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Setting Healthy Boundaries

By August 2, 2009No Comments

A big part of the adolescent recovery process is setting healthy boundaries. It’s hard for a teen who is trying to be accepted by their peers to say no to temptations. Before getting clean and sober, young addicts have very few, if any, healthy boundaries. Their lives are chaotic, and they are most likely engaging in risky behaviors, abusive, co-dependent relationships, manipulating, lying, stealing, and are devoid of any real self-respect. It takes a certain amount of courage as a teenager to tell someone that they are crossing your boundary. You have to know yourself well enough to have clear boundaries and you have to know that you have a right to protect and defend yourself. What are boundaries? Boundaries are limitations we set for our selves. In recovery, we learn to break down the walls and establish boundaries that protect us from others and from ourselves.

The first kind of boundary to consider is physical. This means, how close can you get to me before I feel uncomfortable? For different people, this boundary varies depending on how well you know some and what kind of personal space feels right. For both men and women this is important when dating. As adolescents, it’s very important to maintain healthy sexual boundaries. “No means NO!”

Other boundaries include emotional and spiritual boundaries. What makes you uncomfortable to discuss with others that could trigger unpleasant memories or relapse, for example. You may not want to talk politics or religion with your family at the table on Thanksgiving when you recall the heated arguments from years past. You shouldn’t tell “war stories” that glorify meth. binges to someone trying to kick a nasty speed habit.

Many teens break boundaries when they form new relationships. They think that they are in love, but they really have little or no boundaries. They lose themselves in their boyfriend or girlfriend. These kinds of relationships are often co-dependent and tend to become abusive because there is a constant fear of separation.

The sooner teens start learning about boundaries the better. As they grow and mature, they will be happier people because they will have healthier relationships. The key to having good boundaries is to be consistent and clear when setting them. Using “I feel” statements may sound corny, but they really work. Don’t be afraid to ask someone before you act if you are breaking their boundary. You take the guesswork out of it and if are offended that you asked, they probably don’t have good boundaries.

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