How to Set Healthy Boundaries with an Addicted Person


When your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you naturally want to help them. Sometimes that help actually ends up hurting you and your loved one, though, if it crosses the line into enabling. There are ways to set healthy boundaries with an addicted person that can benefit you as well as them.

A Dividing Line

In simple terms, a boundary is a line between what you will accept and what you won’t. Think of it just as you would a physical boundary line that is established by a fence or a wall between two pieces of property, for example. You wouldn’t think of climbing that wall and crossing the line onto someone else’s property. Likewise, you establish boundaries with an addicted person to describe the limits and rules in your relationship with your loved one.

Setting Boundaries to Establish Control

Setting boundaries with your loved one is a way to establish control over a situation that may have become extremely difficult for all involved. You may have been trying to control the behavior exhibited by your loved when they are under the effects of drugs or alcohol. That approach only creates more challenges and may even create animosity between you and them.

The only thing you can control in the relationship is your response and what kind of behavior you will accept from the addicted person. This is where boundaries can help you. When you decide to set boundaries, remember that you are not trying to control your loved one’s behavior. You are only controlling what kind of behavior you will accept or not accept in your own life.

Remain Objective

When you are very close to an addicted person, their drug or alcohol use is naturally a serious concern for you. You are worried about their mental and physical health and want to do whatever you can do to help them. It’s important to know how to set healthy boundaries with an addicted person, though, and that starts with detaching to some degree.

Detaching means that you let go of the other person’s addiction. Then you can look more objectively at the situation. When you establish boundaries, your loved one may have problems with them and that can make the process even more painful and guilt-inducing. It can be challenging to remain objective when you establish and enforce healthy boundaries but you must stand firm for everyone’s sake.

Boundaries Are Not Threats

When you set boundaries with an addicted person in your life, you are very clearly letting them know what you will tolerate and what is unacceptable. Your boundaries are not threats in the sense that you are not laying out consequences for their behavior. For example, saying, “If you don’t quit using drugs, you’ll have to move out of my house” is a threat. However, when you say, “I will not accept your drug use in my house,” that is setting a healthy boundary for their behavior.

Be Aware of the Dangers of Enabling

Staying firm with the boundaries you have set for a loved one who is addicted can be difficult. You want to help them, but you may end up enabling them by being too lenient with those boundaries. When your loved one is struggling, you may find that you are willing to accept otherwise problematic behaviors in an attempt to help them find their way. This means that you let them “cross the line” of the boundary you have previously established.

Enabling a loved one often involves making excuses for their behavior, taking over their responsibilities for them, or stepping in to save them from the legal consequences of their addiction. Some practical ways to stop enabling your loved one include setting those boundaries and sticking to them, letting them deal with the consequences of their own behavior, and supporting them when they decide to seek treatment for their addiction.

California Addiction Treatment Center

If you or your loved one is living with an alcohol use disorder and require assistance, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. At HVRC, we know that the whole family is affected by a loved one’s addiction. We offer comprehensive family education and recovery programming that is part of a full continuum of care, from acute medical detoxification to sober living programs. We are licensed as a Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital (CDRH), enabling us to provide more services than most addiction treatment centers.