Why Setting Healthy Boundaries is Important

why setting healthy boundaries is important

When you or a loved one is working through the challenges of addiction to drugs or alcohol, it will become important to understand the idea of boundaries. Substance use disorders are often accompanied by emotional and physical issues that may require you, as the recovering addict, to distance yourself or to lay down rules about what you will and will not tolerate from your addicted love one. Understanding why setting healthy boundaries is important will help you and your loved one through a successful recovery.

What is a Healthy Boundary?

A boundary can be physical, emotional, or psychological. A boundary establishes a “clear place where you begin and the other person ends. The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is to protect and take good care of you.” You may be the recovering addict attempting to set healthy boundaries between yourself and friends or family members. Or, you may be the friend or family member who needs to set a healthy boundary between yourself and the person who is addicted. Either way, a healthy boundary can help you indicate when and for what you will and will not hold yourself responsible.

When Your Loved One is Addicted

One of the most critical reasons why setting healthy boundaries is important is the need to be firm where your loved one’s addictive behavior is concerned. When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they can be very manipulative and persuasive. Of course, you want to be there for your loved one, to help them when they need it. Sometimes, though, that help turns into enabling them into continuing their addictive ways.

Setting boundaries with your loved one can be difficult and very scary. In fact, it is one of the more difficult things you will need to do to truly help the addicted person in your life. Someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can manipulate you into breaking down the boundaries you have set by playing on your emotions and fears. They may threaten to harm themselves – or worse – if you don’t do what they say they need you to do.

Respecting those boundaries can be challenging. Particularly, substance use disorders can raise issues of legality that you will need to address with firm boundaries. Common areas where boundaries should be set include:

  • Prohibiting drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs.
  • Bringing controlled drugs into someone else’s home or vehicle, as this can have legal consequences for the owner.
  • Using someone else as an alibi to cover up illegal activities.

Beyond setting boundaries around illegal behaviors, boundaries can and should also be set around issues of safety, health, and even comfort.

When You Are in Recovery

When you are the one who is in treatment for an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you will probably find that you need to set boundaries with others to ensure your successful recovery. Your family and friends may be well meaning, but their own addictive or enabling behaviors can be harmful to your ability to recover from your addiction. Setting a healthy boundary with your friends and family members is a matter of focusing on your self-care, so that you can become healthier in your recovery.

Self-care can include taking care of your physical health as well as your mental and emotional health. That may require you to set physical or emotional boundaries with others in your life. For example, avoiding people who were associated with your drug or alcohol use can help you manage triggers that can lead you to relapse. You will also need to set boundaries with friends or family members who may be continuing their own enabling behavior, rather than truly and positively supporting your recovery.


Treatment for addiction often includes family therapy, as addiction affects the whole family. At BRC Recovery, our family program will help you and your loved one improve your communication skills, identify and avoid enabling behaviors, and learn how to establish healthy boundaries. We are committed to holistic healing, understanding that real recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol takes more than just detox and abstinence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have devoted our efforts to creating a safe, clean environment for our clients to continue receiving the highest quality of care. To learn more about our services and to get the help you need, please call BRC Recovery 1-866-291-2676 to speak to our team.