How to Establish Boundaries with an Alcoholic or Addict

If you’re an expat in Spain dealing with a relationship with an alcoholic or addict—whether it’s your spouse, parent, child, or friend—you’ll discover that setting boundaries is crucial for self-preservation. Without boundaries, you risk being overwhelmed by the needs of the alcoholic or addict. Addicts often lack boundaries; they take and take, often with little consideration for others’ needs. Hence, it’s up to you to establish and enforce boundaries.

What are boundaries?

In dysfunctional or codependent dynamics, individuals may not develop a strong sense of self as confident, independent individuals. Instead, they may allow others to dictate their identity, emotional state, and self-worth. A boundary serves as a necessary and healthy dividing line between two people, affirming that you are a separate individual with your own physical and emotional needs.

Healthy boundaries create a structure that communicates how others should treat you. Clear expectations foster respectful, mutual relationships. Without boundaries, there’s a risk of being mistreated or becoming overly enmeshed in others’ lives.

How to establish boundaries

Initiating boundaries can be challenging, especially in relationships with a history of boundary violations. The first step is to clarify the boundaries you need. Consider writing down your boundaries and the reasons behind them, as it can help you gain clarity and reinforce your stance. Having a list also serves as a reference when you’re wavering or finding it difficult to uphold your boundaries. Begin by outlining behaviors you find unacceptable, such as driving under the influence, theft, public embarrassment, verbal abuse, or substance misuse, and use this list to establish your boundaries.

When setting and enforcing boundaries, aim to remain calm and concise. Stick to the facts without overexplaining, blaming, or becoming defensive. For instance, it’s more effective to assert, “I’m going home now because I prefer not to be around alcohol consumption,” rather than escalating into an argument.

Remember, boundaries aren’t about controlling someone or forcing them to change. They’re about defining how you wish to be treated, preserving your well-being in a chaotic environment, and fostering healthy relationships.

Common boundary issues with alcoholics and addicts

  1. Safety concerns

Ensuring your safety and that of any dependents should always be the priority. Addicts may create unsafe environments through physical violence, threats, property damage, driving while intoxicated, neglecting child supervision, or inviting risky individuals into the home. In such situations, leaving or seeking outside assistance may be necessary for your safety.

  1. Being around substance use

When a loved one consumes alcohol or drugs in your presence, your comfort and well-being are compromised. Establishing boundaries regarding your tolerance for such situations is crucial. You might decide to leave when substance use begins or avoid discussing sensitive topics during intoxication. Some individuals opt not to serve alcohol at gatherings or allow it in their homes.

  1. Requests for assistance

Addicts often seek help with practical matters like money, shelter, or transportation. However, you’re not obligated to provide these resources to adults. Set clear boundaries regarding the type and extent of assistance you’re willing to offer, such as limiting financial support or transportation to essential appointments only.

Setting your boundaries

While examples of boundaries are provided, there’s no universal solution. Consider your unique circumstances and how these suggested boundaries resonate with you. If necessary, seek guidance from a therapist to navigate this process. Remember, boundaries empower us to make choices that prioritize our well-being and shift away from victimhood and codependency. You have the agency to decide what is acceptable and assert your boundaries accordingly.

In this article, I’ve offered examples of boundaries tailored to various situations, but it’s important to recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, especially for expats navigating relationships in Spain. Each individual must consider their specific circumstances and emotional responses to determine appropriate boundaries.

As you reflect on the boundaries outlined here, pay attention to your feelings. Do they empower you or do they evoke fear or resistance? It’s natural to feel hesitant or uncertain about setting boundaries, especially in complex relationships with addicts or alcoholics. However, your well-being is paramount, and boundaries serve as a tool for self-care and protection.

Therapy can be a valuable resource for expats in Spain seeking support and guidance in setting and enforcing boundaries. A therapist can help you explore your feelings, identify healthy boundaries, and develop strategies for communicating and maintaining them effectively.

Remember, setting boundaries is not about being punitive or controlling; it’s about advocating for your needs and establishing a framework for healthy relationships. By asserting your boundaries with clarity and consistency, you empower yourself to navigate challenging situations with confidence and resilience.

If you would like help in setting bounderies, you can find a list of healthcare providers in the ESHA Spain business directory.

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