Coping with drug addiction is a complicated task that requires significant planning. Loved ones of addicts struggle with the daily tasks and subtle nuances of ‘dance’ that they must play with an addict. They must be loving and caring towards the addict, but they must not take care of or enable the addiction. This is especially difficult for some loved ones as they do not want to see the addict struggle or suffer. Watching a loved one struggle with addiction and suffer through the pain and depression that is addiction is terrible. It is also part of the recovery process and required if that addict is to eventually get help. The goal of any family is to see their addicted loved one quit using drugs and/or alcohol and get treatment for their addiction. The first step families must take in getting an addicted loved one to accept treatment is to get them to understand what they are doing. That requires everyone in the family, including friends, to set boundaries for the addict and stick to them. They must be willing and able to follow through with any punishments they promise if those boundaries are broken.

What are the Boundaries?

Boundaries for addicts are any number of ‘lines’ that families and loved ones set for an addict’s behavior. Addiction pushes people to do any number of things that they would otherwise never commit. These actions are different for each addict and different for every family member. Whatever the boundary may be, it is essential that the family member stick to what they have agreed to do when those boundaries are crossed. Boundaries can be any number of types of behaviors or actions that a family member is not going to allow to happen. They are often behaviors that place the addict and those around them in some sort of danger. Using drugs or alcohol in the family home, operating machinery while under the influence, being ‘high’ around children, taking money from others, stealing, absence from work or family activities or any other behavior the family deems unacceptable.

Why Set Boundaries?

Boundaries are set for two main reasons; the first being that the family should not have to suffer from the addiction as well. Most people do not realize the torment that addiction plays on the loved ones of addicts. Watching a loved one slowing destroy their lives is troubling enough, but also having money stolen or children’s lives disrupted or experiencing any abuses, physical or emotional, are all part of the damages that addiction can cause. It is important that families are able to carry on with their lives as happy and healthy as possible. The second reason for setting boundaries is so the addict can get help. Addicts must suffer the consequences of their addiction, without this they can continue to use and abuse drugs for several years. They must understand and experience the pain and suffering that addiction causes.

What to Do if an Addict Crosses the Line?

If an addict crosses the line it can be difficult to follow through with the consequences that have been set. It is important to stay close and connected with all the loved ones who have set boundaries. Boundaries should be set at an intervention, where the addict is made aware of those boundaries, everyone’s feelings and the consequences of those boundaries. Reach out for love and support from family and loved ones to follow through with those consequences. They could be separated from the addict, divorce, relocation of the children, moving the addict out, not giving them anymore money or any number of ways to no longer directly support the addiction. The important thing is to find strength in yourself and family to follow through with the consequences of the addict’s behavior.