boundaries, consider distancing yourself from them as an act of self-respect and self-love (see step one).

Set Boundaries at The Cabin Melbourne

The more comfortable you are with recognising and meeting your own needs, the easier it will be for you to deal with them in a healthy way and avoid relapse. However, this isn’t always easy – and it can be hard to see where you’re coming up short without an outside perspective.

Contact The Cabin Melbourne today to find out how we can help you set – and maintain – the boundaries you need to stay sober.

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