Think of your favorite sport. Odds are good that the playing area for whichever sport you picked—whether it is baseball or football or tennis or basketball or soccer or what have you—are strictly marked. The area where the game can be legally played is said to be “in bounds” (or in “fair territory” for you baseball fans) and the area that is not part of the legal playing area is said to be “out of bounds” (or, again for the baseball lovers, in “foul territory”). 

Without this differentiation between in bounds and out of bounds, most sports would quickly fall apart. The boundaries are essential to the game.

Similarly, boundaries are essential on the recovery journey. When you have regained your sobriety, one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to set boundaries that will help you determine whether an activity or idea supports or undermines your recovery. Those boundaries define what is “in bounds” and what is “out of bounds.”

Let’s take a look at some examples of good boundaries for individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder.

Relationship Boundaries in Recovery

Your personal relationships can have a real impact—good or bad—on your recovery journey. That is why setting boundaries related to those relationships is a good place to start. Here are some examples of boundaries you might set:

  • I will not hang out with people who will encourage me to drink or use drugs—including those I used to hang out with before I got sober.
  • I will build strong relationships based on honesty, respect, and sobriety with my friends and family members. 
  • I will distance myself from individuals whose behavior or words undermine my self-confidence, my self-esteem, and my sobriety—and I will focus on building relationships with people whose behavior or words do the opposite.
  • I will maintain mutually supportive relationships with others in recovery via recovery program meetings, my treatment center’s alumni program, and sponsor or mentor relationships.
  • I will take seriously the common advice that I avoid new romantic entanglements in the first year of my sobriety.

Emotional Boundaries in Recovery

When you are in recovery from a substance use disorder, it is important to pay attention to your emotions—not to judge them, but to keep an eye on how they may be impacting your efforts to maintain your sobriety. Here are some example of boundaries you might set:

  • When I feel especially bored or restless, I will turn to a trusted friend or an engaging hobby to help energize me so I am not tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol.
  • When I feel angry, sad, regretful, or worried, I will practice mindfulness, write in my journal, talk with a trusted friend or family member, or go to a recovery meeting.
  • When I am experiencing grief, I will remember that I am not facing it alone and will also remind myself of the good times I experienced with the person or in the situation that is no longer present.
  • When difficult emotions persist over a period of time, I will talk to a doctor or therapist about the possibility that I am experiencing a mental health disorder.

Stress-Related Boundaries in Recovery

Most all of us are dealing with some level of stress nearly all of the time. After all, life is full of responsibilities, challenges, and little annoyances that can all add up to stress. But too much stress can also chip away at your resolve to stay sober. Here are some examples of boundaries you might set:

  • I will work to reduce stress at work by taking breaks, adding some light physical activity like stretching or a quick walk, and reducing the ways in which work intrudes on my personal time.
  • I will lower my stress levels by tidying up, making my to-do list more helpful, or creating a simple budget to follow.
  • I will remember that eating healthily, sleeping restfully, and exercising regularly supports my physical health, my mental health, and my sobriety—in part because these activities make it easier to effectively manage stress.

Getting Sober is Bound to Make Life Better

A substance use disorder steadily eats away at your overall quality of life—and so it stands to reason that getting sober helps you improve the life you are living. At The Aviary Recovery Center—located near St. Louis, Missouri—we can help you get and stay sober. We provide medically supervised detoxification services to ensure you can withstand the difficulties related to withdrawal. We provide a rehabilitation program that also addresses co-occurring mental health disorders that may be tangled up with your substance use disorder. And we provide a continuum of care to ensure your recovery journey starts off smoothly. The most important boundary you can set is one that separates you from drugs and alcohol. We can help make that boundary a reality.