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How to Create Boundaries With Addicts

by Karen Kleinschmidt, studioD

Your ability to create and maintain boundaries in your everyday life will aid you in your efforts to create boundaries with an addict in your life. The difficulty lies in how you feel about yourself in addition to the relationship you currently have with the addict. Darlene Lancer, therapist and author of "Codependency for Dummies," states that co-dependents living with addicts often have blurry or weak boundaries. They blame others for their feelings or feel responsible for the actions or feelings of others. This creates a challenge when spending time or living with an addict.

Recognizing Manipulation

Carole Bennett, family substance abuse counselor and author of "Reclaim Your Life-You and the Alcoholic/Addict," recognizes the manipulation that an addict will often hold over your head through bullying tactics or punishment when you try to set boundaries. In turn, you may fear he will relapse, stop attending AA meetings or in extreme cases, end his life. Time and time again, you will set limits only to have them trampled on by the addict or released by you out of fear and frustration as the addict threatens to walk out the door. Notice the way the addict manipulates you so you may begin to set boundaries in those areas. Seek professional help if you feel you need assistance.

Think of Yourself

Before you set a boundary, make sure you can enforce it. Threatening to leave the addict when deep down you know you have no plans to do so will carry no weight. Keep your needs in mind when defining boundaries. You need to take care of your physical, emotional and mental health needs and realize there is no way to control or cure the addict. Boundaries can make it harder for the addict to obtain alcohol and drugs.

Realistic Boundary

In looking at the ways the addict in your life has manipulated you, you will likely see the areas you can begin to set boundaries that you will be able to hold the addict to. For example, if you have found yourself paying for the addict's monthly car payment, car insurance or cell phone, stop paying it. Let them know you will no longer be paying her bills or loaning her money. This will increase the difficulty when it comes to contacting dealers or driving to get her fix.

Follow Through

Let the addict know why the boundaries are in place and that they are essential to your well-being as well as his. If he comes to you for money, enforce the boundary stating you must take care of yourself and can no longer give him money and support his addiction. If at any time, the addict becomes violent, call for help or go to a safe place and seek help as needed.

About the Author

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.

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