Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Setting Boundaries ~ Looking for suggestions

We have a family session scheduled with my son and his counselor this week. I'm writing a letter to let him know how his addiction has impacted me. I am also supposed to include the boundaries I plan to put in place. This feels like an overwhelming assignment. like many of you, I suppose, I have struggled to set boundaries. And I have learned that I should not set a boundary unless I plan to keep it. Scary. Not to mention, just thinking of boundaries means I have to mentally visit all the ugliness of the past and imagine it recurring in the future (so I can figure out the boundaries I need to define). OK, enough whining. How have you set boundaries for your child? I am thinking I need to define them in these categories:
  • in the event he relapses (don't call me until you are sober and are back in a recovery program, working with your counselor or sponsor)
  • in the event he finds himself in jail (don't call me for bail or to ask me to solve your legal troubles; you need to solve them yourself)
  • in the event he wants/needs money (do not call and ask for money. Pay your own bills, we are done. ) - not sure about medical as they relate to his recovery??
  • After rehab (you cannot live with us; do not ask to come home)
  • School (do not ask us to support you returning to school until you have been sober and in recovery for one year and have demonstrated that you can hold a job, and support yourself. )
  • If you have other serious problems (do not expect us to solve it for you; we will be supportive as a Mom and Dad, but you need to solve your own problems)


  1. My suggestions are that you begin thinking about your boundaries with the word "I".

    Like your first category: I will accept no phone calls unless you are sober and in a recovery program.

    Boundaries are your control mechanism. The way you have your categories the responsibility is on your son.

    Second category: I accept no phone calls from jail or any attorney representing your in legal issues.

    Do you get my drift. Boundaries are really about you not him. Do not set rules expecting them to work as boundaries and remember you are not a machine, boundaries must be firm but flexibility is sometimes called for, but there will be consequences.

    I wrote and article about boundaries once if you want to read it: http://intervene.drugfree.org/2010/01/the-key-to-dealing-with-my-son’s-drug-addiction-setting-boundaries-for-myself/

  2. what Ron said. revised.

    WE want you to be sober, and until you are:

    WE will not accept drugs in our lives.
    WE will not give you any money
    WE will not take calls from, or bail you out of jail.
    WE do not want you in our home.

    WE will pray for you, and we will accept calls from you AFTER you are in a rehab, which you must find and pay for yourself.

  3. Also we love you. Good boundaries and they are about you not him. I cannot enforce a boundary on someone else.

  4. I like your list and the revised suggestions of using "we" or "I".

    I hope you do better with boundaries than I have. I have stuck to most of them but the car...I took the car away from him for using drugs and gave him my car to drive (for school, meetings) but yesterday he took the keys to his car and left me with mine. Ugh.

  5. very helpful. thanks everyone. And yes, Ron, I found your article before writing this post. Learning step by step,

  6. Hi Carolyn,

    I like Ron's point, and suggest you take a look at these bounsaries witha fresh eye - they are about you, and keeping serenity in YOUR life.

    Further, on the subject of paying for school: I like the position of reimbursement. i.e. you pay for your schooling initially, and once you can prove you have passed a class, or gained a degree (whatever stipulation makes the most sense for you and your situation) we will reimburse you for the cost of tuition. I saw that on Heather's Mom's blog and really loved this idea! It forces the child to take full responsibility for their life, but once they succeed they are rewarded and no longer have a mountain of debt.

    Just some food for thought...

  7. Wow...all great comments, especially the fact that the boundaries are yours, not your sons.

    I was stressing over the boundaries I had set at one point because I felt the situation had changed and the boundary should change, but I felt guilty about changing it (like I was not enforcing the boundary). She reminded me that helping during active recovery is not the same as enabling during active addiction.

    My point is to remember that whatever boundaries you need now, may change for you in the future adn that is okay. One step at a time. ((hugs and prayers your direction))

  8. Amen to all that was said here. It is about you. Your boundaries! Using "I" or "we" is important.

    And the reimbursement thing for schooling - we have used that with great success. She only has to pay for her first class. If she passes that one, we reimburse tuition and book cost - in that fashion, she could literally finish school with no further expenses past that first class. She did drop a class with a recent relapse, so she will have to start the process again. I think that's important that she save up for, purchase and complete that first class in order to get that reimbursement program going. She has voiced her appreciation many times, and is very aware of consequences, etc.

    I'll be thinking/praying as you go through this letter writing exercise and the thought processes in establishing your boundaries. Hugs and prayers!