A Personal Story
Boundaries were nothing I knew about in addiction. I would push boundaries of others to get what I wanted and did not set my own boundaries, either. The countless times I woke up not knowing where I was or how I got there demonstrates that clearly. I bamboozled my way through life. I remember about 11 months sober I was asked to tell my story for the first time. At the end I remember saying that life today is about boundaries, respecting others’ boundaries and understanding that it is okay for me to have boundaries. Where exactly did that thought process and realization originate? In recovery.
Setting boundaries for loved ones is a tricky proposition in recovery.
I set my behavior patterns in place long ago. I would not do things I said I would do, not show up to commitments and was pretty unreliable for the most part. So now, I am living a different life for myself. That has a direct effect on all those around me, not just friends and family.
Today, I try to do the things I say I am going to do. Since my loved ones’ experience is that I am probably not going to follow-through, I have to set a new pattern for them to see in my life. “Sure, you were going to do that three months ago,” is a fair statement based on my past behavior. Over time, when I am doing as I say, they will see that maybe, just maybe, I am more reliable. I cannot undo a lifelong of traits overnight.
If I see that my loved ones are nervous about how I will behave, I talk with them about it.
I have had such discussions more than once with my family and friends. For example, if they doubt that I’ll follow through on a promise, I don’t accuse them with statements like “You do not trust me” or “Why can’t you see I am trying to change?” Instead, I engage them in a heart-to-heart conversation, explaining my viewpoint and listening to and respecting theirs.
A personal conversation happened last week with my younger sister. She has always supported and loved me through all of the hell I have put her through in my addiction. I had to have a conversation with her about something imperative and uncomfortable. I approached it very calmly and lovingly and openly invited her to express herself. That to me is setting boundaries for loved ones today.
Yes, I have a voice. It is a new voice for my friends and family to hear. I have to own who I was and who I am striving to be. That means that I have to accept those around me for who they are, one day at a time.