Learning how to set healthy boundaries with loved ones suffering from addiction can be incredibly challenging.
Addiction can turn a person who was once kind, caring, honest, and trustworthy into a lying, manipulative, self-centered individual. Because addiction compromises brain chemistry and creates powerful physical dependence, someone suffering from addiction is often willing to go to any length to get a fix–even it if mean lying to or stealing from family and friends. This is one reason it can be so challenging to set healthy boundaries with an addiction loved one: it’s hard to distinguish truth from lies.
People who are addicted will say anything to get what they need in that moment.
They may make up unlikely stories to explain missing money and property. They’ll barter with family, friends, and loved ones for a meal or a night of shelter by throwing out an empty promise to “get help tomorrow.” The pain of addiction can become so overwhelming for everyone involved. Family and friends do not want to continue living as emotional hostages of their loved one’s disease, but the thought of leaving them on the street to fend for themselves is a painful one. Even so, by refusing to provide for and shelter someone who is actively using, you will motivate them to seek treatment. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon them. You can research hospitals or treatment centers and offer them a place to go that is safe but not your home. You can buy them a meal instead of giving them money that they may use to pay for alcohol or drugs.
Change usually doesn’t happen for a person until the pain of staying the same outweighs the fear of doing something different.
A good practice for setting healthy boundaries is to make it clear that you still love the person. It’s because you love them that you are refusing to help facilitate their self-destructive behaviors. Encourage them by assuring them that you will do all you can to help them take the actions they need to get sober.
Your loved one may initially lash out in anger when you set boundaries. However, many people in addiction recovery express gratitude for their loved ones for allowing them to face the consequences of their substance abuse and get motivated for change.