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.