I used to have terrible boundaries. In fact I never knew what a ‘boundary’ was until I got sober. I certainly didn’t know that I was responsible for my own boundaries.
My self-worth was so wrapped up in what other people thought of me, that I would just tie myself up in knots trying to please them.
If you are an alcoholic or addict too, I know you know what I’m talking about.
Low self-worth is part of addiction; it’s one of the engines that drives addiction.
These are all life skills that every addict and alcoholic has to learn if they want to stay sober. It’s just too stressful otherwise.
Setting limits and boundaries not only keeps you safe, they also then create an environment for you to grow and flourish in.
To start setting boundaries the most important thing to learn is how to say ‘No.’
Learning to say “no” is a challenge for most people.
But if we say ‘yes’ when we actually mean ‘no’ we get ourselves into all sorts of trouble (I know you know what I’m talking about here.)
It just makes us uncomfortable and if we are uncomfortable for long enough we will drink or use again.
So I had to learn to say ‘No’.
My ‘Yes’ had to mean ‘Yes,’ and my ‘No’ had to mean ‘No.’
Easier than it sounds.
The first thing I learnt was that what I thought of myself was actually far more important than what other people thought of me.
So I had to learn to say ‘No,’ because when I said ‘Yes’ and didn’t mean it, I liked myself less. I became uncomfortable in my own skin and that is a dangerous place for alcoholic to be.
I had to take a deep breath and say ‘No, thank you.’
When I did this, I learnt that your feelings were your responsibility, and my feelings were mine.
That if you were upset by my ‘No,’ that as long as I’d said it politely, how you felt about it wasn’t up to me.
It revolutionized my life.
I gained some much needed integrity in my life and began to like myself more.
Those things are huge for alcoholics and addicts.
Practicing these new behaviors can be really frightening at first. That’s ok, that’s normal. But it’s only through practice that these things will get easier. I’ve found in the long run it’s much easier to face the fear and say ‘no’ upfront, rather than agree to something and live with the fear and shame my dishonesty has created.
These recovery tools are the keys to freedom. By taking these tiny steps and practicing new behaviors we will find life just becomes easier to navigate.
So start by setting a boundary today. Pay attention to how you feel, acknowledge that you are scared but listen to what your truth is in the situation. Stick to that truth and pay attention to how you feel after you set the boundary with someone. My guess is, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself than when you’ve said something you don’t mean.
And then maybe from that one action you’ll start liking yourself just a little bit more.
And that’s what recovery is all about.
Veronica Valli is the author of ‘Why you drink and How to Stop: journey to freedom’ available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. She is a recovered alcohol, addictions therapist and life coach. Her blog is: http://veronicavalli.com. Her book can be purchased at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and on Itunes.