Implementing healthy boundaries, even if it’s painful

Boundaries are one of the most difficult things to implement and hold firm to in dealing with the alcoholic/addict in one’s life. Whether it is upholding a curfew or expecting sobriety, it can often be fraught with a myriad of herky-jerky stops and starts through the process.

The alcoholic/addict has an uncanny way of manipulating us into trashing those boundaries as they hold an invisible weapon over our head of punishment or bullying behavior. We can be paralyzed with fear of, “I’ll show you, you’ll be sorry for doing this” which we have been used to interpreting as I’m going to relapse or worse yet kill myself and it will be your fault.

Carole Bennett.MAFor over twenty years, Carole Bennett, MA, has been personally enmeshed in the world of addiction and recovery with her own family’s alcohol and drug dependency issues.  Professionally, her Master’s in Clinical Psychology has afforded her work as a treatment counselor for the Salvation Army and the Council of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. A decade ago,a counseling center geared toward the family and friends who are struggling with their loved ones’ addiction issues. Carole is a staff blogger on addiction and recovery for the Huffington Post’s Living Section.
Editor:  Nadeem Pasha

Boundaries are scary; they are an emotional line. If there is no follow through on the ramifications, your intentions are quickly dismissed as frivolous, your credibility is shot and your word is like quicksand.

For a number of months I have been working with Gretchen -a caring, loving mother struggling with her daughter who had one foot in recovery, one foot out of recovery daughter. Their connection was often brittle, but there were moments of bright sunshine and what seemed like a healthy balance of communication and respect between them.


However, lately her daughter has been rude and indignant toward her. Gretchen feared that she was once again in her addiction as she was showing up late or not at all to family functions. When she did attend as she was disheveled, with dirty hair and clothes, and made frequent trips to the bathroom; she was always ready for combat if anything was said that she didn’t like.

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Through the roller coaster ride of her daughter’s being in and out of recovery, Gretchen learned that any comment she made would fall on deaf ears and at that a steady stream of insults toward her was bound to flow like a fountain.

After weeks since their last encounter, Gretchen’s daughter contacted her as if nothing was wrong and became incensed that her mother didn’t forget about it and move on.

Gretchen and I discussed her daughter’s actions and what she felt her recourse should be. We determined that the best route to go was a response that was neutral and loving yet reiterated what her personal boundaries needed to be in order to have a relationship was the best route to go.