Setting Boundaries with People who Drink or Use Drugs

Setting Boundaries with People who Drink or Use Drugs


Setting boundaries with people who drink and use drugs is not an easy thing to do, and it takes practice.  That is why you should seek help and advice and counsel when you are dealing with this sort of situation.  I have found that the best place to get that advice is from other people who have gone through the same thing, as their experience can benefit you directly, as opposed to someone who does not have specific knowledge of dealing with addicts and alcoholics in their family.

Where can you find such support?  Easy answer: go to Al-Anon.  Find a meeting and go.  If you can’t find a meeting, call up local AA groups and ask them.  Someone will know.  Dig deep and keep asking and you will find an Al-anon meeting.  Go to it and they will help you find more.  This is your salvation if you are truly struggling with setting boundaries with addicts and alcoholics.

Creative Commons License photo credit: John-Morgan

Why do you need to set boundaries at all?  So that you can stop enabling the addict and help them move closer to change.  If you are not setting boundaries then they are taking advantage of you.  If you are not setting good limits on what they can and cannot do, then they are not getting any closer to change in their life.

An addict or alcoholic is not going to stop using drugs or alcohol unless they are facing a major consequence. Now this does not have to be something that you impose on them, and it probably won’t be.  More likely a person will surrender to the disease of addiction after they have exhausted all possibilities and tried to control their drug use in every way possible.  They will be completely miserable and ready for change when the moment of surrender comes.

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The point of setting boundaries is to nudge the addict closer to this moment of surrender. It is only through pain that they will arrive there.  They do not start feeling good while still in the cycle of addiction and decide to make the intense, life-altering changes that are needed in order to live sober.  This is a really big deal and a huge commitment and no one is going to do it unless they have no other choices and they are completely miserable using drugs.  That is the only path out of addiction and it is your job to allow that path to happen.  Don’t enable someone and then complain that they are not getting clean and sober.


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