We all have limits when it comes to other people’s behaviour.
You may draw the line at being lied to, for example, or being sworn at.
These limits are sometimes called boundaries.
How boundaries help us
When you have healthy boundaries it means everyone knows where they stand.
For example, if you all agree there should be no smoking in your home, everyone is clear and it’s more likely to happen.
Healthy boundaries make our relationships stronger. They also encourage everyone to take responsibility for their own behaviour.
What happens when boundaries are unclear
It can be hard to set healthy boundaries when someone close to you is drinking or using drugs.
We can find ourselves making threats we don’t really mean: “If you take drugs in the house again, I’m calling the police.”
The problem is, if you don’t follow through, it sends a message that boundaries are there to be broken.
It also takes away your loved one’s motivation to change because there are no consequences for their drinking or drug use.
How to set boundaries
It can be helpful to see setting boundaries as something for you and your loved one to solve together.
Ask for some time to talk things through. Be honest and direct. Try to stay calm and positive.
Talk about what they want and what you want. Think about what the compromise could be.
Think about the consequences
It’s important that everyone is clear about what the consequences will be if the new boundary is broken.
Some boundaries have their own natural consequences.
For example, if you stop calling in sick for your partner when they have been drinking or using drugs, there will be natural consequences for them to deal with.
But if you and your adult child agree that they won’t take drugs in the house, you will need to agree what the consequences will be if they do.
What to do if your loved one won’t talk to you
If your friend or relative doesn’t want to talk, you can set a boundary by saying, it doesn't have to be now, but we’ll have the conversation soon.
If they completely refuse to engage with you, you will have to decide for yourself what your boundaries are.
You could let them know what you decide in a letter.
Get some support
Sticking to boundaries and consequences is hard.
Try to remember that, by sticking to your boundaries, you are supporting your loved one to change.
Getting some support for yourself will help you keep your boundaries strong.
All of our services offer support to family and friends of people who drink too much or use drugs.