I have been figuring out how to set up healthy boundaries ever since I got sober. First time I heard about boundaries was from a counselor in rehab. Then I started to hear it from the other addicts in recovery and suddenly I felt that the talk about boundaries was everywhere. I started to wonder what was it all about. One of my first thoughts was that if I had been acting in a wrong way by not knowing where to set my boundaries. I also wondered what was being boundless and was I like that. I felt I had done something wrong all my life without even recognizing it and every other person somehow had the information about the right kind of social behavior. Then the most familiar feeling hit me. I felt ashamed of myself. To be sure I wouldn’t cross any boundaries, mine or others, ever again, I drew a thick line everywhere I could think of. Just to get it right this time and to avoid the shame of being somehow wrong again.
It didn’t last long when I started realizing that building up walls didn’t work well for me. I was isolating myself and trying to survive on my own again. Just like I had done in the past when I was still drinking and using. It came to me that I too needed the support of other people to live sober and happy. But I didn’t want to let people near me because I didn’t know what was the right way to act and set boundaries. I didn’t know how much it is ok to give off myself to others and how to receive in return. As an addict in recovery it wasn’t good for me to be on my own. That is a one thing that I believe led me to be an addict in the first place. I had to do something else instead of going from other extreme to another. I had to figure out the middle ground and it seemed tough.
Then my friend gave me this list of one’s own rights by Edmund Bourne and I finally had something concrete to start establishing functional boundaries from:
I have the right to answer no to requests or requirements that I cannot fulfill.
I have the right to express both my negative and positive feelings.
I have the right to change my mind. I have the right to make mistakes and be incomplete.
I have the right to act according to my own values and morals.
I have the right to decide on my own priority.
I have the right to expect honesty of others.
I have the right to say, “I do not know”.
I have the right not to explain or defend my behaviour.
I have the right not to interfere with things of others.
I have the right to have my own time and space.
I have the right to have friends and have fun with people.
I have the right to change and grow.
I have the right to be respected by others and for others to take my needs and wishes into account.
I have the right to be valued and receive respectful treatment.
I have the right to be happy.
(Edmund Bourne, 1999)
After getting this list I felt like I then knew where to start with setting boundaries but still be with people. I had the right to be as I am. Uncertain and socially awkward, not knowing what I want and needing the time to figure it out. I had also been prone to putting needs of other people first and pleasing others in the cost of my own wellbeing. But now, with this list, I had the right to put myself first and on the top of that, it was okay. I was still a good person.
I have given a lot of thought to this and shared about it with my peers in recovery. Luckily it has become easier and more intuitive to set boundaries now. I am happy that I can take care of my healthy boundaries and at the same time I can lean on and trust in other people.
I hope you enjoyed the post. Please leave a comment if there was something that resonated with you.
Have yourself a nice day,