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Why Healthy Family Boundaries In Recovery Matter

Although the grips of addiction take a hold on a single individual, it is actually a family disease. Families are impacted to the same extent, if not worse, than the person who’s battling addiction. This occurs mainly because of the emotional and physical involvement a family member has in the person’s life. More often than not, a person in active addiction will cause a great deal of harm within the family unit due to their addiction.

Unintentionally, this person will burn many bridges.

The damage caused by active addiction remains prevalent, even when the individual enters sobriety. Building healthy family boundaries and learning how to effectively enforce them can save a person in recovery and their family from reaching a breaking point, both internally and as a unit.

People who are new to recovery need support. They turn to family in their times of need, because, let’s face it, nobody can make a child feel better than their parents—assuming their parents aren’t in the grips of addiction themselves. Despite the damage caused within the family, unconditional love always wins. It gives families hope that they and the person in recovery can once again build a healthy bond and grow together.


Addiction affects the family in several ways. Imagine watching your child grow up only to deteriorate in front of your eyes; it’s horrific. With the dramatic spike in drug use, it’s a sight that one too many families are forced to see. Experiencing firsthand what addiction does to an individual hurts greater than any pain imaginable because of how attached you are to them and what you once knew them to be.

Those who are active in their drug and alcohol use are unstable and unpredictable. They will use every tool in their arsenal to keep their addiction moving forward. They will lie, steal, and manipulate family members to a degree in which causes stress, anxiety, fear, and anger toward the addicted person. The actions and behaviors associated with substance abuse distort and deteriorate boundaries. These behaviors can arise even in sobriety, so it is important to recognize if the addicted person is taking the proper steps in their recovery.

Family members often resort to enabling their loved one’s behavior or make countless attempts to control the person in active addiction, both of which are extremely unhealthy. Denial sets in long before anyone can realize it, ultimately causing the family and the person who’s using to be participants in the grips of this disease.


As a person in recovery myself, I can recall numerous episodes of how my behaviors affected my family, both in and out of recovery. I’ve heard over and over from my therapist and support system about how I need to set healthy family boundaries. I thought to myself, “Finally, I can rebuild my relationship with my family,” until I came to the realization that nothing was working.

You see, my family does not seem to realize what “personal boundaries” are. Every time I have tried to set my boundaries between my parents, the same patterns occur only a short time later. This still affects me negatively today, with two years sober.

When family members cannot distinguish the difference between what’s healthy and unhealthy for one’s recovery, it becomes a growing issue between the recovering individual and the relationship with their family. Families may think the addicted person is coming off too harshly, removing themselves from the family dynamic. This can cause a family member to develop resentments against someone who is simply putting their recovery first. My overprotective parents were just not grasping what I was bringing to the table and why. In this moment, it became crucial for me to recognize these resentments were not ill-intended.

After unsuccessful attempts at setting boundaries, a person who’s in active addiction might become discouraged. However, some guidelines can help increase the chances of setting effective boundaries and sticking to them.


Setting healthy family boundaries can save the addicted person and their family from years of emotional and mental turmoil. The disease of addiction is complex and progressive, in or out of recovery. While recovery is possible, it is based on the individual and their intentions.

Families, in my opinion, are affected greatly by addiction. They begin to live in fear due to firsthand experiences related to the choices the person using makes while actively using drugs. Families experience many obstacles once addiction in their family has come to light, and even after it is treated. If someone in recovery decides they are going all in, and take the suggestions given to them, it will be recognized.

Fortunately, support groups and other options can help families overcome their trust issues, grief, denial, and anger toward an addicted person. Numerous suggestions are given to families, and setting healthy boundaries is one of them. In my view, they significantly change the family dynamic for the better.

In the end, it is all about how the family and the person in recovery react toward one another. Boundaries help increase the likelihood of a solid relationship between the two. They also help families recognize the needs and wants of the person who’s battling addiction. And vice versa. In the process of setting healthy family boundaries, both parties need to firmly express their viewpoints and understand each other’s requests in an effective, adult-like manner.


While attempting to set healthy family boundaries, there will likely be some difficulties that arise. Do not fear; this is normal. At first, it might seem impossible to talk to each other due to a great deal of pain both the addicted person and family are trying to recover from. Family members might feel as though the addicted person is not taking the conversation seriously, or vice versa.

Both parties need to communicate effectively in this process. There needs to be respect, both for the person who’s addicted and the family. One must not blame the other, for this causes animosity and resentment.

When stating your requests or your point of view, mean what you say and say what you mean. This is important because when an individual is expressing their concerns, especially in a vulnerable state, there is a high risk of misinterpretation and misperception.

If you want things to go smoothly, you have to consider what is beneficial for both sides of the spectrum. If someone just jumps to say the first thing on their mind, it might lead to conflict down the road. This is why thinking deeply about what you’re trying to accomplish is essential.

If the person in recovery or family member is seriously on the journey to rebuilding a healthy family relationship, there should be minimal issues. However, the family dynamic and a person’s recovery is individually based. If boundaries are being broken, one must follow up with the appropriate consequences. Be patient, be firm, and take your time. The situation will not improve overnight, but in time, significant change will occur.


If you find that you’ve tried countless times to set healthy family boundaries and everything seems to fall back into the awfully familiar downward spiral, it’s OK. It takes a significant amount of time and willpower to actually enforce and stick to boundaries. Recovering from addiction is not an easy task. What works for a family member might not work the person in recovery, and what works for the person in recovery might not work for a family member.

If setting boundaries becomes difficult, try taking these suggestions:

Suggestions for the Person in Active Addiction

  • Use the coping skills you have learned when faced with a family situation you feel is going to harm your mental or emotional state.
  • Reach out to your support group.
  • Go to therapy to express your thoughts in a professional setting.
  • Don’t lash out, even if you’re angry.
  • Breathe.
  • Be patient, especially if your family lacks knowledge about addiction and how to treat it.
  • Don’t give up; change will come.

Suggestions for the Family

  • Seek out support groups to talk about your issues in a healthy manner.
  • Try to set up family meetings in a professional setting if you cannot accomplish the goals on your own.
  • Do not blame the person in active addiction or pass judgment.
  • Do not give in to manipulation.
  • Learn how to stop enabling the person who’s using, in or out of recovery.
  • Be patient with the person in recovery; they are also going through a lot.
  • Find a balance between the power of being a parent and respecting your child’s wishes.


Building healthy family boundaries can help bring a family closer together, but they will not get the person sober. Addiction requires medical attention and treatment to initiate the recovery process. Repair happens after treatment when the individual has entered a comfortable space in their recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it’s not too late to ask for help. The disease of addiction is insidious and progressive, but there is hope because recovery is possible! If you have decided that it’s time to stop existing and start living, call (866) 327-4550 today. At Ocean Breeze Recovery, we have trained medical staff available 24/7 to help you or your loved one on their journey to recovery.


Bertrand T

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