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Boundaries And Addictions

Oct 13, 2007
Many of us have experienced difficult relationships with someone or with several people who have been addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or some other unhealthy pursuit. How might we deal with these difficult relationships, recognize them early, and prevent such relationships in the future?

My own dear mother was unfortunately alcoholic. One day I realized something vitally important:

Just because you love someone, doesn't mean it is healthy to be near them.

It is tremendously useful in life to learn to separate your feelings for someone, with your understanding of what is, or is not, healthy for you to be around. We need both love (or at least like) and a healthy dynamics for a relationship to continue. If both are not present, then the relationship can make you terribly unhappy, or even destroy your health, confidence, and safety.

Ironically, it is also better for them also, to separate if they will not work on controlling their addiction. Maintaining the relationship while they their addiction runs unchecked, encourages their addiction to continue. It is not a significant consequence for them to argue with them about their addiction, for they can remain addicted and behave badly, and still have their relationship with you. You might even be helping to support them, so why should they stop? It is an addiction, so it is powerful.

If you have been in a relationship with someone who is addicted, it would be very helpful to you to decide on your personal boundaries now, so that you can address the matter with a clear head if it comes up again.

Here are some suggestions for behavior that is not acceptable in your relationships:

* If they borrow money from you to pay for their addiction, or borrow money from you to pay for their needs because they spent their own money on their addiction.

* If their addiction prevents them from supporting themselves financially.

* Lying in any way, to cover up the truth of their activities.

* Being cruel or violent to you in any way, while they are inebriated or sober.

* Causing you damage to property or loss of reputation.

* Long absences or causing you great worry.

* Putting lives at risk by drinking and driving.

If you find yourself in a situation where your partner, family member, or friend is addicted, address it immediately. For best success, don't allow it to continue as it is.

You need to give an ultimatum with consequences. I highly recommend that you tell them that they must participate in an organized help program for their addiction, or you will cease all support, end your relationship with them until they have control over their addiction, and you will not live with them. If you can, organize other loved ones to give the same message at the same time, for it will be more effective.

These are very difficult situations, but remember two things: You will be helping both yourself and them if you take care of your own emotional and safety needs, and, just because you love someone, doesn't mean it is healthy to be with them. While they are addicted, love them from afar.
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