After two years alcohol-free and taking care of myself pretty well, I have lately taken notice that many members of my family experience issues with either substance abuse or struggles with mental illness.  I think it would have been too hard to assess this kind of thing a few years ago when I wasn’t even ready to own up to my own struggles yet.

It’s not easy to be in recovery while those to whom you are close have unacknowledged issues…

Which brings me to today’s topic for me: Boundaries.  The past two plus years have been a process of learning how to set healthy boundaries.

Work-life boundaries….I was a workaholic.  This made me feel functional when I was otherwise not.  Working all the time made it so that I didn’t have to be still and look within.  Now that I’m starting to fit into my own sober-skin more and more…I find that I don’t feel the need to run so much AND I value my time and don’t want to spend it all at work anymore so I can do things I also like such as gardening and hiking.

Adult Children Boundaries…Wow.  This is a huge one for me.  I used to take on all of my children’s choices as my own.  I was ridden with guilt for the divorce and the fact that I couldn’t provide them with the life I think they should have. I used to be unable and unwilling to separate what decisions were mine to own and which ones are theirs to own.  I could be easily manipulated into giving money that wasn’t earned, or turning myself inside out to help them out of a mess that they created. I could write a book on this one. It has taken some serious time and work to set these boundaries. My adult children have my love, support and guidance and the rest is up to them. They are coming around and it’s a beautiful (albeit at times painful too) thing to witness.

Boundaries for everyone…If someone is disrespectful or trying to bait me into an unhealthy interaction, or somehow challenge my decision not to drink, etc….I live in a free country dammit I can hang up the phone, excuse myself from the conversation, leave the dinner early, walk away and take 5…and I can then talk to a healthy friend about it(reach out for support)and either deal with it (take an action) or let it go.  I get to choose how and where to spend most of my time really. All of this seemed so foreign and out of reach for me a few years ago.  It’s nice that normal, healthy coping has began to feel normal to me.

There are more examples and maybe I’ll post about them later.  Really the boundary issue for me is about acceptance and letting go.  I grew up in a home without healthy boundaries…and I continued that practice into my adult life…always trying to control things that aren’t mine to control… Now as I heal, actively practicing acceptance of the things that I never really controlled to begin with (adult children choices, their un-involved father, my dysfunctional family of origin, etc)….accepting and letting go allows me the freedom to love them for who they are or let go of those who I need to distance myself from… and letting go of control frees me to spend my time in ways that are meaningful and healthy rather than spinning my wheels trying to make things into what they are not.

Today I am grateful to be sober and free.





25 thoughts on “Boundaries”

  1. this is such an incredible insight! thank you for sharing, it’s such a good reminder to allow ourselves to not feel responsible for others’ decisions. We can love, we can support, but ultimately, we are only responsible for our own choices. thank you for sharing this thoughtful post. ❤

  2. Wow Jenn, I love reading your posts. They are always filled with such an interesting perspective and one that you have gained through sobriety. It’s like reading a self help book. Maybe you should write one! As you move through this journey of self awareness you continue to add more and more insight on how you have come to terms with what is happening in your life. Wishing you the best today. Tina Jeanne

  3. Great post and great topic. I think boundaries is a very important topic for those of us in addiction. I know that I really had to learn boundaries in all areas of my life, as you mention so well here. Work, of all places, was a great place for me to practice boundaries. And not only making them, but more importantly, enforcing them. To do that takes self-respect and love, something I never had for myself.

    Thank you for this – wonderful stuff.


    1. Paul..thank you for your kind words. Even as I reply right now I am laughing at myself…yesterday I was beyond exhausted after working 8 hours….when I realized that Friday (the day before) was a 14 hour work day and I was thinking of working another 14 hour day to be some kind of awesome corporate hero (LOL)…when I said to myself “didn’t you just write some glowing post about boundaries….GO HOME!”. I forced myself to come home, then took my 17 yr old daughter out for dinner where I discovered over conversation that she was going through something where she needed me. Yesterday…keeping a boundary allowed me to be where I needed to be as a mom instead of escaping into my work.
      Setting and keeping boundaries…balance….it’s something I work on daily.

  4. Well done for setting these boundaries. It is not easy at all but it’s the best thing you can do if you want to be happy with yourself and with your life. And go you for being alcohol free, that’s brilliant! I am a nutritionist and I just started my own blog about healthy and affordable eating, feel free to check it out! It’s
    I’m looking forward to more of your posts! Monica x

    1. Thanks Monica. I will certainly check out your blog. Now that I’ve been alcohol-free for two years…I’ve been working on balance in my eating and fitness (along with losing about 35 pounds that I’ve found along the way!). It think it’s all part of the same journey.

      1. Yes I believe it’s all part of the same journey! One of the best saying out there: “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. And that’s the power that nutrition has on us! Good luck with your journey! 😘

  5. Wow! Great post! I am really struck by how you managed to recognize and set boundaries in so many different areas of your life. Setting boundaries with your children must’ve been so painful! I just left you a comment about balance, and now you’re writing about boundaries, which is another area where I could definitely use some work!!! “Working all the time made it so that I didn’t have to be still and look within.” I could have written those words. Early in my recovery, I really withdrew from work a LOT. I was just doing what needed to be done so that I would meet requirements and not get fired, basically. I needed that time in order to figure out how to live outside of work, learn how to really care for myself, how to be present with myself, and learn what I valued and what brought me joy. Now that I’m further along in my recovery, I find myself re-energized by work projects again, and it’s a little nerve-wracking. I definitely don’t want to go back to the workaholic lifestyle I was leading before, so setting boundaries is going to be really important, yet it is still and area where I struggle. Maybe that’s where balance comes in? I guess it’s all connected. Please keep posting about these topics! It is really helpful for me to read the perspectives and experiences of others. Thank you!!! ❤️

  6. Lulu…I often revel in how much I can relate to your posts even though on the outside you struggled with a different substance/issue (not sure how to put that?)…it reminds me that my drinking was a form of self-destruction that my sick and broken soul allowed to seep in and take over…which is why I think the concepts of self-care and boundaries are so important for both of us…or anyone like us.

  7. What great insight into my relationship with my children after the divorce. Thank you for that! I am so glad to hear it was not just me that turned into a sometimes angry, sometimes push-over kind of mother, without the willpower to create and enforce boundaries. If you do end up writing a book, I will be happy to read it.
    I’m going to read your post again. ; )

  8. This was such a great post with great comments as well!Thankyou!!

    It really is a”process” to arrive at a belief that it is HEALTHY and OKAY to set boundaries for ourselves in all areas of our lives – truly finding that coveted balance! Part of that process for me was therapy – years ago I was in “help mode” with a brother suffering from addiction. I somehow felt it was my responsibility to “save” him – nobody else was taking that on. I became codependendtly enmeshed in the completely dysfunctional role of saviour. Round and round my brother and I went until I realized it was taking me away from the needs of my young family and my husband. There were the lengthy phone calls with my brother and then the even lengthier ruminations afterward. My therapist helped me realize that I was responsible for my young family and NOT my brother – WHEW! That epiphany was like a ton of bricks off my back!! I have embraced this lesson and consider it a great gift. I learned to set boundaries with my brother but when he couldn’t respect them I had to sever our relationship. Which was bloody hard. But necessary.
    (Can I also just say, that I was far from perfect as well and actually had no business trying to save someone else! It was completely misguided – a kind of distraction from or denial of dealing with my own shit.)
    I now take “friendship holidays” from people who drain me – sometimes permanently! I’ve learned to say NO and I don’t feel guilty. This unfortunately had to be implemented with my critical, judgemental mother-in-law who seemed to think it was okay to criticize my cooking at every opportunity….Including the final straw for me which was a birthday dinner I made for my Dad that apparently was “too rich” for her and made her sick for 2 days 🙄. F***ing bloody h*ll. Anyhoo – through a forced happy face I remained kind with her and respectful of her but refused to cook for her again. She lived next door to us so we had her over for dinner OFTEN. And after I quit cooking for her, she still came for dinner OFTEN but her son (my husband) cooked for her. I set the table and chatted about books with her which was the one area we could relate to one another on.

    I’ve watched my beloved step-daughter navigate through “help mode” in some of her relationships. She knows my story and she’s wise beyond her years but has still struggled to set healthy parameters for herself around dysfunctional relationships. She’s making progress though, with the help of her therapist! It’s a process but once you finally embrace that ability, you will have it forever and can transfer it to every nook&cranny of your life.

    (Sorry for such a long comment 😬 – recently on track, 28 days, after a relapse (after 11 years alcohol-free) and I seem to have a case of comment-iarrhea….)

  9. I hope you are ok Jenn. Please come back to blogging as and when you can, you are missed by many even those of us that don’t always comment.
    Sending you warm thoughts.

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