How to Set Healthy Boundaries with a Loved One Struggling with Addiction

Set Healthy Boundaries with a Loved One Struggling With Addiction

One out of every seven people living in the United States will struggle with addiction.

If your loved one is one of those affected, it can be an overwhelming experience. How can you love them in a way that leads to their getting better? What is the best kind of support you can give?

These questions are commonly asked by people who are indirectly affected by the negative aspects of substance abuse.

One of the most important things you can do when helping a loved one deal with addiction is setting healthy boundaries.

These boundaries allow you to love, but not love to death. They allow you to support your loved ones, but not support their unhealthy behavior.

How to Know When You Need to Set Healthy Boundaries

Understanding when you need to start setting boundaries or strengthen your existing ones can be difficult pinpoint. Usually, the tell-tale sign that your boundaries are failing is if you’re uncomfortable.

Discomfort can mean that you’re unwillingly compromising with behavior that undermines the person you are. This compromising can lead to resentment build up. It also creates an unhealthy environment for both you and your addicted loved one.

If you find yourself taken advantage of financially, walking on eggshells, covering for bad behavior, or being passive aggressive – chances are you’re experiencing boundary issues.

How to Go About Setting Healthy Boundaries

It’s important when setting healthy boundaries to be as sensitive as possible. Boundary setting should not come from a place of disdain, but from a place of necessity and love.

Let the person suffering from addiction in your life know why you’re setting boundaries, how you’re feeling, and the consequences of violating your boundaries. Let them know that there is nothing you won’t do to help support them in their recovery but nothing you will do to facilitate their unhealthy lifestyle.

Remember, a person who is suffering from addiction is suffering. They are the victim of an illness. While it can be hard to understand their situation, it’s important to show compassion, even when doing something stern like boundary setting.

Healthy Boundaries You Can Start Implementing Today

While boundaries you set in your relationship with someone suffering from addiction will be personal to your situation, here are some common healthy boundaries people in similar situations set:

1) No Drugs Are to Be Brought Around You or into Your Home

Having illegal drugs in your home can present danger to others residing on the property. These problems can have legal implications as well as general safety issues.

Letting your loved one know that illegal substance use in your household or in your presence is unacceptable can help mitigate those risks.

In addition to helping alleviate risks, setting a no drugs in your household or in your presence boundary can create discomfort for an addict. It puts them in a position where they’ll have to choose between being around you or drugs. It makes them choose between being in their home or being on the street.

This discomfort, while difficult to impose for some, can be key to helping nudge an addict towards recovery.

2) Theft Will Not Be Tolerated

One of the biggest issues with having addicts under your roof is the risk you run of theft. Drug addiction is expensive. Furthermore, holding down a job while managing an addiction can be hard.

Because of that, many addicts turn to taking the belongings of people they live with for the purpose of funding their habit.

Making it clear that theft is cause for expulsion from your home can dissuade an addict from stealing. If your loved one does not live with you, letting them know that stealing from you or others is cause for ending your relationship can be equally as powerful.

3) You Will Not Give Away Money for Any Reason

Some addicts don’t have to steal to get the money they need to fund their addiction, many just ask for it. Being asked for money constantly can create a tumultuous relationship.

Since addicts won’t tell you the money they’re requesting is for drugs, it puts you in a situation where you have to determine if you’re being lied to or not.

When you are aware of someone’s addiction, assume that all money asked for is for drugs. Make it clear that under no circumstances will you hand over cash.

Very few addicts have resources to support their addition on their own. You making it clear that you will not provide anything that can be funneled towards drug use will create an unconformable situation for addicts that may promote recovery

4) You Will Not Help with Trouble, Legal or Otherwise

Addicts often ask their support system to help them lie to get out of their responsibilities. This can extend to having a loved one contact a teacher vouching for why work couldn’t be completed or calling work to help explain an addict’s absence.

Making it clear that you will no longer be part of pushing lies that let your loved one continue their behavior can help them hit rock bottom.

The same goes for legal trouble. An addict knowing that use of illegal drugs could land them in jail and that you won’t be there to bail them out may help them think twice about their using.

5) You Will No Longer Contribute to the Anger

It’s hard to maintain your emotions when dealing with a loved one’s addiction. An addict can be hard to deal with. They demand things, they accuse, and they can make you feel worthless.

Most of this behavior is a by-product of their self-frustration.

Still, it’s hard to refrain from yelling back, arguing, and making the addict you love feel bad about their situation.

What you need to realize is that the vast majority of addicts already feel bad about what they’re doing. Making them feel worst will likely spur additional drug use, not promote recovery.

Setting a personal boundary with yourself, that you will not be angry and hateful is not only going to help you feel healthier and happier, but it will increase your loved one’s odds of getting better.

To Wrap It Up

Many have loved ones that are struggling with complications with substance abuse. If you’re one of those people who know somebody battling an addiction, setting healthy boundaries can be important in helping them get the help they need.

The ultimate goal of setting boundaries is creating conditions that move an addict towards getting into recovery and to that end, can help. has over 10,000 rehab centers in its directory that it can help connect your loved one with to get them the full range of services they need to live the life they’re meant to be living.

If you know someone struggling with addiction, help them by calling us today for information on a facility that can make them well again. We can go over options with you and your loved one to ensure that you find a facility that meets your unique addiction and lifestyle needs.

About the author

Dr. Michael Carlton, MD.

Leading addictionologist, Michael Carlton, M.D. has over 25 years of experience as a medical practitioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and returned for his MD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1990. He completed his dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and his Fellowship in Toxicology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

He has published articles in the fields of toxicology and biomedicine, crafted articles for WebMD, and lectured to his peers on medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Carlton was a medical director of Community Bridges and medically supervised the medical detoxification of over 30,000 chemically dependent patients annually.

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