A Better Today

Co-dependency & Boundaries

Welcome to the Co-dependency and Boundaries Workshop

Addiction often creates a role change in families that can last for decades and is often passed down to future generations. The impact of the role changes is why addiction is considered a family disease. Each member of the family feels the severity of the addiction differently and cope with these changes in various ways that can be unhealthy. Children often become the caretakers of their parents and grandparents frequently take over the responsibility of raising their grandchildren.

It’s also common for a family member of the addicted person to develop an addiction to the relationship they share, creating a condition known as co-dependency, which can aid in these significant role changes within the family unit. For example, a mother may develop a co-dependency on her relationship with her addicted husband, leaving the eldest child to regularly care for the youngest children.

Researchers and doctors have discovered that the most effective treatment for co-dependency is a series of therapy approaches along with education and experiential groups. These processes strive to explore the patient’s early childhood experiences, as well as his or her current pattern of destructive behaviors. In this workshop we will discuss the unhealthy aspects of co-dependency in a family dynamic and how setting healthy boundaries can help rectify unhealthy behaviors of all member of the family.

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Common Characteristics of Unhealthy Co-dependency in Relationships with Substance Abuse

As a family unit, it is important to depend on each other. Depending on your spouse to pick up the kids from school or have the oldest sibling babysit the younger are just a few examples of healthy family dynamics depending on each other. When drug seeking behaviors take over a family member’s life, the dependency for both their drug and the family member enabling their addiction become unhealthy and destructive. Common characteristics shared by people with co-dependency issues include:

  • Difficulty following through on a project.
  • Harsh judgment of self and others.
  • Projecting his or her low self-esteem on others.
  • The belief that others are responsible for his or her emotions.
  • Constantly seeking approval and affirmation from others.
  • Feeling a sense of inadequacy.
  • Lack of self-confidence in making decisions without help.
  • Denial of personal feelings of fear, insecurity, inadequacy, guilt, hurt and shame.

When attending this workshop, it is important to know the difference between healthy dependency shared among the family as compared to unhealthy co-dependency that you can identify where your addicted loved one’s dependency turned destructive and manipulative. 

Setting Healthy Boundaries During & After Treatment

Personal boundaries can be compared to a personal force field of sorts for one’s physical and mental health. These boundaries are the foundation of a positive self-image and healthy relationships with friends and family. Having personal boundaries allows us to protect ourselves from the actions of others. Therefore, one mustn’t allow exceptions for others or guilt from self.

Strong personal boundaries for each party are a prerequisite for healthy and fulfilling relationships. They protect us from losing pieces of ourselves in perpetual efforts to protect or gain approval from someone we care about.

Sturdy personal boundaries protect us from co-dependent behavior. Without boundaries, one is at risk of losing his or her personal integrity and self-respect, as well as the respect of others.

While its common to long for love and acceptance from the people closest to us, it’s detrimental to sacrifice our integrity in exchange for them. Vigorous boundaries allow love, acceptance, confidence and support in healthy relationships, which sustains the benefits of these connections in recovery. Continued adherence to your boundaries soon becomes a habit that attracts other healthy relationships, as well as a more genuine connection with the ones you love.

An addiction can greatly exacerbate the consequences of having weak or absent boundaries. Denial and self-involvement in the addicted party and his or her loved one can create hurt, turmoil and feelings of resentment, which frequently leads to a difficult road to healing in treatment, recovery or both. We discuss this common occurrence in this workshop, as well as how to set boundaries and advocate for one’s self as necessary.

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What Do Healthy Boundaries Look Like in Recovery?

Setting strong, healthy boundaries is often the goal, but it can be difficult to ascertain what they should be or where to start. This workshop is designed to help families determine what they need, how to communicate what their boundaries are, and how to maintain them with no exceptions.

We understand that this is much easier said than done, especially in the heat of the moment; this workshop helps participants enforce their boundaries at all times and as compassionately as possible.

Before defining what your boundaries should be, it’s important to recognize what you feel your rights are in every relationship. As these definitions are taking shape, feelings should be identified so that when the time comes to enforce boundaries, you’re not consumed by the strong emotional reaction that often occurs when we feel crossed. Taking a deep breath or a “time out” allows centering and a review of personal boundaries.

Examples of Healthy Boundaries

  • “I will not lie to cover up the truth for you.”
  • “I will not loan you money for any reason.”
  • “Our communication must be calm and respectful at all times.”
  • “If you’re living in my home, you must be home between the hours of 9:00 pm and 6:00 am.”
  • “I will not spend time with you unless you’re sober and clean.”
  • “If you’re arrested, I won’t bail you out or pay for a lawyer.”
  • “If we live together, you must go to a predetermined number of meetings every week.”
  • “I will not provide you with transportation unless you’re going to work or school.”

Relapse Prevention Encourages Success

Consequences for Broken Boundaries

It’s not uncommon for recent graduates of a treatment program to test boundaries, which makes it crucial for their loved ones to maintain their principles. If boundaries are allowed to be broken, addicted family members will feel compelled to give up and return to their old ways.

Frequently, the recovering individual counts on this happening, as living in the old ways can be much more convenient than living with new boundaries. Loved ones provide an important part of recovery by enforcing accountability while preserving self-respect.

Once a boundary is crossed, it’s important to acknowledge it and consider the appropriate response. This moment will provide a clarity that allows him or her to avoid saying things that will later cause resentment. Be sure to take whatever time is needed to be able to respond without a stream of anger and resentment.

A crossed boundary deserves a calm, assertive verbal reiteration of the infraction from the transgressed individual that can unfold as follows:
Transgressor: (yelling) “I haven’t had a beer in three months and you think that if I go to the bar, I’ll have a lapse?”

Transgressed: (calmly) “I meant it when I told you that I wouldn’t converse with someone using a raised voice. I will only discuss this with you when your voice is calm.”

Transgressor: “Those aren’t my drugs. I was holding them for a friend.”

Transgressed: “I told you that there were no drugs allowed in the house. I feel angry, frustrated and disappointed that they were allowed in the house anyway. You need to find a new place to stay within three days.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference Between Supporting and Enabling?

Addiction not only affects the addicted but also the people close to them. For many, the first instinct that appears when a loved one is suffering is to act as a shield of protection from the adverse effects of the disease. These noble intentions often cross the line between support and enabling, which is harmful to recovery.

To be sure you’re supporting and not enabling your loved one through recovery, review your boundaries and response plan when a boundary is crossed. Although difficult in the moment, having steadfast boundaries is a supportive way to help your loved one recover.

Why Can’t My Loved One Just Stop Abusing Drugs & Alcohol?

Although it appears to be an easy choice, an addicted individual is unable to stop consuming substances without agonizing symptoms of withdrawal. Going cold turkey from substances like Benzos or alcohol can be dangerous. 

Medical professionals at treatment facilities often use pharmaceutical strategies to reduce the discomfort of withdrawals as well. The risk of a relapse is greatly reduced with a medically supervised detox, as the discomfort of withdrawals at home often compels the addicted person to give up his or her quest for sobriety, creating a feeling of hopelessness and defeat.

What are the Warning Signs that My Loved One is Heading for a Relapse?

Despite all of your support and precautions, it’s not uncommon for an addicted individual to experience a relapse as part of his or her recovery. This doesn’t signal that all hope is lost; instead, it signals that a necessary adjustment in his or her aftercare plan needs to be made.

Mood swings, reduced or absent support meeting attendance, isolation and a return of denial are warning signs that sobriety may be wavering. Loved ones aren’t responsible for a relapse if one happens but it would be appropriate to have a heartfelt and respectful conversation with the addicted person.

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