Setting Sober Boundaries In Friendships & Relationships

Setting Sober Boundries in Friendships and Relationships

Once you have decided to take the steps toward living a life of sobriety, you are likely to find that other aspects of your life are also calling for change. One of the most noticeable areas of change often has to do with the dynamics of your relationships. While working on changing your own thought patterns and ineffective coping responses, you will also be navigating interactions with others from a new perspective.

It is inevitable that the topic of your sobriety will, at some point, become a factor in your socialization. It is important to have plans in place for how you will approach situations which can trigger your temptation to use. Some plans for setting sober boundaries work better than others, and you may find that you try out more than one approach before settling on what works best for you.


Ask Others to Abstain

At the most extreme level of boundary setting is the expectation that friends and family will respect your sobriety by not willfully exposing you to temptation. This tactic relies on others restricting their own behaviors, and can be difficult to manage. There is the possibility that resentments will arise, or that feelings will be hurt over perceived lack of understanding on behalf of one party or another. You may be offended when a loved one disregards your request to refrain from drinking or using around you, and they may be offended that you are imposing your own beliefs upon them.


Leave the Situation

A step down from the approach of asking others to not bring substances into your presence is to let it be known that you will take your leave if such a situation arises. This method of avoiding temptation depends on the dedication of the individual in recovery to flee when the temptation to relapse becomes too strong. A downside to this tactic is that it may be viewed as passive-aggressive behavior, which is a way of attempting to control the behaviors of others through mental and emotional manipulation. Friends and family may perceive your sudden leaving as a statement of disgust at their failure to abide by the rules of your sobriety, and may be left with a feeling of unease at your departure.


Filter Your Friendships

The situation of avoiding being exposed to drugs or alcohol is often best controlled through being selective about who we hang around. Chances are good that, while in the midst of substance abuse, you kept people around you who were not interested in your recovery. They may have been the ones to supply you with the drugs or alcohol, or may have been the ones to encourage you to score it. They may have just been the type of people who constantly annoy or depress you, which indirectly contributed to your wanting to escape the situation through intoxication.

If the people who have a negative impact on your decision to stay sober are not on the same page when you finally decide to get clean, their continued influence can make your road to recovery much more difficult. The people we choose to hang around can make a big difference on the type of people that we become. Use this time of recovery to clean house as far as friends go. Choose a new set of friends out of the people whom you attract while in this better place in life. You don’t have to let the old ones go, entirely, but you can put those friendships on the back burner while focusing on recreating yourself.


Be Picky About a Partner

When we are younger, many of us will find that we just kind of fall into a romantic relationship. The person we end up with is someone who just happened to be around, a lot, and the relationship is based on exposure and proximity. This phenomena makes the importance of the aforementioned boundary of filtering friendships all the more important. In the case that we do fall for someone nearby, in the future, we will want to make sure that we are in a good position for that someone to be a positive influence on our lives.

It is usually recommended that those in recovery abstain from getting into a romantic relationship for at least the first year of sobriety. While this may seem restricting, it is based on sound principles. The initial stages of recovery involve a lot of internal and external readjustments to your life. It isn’t fair to bring someone new into it while you are in the middle of rebuilding, and doing so may actually take you off course from your best laid plans for a better life. Take time to discover the real, sober, you before determining what kind of partner fits best with your lifestyle.


Reduce the Codependency

Those who are already in a committed relationship at the time of choosing sobriety have a unique set of challenges. There are often many dysfunctional patterns in place within relationships where one or both  partners are indulging in addiction. Changing these patterns between two people can be much more difficult than changing the patterns of the individual. The road to recovery while in a relationship can be kind of like running a three-legged race. Both parties have to keep moving forward, or no one makes progress.

If you are finding that your partner is not interested in running this same race with you, you have some tough decisions to make. Some may decide that the relationship is not able to be salvaged, and will decide to go it alone. Others may benefit from education and counseling in the area of codependency. Increasing boundaries through reducing codependency means that the ability of the reluctant partner to negatively affect your recovery is reduced through your own growth. You can learn to resist temptation to engage in negative interactions with your partner, and can find new ways of coping with any stresses that the relationship produces.