Question about boundaries...

Old 08-24-2007, 07:15 AM
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Question about boundaries...

I've been coming to this website for almost a year, and I've seen a lot of posts about boundaries. I've finally started going to Al-Anon meetings (there is only one Naranon meeting in my area and it's on Wednesday nights when I cannot attend). I've been to three meetings so far and plan to keep going back. I have a pretty good understanding of what it means to set boundaries and detach, etc...but still have a lot to learn.

One of the boundaries I have set for my AH is that he not smoke crack (or any other illegal drugs for that matter) in our house. He's been really good about this for while, but last night, he came home after being out drinking and smoked crack in the bathroom (I know he did by his voice and his appearance).

In the past, I've tried confronting him about it when it happens, and of course he always denies it and gets very unpleasant, and usually gets verbally and emotionally abusive, picks a fight and storms out to go get more high or more drunk, only to return in the middle of the night or the next day after spending an additional couple hundred dollars on the stuff.

Last night, instead of reacting to what he did, I just kept my distance from him for a while and then when we finally did speak to each other, he did his usual routine of trying to provoke me to anger or frustration, but I just kept my cool. Finally, after about an hour, he gave up and went to sleep.

My question is this, did I handle it right last night? If so, do I speak to him today (or next time he's sober) about my boundaries and the fact that I know he crossed them, and that I find it unacceptable, etc? I guess I'm just not sure what to do when the boundaries are crossed?? Any advice?

On a side note, when he was in the bathroom getting high, he must have seen my Al-Anon book "Hope for Today" sitting on the shelf. Because when he did finally speak to me, it was to say that he didn't know I was going to Al-Anon, and why didn't I tell him (I could swear I did the first time I went, and the last two times I went, he was out of town working), am I going there to meet other men, does he make me that unhappy, he doesn't want his business spread everywhere, etc, etc, blah, blah...that was the angle he took to try to provoke me. I gently explained to him that I am going to Al-Anon for me, not for him. That it's a program where I can learn to offer support and encouragement and think before I speak, etc. I really think he didn't know what to think about that. I just kept reassuring him that I love him, etc.

It's funny because he has an NA book (which he's been reading through the last couple of months) that he got when he went through rehab many years ago, and we had a conversation last weekend about the book. I asked him about the book, when he got it, and if he worked the steps. I found out that he only went to a few meetings, got discouraged, and didn't work any steps. He said he doesn't even know what they are or understand them. I have hope that by me attending the Al-Anon meetings, he will see a change for the better in me and want what I have...peace and serenity...and maybe, just maybe, he will try going to meetings again. I believe he truly wants to be clean, but he hasn't accepted the fact that he needs help doing it yet. I hope he will come to the realization that he can't do it on his own, he can't control it, and will seek help in AA or NA. I happen to know that at my Thursday night meeting, there is an AA meeting right next door.....hope for today. Anyway, I'll stop now before this becomes a book.
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Old 08-24-2007, 07:30 AM
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I have a lot less experience here than others with the boundary issue while living with an active addict, because the ones I finally set with my exah quickly led to seperation.

That said, I think you did good by not reacting and by keeping your cool. It certainly worked to avoid a blow up, right? That's a good sign!

As for talking to him about it later, I guess I would advise you to tell him what your boundaries are when he sobers up, but I don't think I would advise telling him that you know he crossed them UNLESS you can do that and still avoid a toxic type of confrontation with him. (If you can simply tell him without expecting ANYTHING from him in terms of agreeing with you or validating your feelings.)

I think it is when we expect them to think rationally that we get in deep trouble very quickly. At least for me, I had to completely stop trying to tell my ex anything that I knew about his using because no matter what I said, even if I had solid 'evidence', he would deny deny deny. And I would get crazy because I KNEW what I knew, and it would all go downhill from there.

It became enough for me to just know within myself that he had crossed the line without trying to convince him of it. But like I said, that quickly (less than a year) led to seperation and divorce. (Which by the way is probably the single best thing I have ever done for myself and my children.)

Don't know if this helped or not. Like everything else, it all depends on the people involved. You did good last night! Keep going!
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Old 08-24-2007, 07:40 AM
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I think it is wonderful that you set this boundary .
Wonderful that you gently spoke to him about al-anon - and wonderful that he asked. (even if he did quack away, predictably, about 'going to meet men...etc)

Wonderful, too, that he even went to a few meetings.
I know my own recovery in al-anon has come in bits and pieces, false starts and setbacks. I would go to a meeting or two, decide they were all nuts, or they all hated me, or I was not good enough to be there --you name it. I'm sure addicts feel the same way.

(((((((crushed))))) Thanks for sharing your story ~ nitelite
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Old 08-24-2007, 09:12 AM
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Big Sis says it very well. You do what you can live with for today. Start with small boundaries you know you can stick to. Don't outkick your coverage. Don't set boundaries you know you can't possibly enforce. This was a huge mistake for me with my AS. Id say if you do this then, well the then never came and i was as big a liar as he was, and he knew I wouldn' stick to what id said. I try, notice I said try not to do that anymore.
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Old 08-24-2007, 09:40 AM
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When you set a boundary, you have to set consequences along with it, or else the boundary is meaningless and only serves to reinforce that people can treat you any way they please.

That's why it's good to set small, manageable ones. In your case, I'm not sure what that would be. Smoking crack in your house, or even BRINGING it into your home, puts you at risk of arrest and worse. So I'm not sure what to say.

Wishing you luck with this. I cannot live with someone who is in active addiction, and I'd walk out in a flat minute (or have him arrested) if someone overstepped my boundary that you "don't do crack in my house", so I can't be much help at all. But I'm sending you hugs and strength to figure out what kind of life you really want, and start heading in that direction.

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Old 08-24-2007, 09:40 AM
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I also set boundries that I can stick to. That way she knows that I mean it and I don't go back on my word. I think boundries are different for everyone. You can only do what you are comfortable with. No one can tell us what boundries to set.
We all have a different tolerance to what we can put up with. For me I would not be able to put up with any drug use in my home. I'm not saying it never happened.....because it has, I just didn't know it at the time. That is definetly one thing that I will not tolerate ever. Do what is right for you.....nothing more and nothing less.

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Old 08-24-2007, 09:46 AM
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Ok, I want to jump in here....I've tried to set this boundary about not wanting to be with anyone who drinks. It is pretty much understood that the "drinking" doesn't have to be near me around me or anything to do with me. Just don't want a boyfriend who drinks at he slipped a couple of weeks ago and I withdrew some and got a little distant, then he realized my reactions and conversations with him got different. After talking to my counselor and my sponsor....they are wondering if I'm gonna back it up this time? Well coming from a chronic relapser myself, it took me 20 years to get these 10 I've got now! I know the I cannot be the reason he doesn't drink, it won't work like that, but I guess I gotta give the ultimatum anyways? Keep it up boy and you'll be without me for good?????
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Old 08-24-2007, 10:01 AM
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Givelove is right when you set a boundary, you have to set a consequence as well. What is your consequence if he smokes crack or other drugs in your home?
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Old 08-24-2007, 10:27 AM
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I guess I didn't think it though enough to set a consequence. When I set the boundary, it was the day after he had used in our home. I told him that I knew he had gotten high the night before in our home and I need him to stop doing that or I'd be forced to make decisions I don't want to have to make. His response was "I love you and you are right". That was about two months ago.

Maybe I wasn't clear with the consequence, because I know what it should be, and that I'm not ready to enforce that yet.
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Old 08-24-2007, 10:34 AM
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Great thought and insight before me. It sounds like you handled the situation very well...staying calm, not flying into anger/fear. The Naranon literature states that the very thing that an addict wants the most from us is anger and fear.

Boundaries.....I'm one to try and respond to this - ha ha. It's been a long slow road for me. I am definitely not a quick study. However, I have learned to only make boundaries that I am willing to back up with consequences....if you do such and such then I will do such and such. It really doesn't matter so much what I am going to do as it does that I will 100% do what I said that I would do. Thus...the importance of only making boundaries that I am willing to back up with my actions. My RAH knows that if he should use crack in or out of the house that he will no longer live here. There is no question in my mind about what I would do. I know longer worry about (much) whether he is going to use or not because I know what I will do. I'm not saying that I would end the relationship at that point - only that we would not live together. I would support him if he chose inpt rehab/recovery and remain in his life to see what happened. I'd make new boundaries as I needed depending upon the circumstances. Just because that is what I would do is not any comment on what you should do. Maybe you say....if you use in our home I will no longer interact with you for the next week - or - I'm going to fix liver and onions every night for a month. only matters that you set a boundary that you are willing to live with....there is no right or wrong because it is such an individual thing. You will discover the right boundaries for you in time. can't change anyone or anything....the only thing that you can change is yourself. If you change then people can change for themselves to accommodate (or not) to your changes. At least that is what I've found to be true for me.

Alanon/Naranon and working the steps have helped me so much. My RAH has said the same things at time about "his business" being spread around. My response is "you're the last person that I talk about at meetings....I'm there for me and my life - not yours".

Hang in there! Donna
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Old 08-24-2007, 11:12 AM
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Boundaries have consequences or they are not boundaries at all. He crossed your boundary of smoking crack in the house. What are you going to do about it?

A gentle discussion about going to meetings is not a consequence. Blowing up at him and then waiting for it to happen again is not a consequence either.

You drew a line in the sand, he crossed it. What next? The balls in your court so to speak. But if there are no real consequence then there is no reason for him NOT to smoke crack in your bathroom the next time he goes out drinking and comes home with a rock in his pocket.
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Old 08-24-2007, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by CrushedbyCrack View Post
Maybe I wasn't clear with the consequence, because I know what it should be, and that I'm not ready to enforce that yet.
That seems true, Crushed. I was intrigued by what lightseeker said above...about not living together (not breaking up, and still being supportive, but not living together any more) That seems sane. When you are ready, you will know it. I just hope it doesn't take you as long, and hope you don't have to suffer as much as I did, before you reach that point. (That's always our hope, isn't it?) The things I allowed to happen damaged me badly, and it took many years to feel happy again.

Addiction is a progressive disease. Take care to protect yourself from it.
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Old 08-24-2007, 03:25 PM
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Sounds like you set up a suggestion more than a boundary; toughen up sweetie.
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Old 08-24-2007, 06:36 PM
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I completely agree that boundaries must be ones we can enforce and starting little helps. I learned too to only set boundaries for me, not with the expectation that it would change my addict. My boundaries were things to protect me from legal problems, hurt, stress, perhaps even physical harm. A nice bonus of some of my boundaries was that it did bring about some positive changes for my daughter, but I would have been in trouble if that was what I expected of my boundaries.

I think it is great that you can honestly say you are not ready for the consequence you believe should be the result of crossing your boundary. Recognizing things like that is a part of recovery too. Perhaps it would be helpful to start smaller. Hugs
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Old 08-24-2007, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by CrushedbyCrack View Post
One of the boundaries I have set for my AH is that he not smoke crack (or any other illegal drugs for that matter) in our house.

Last night, instead of reacting to what he did, I just kept my distance from him for a while and then when we finally did speak to each other, he did his usual routine of trying to provoke me to anger or frustration, but I just kept my cool. Finally, after about an hour, he gave up and went to sleep.

My question is this, did I handle it right last night?.
#1- That is an excellent boundary! But crossing a boundary should have a consequence attached. What are the consequences of his smoking crack in the house? It has been my experience that addicts never learn until they feel the full affect of the consequences of their own actions.

#2- This is one of the most important things we learn in alanon: What our response to the addict/alcoholic is. You can not argue with them, you will always "lose". So, the best thing is just what you did, not respond. I'll bet you felt more in control of yourself too, instead of drawn into the insanity of the addict.
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Old 08-24-2007, 10:50 PM
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Greet said it best when she said that boundaries are set to protect and satisfy us NOT the addict.

In my estimation and experience, I have to agree with those who said crossing boundaries have to have a consequence. They are not worth a damn if they don't have cause and effect.

Using drugs in ones home is dangerous and illegal. Overlooking it can have serious consequences of their own. YOU have decided that you do not want this in your home; therefore, you established a boundary. When that boundary is compromised, you must, for your own protection, enforce it and deliver a consequence that satisfies and protects YOU. If he cannot adhere to what you find acceptable or unacceptable, you need to let him know that until he can respect your wishes and boundaries, ______ will happen. (you fill in the blank with the consequence but it has to have some teeth or it won't mean a thing)

Remember, the addict cares little about anyone's boundaries and trying to talk logic with an addict is a waste of time. The boundaries and the subsequence consequences are for YOU.
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Old 08-25-2007, 04:33 PM
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Boundaries are a great way to explore.... what *I* want.

How DO I want to live?

What is it that makes ME happy?

What do I want today to look like?

What about tomorrow? Five years from now?

Do I want/have children? How do I want THEIR lives to be?

What causes me joy? How can I get more of that?

By setting boundaries that help me answer those questions... the addict is often not even in the equation.

I've known spouses who've lived with active addiction because of their commitment to the marriage... in most cases, an emotional separation became necessary, even if a physical one was not something they were ready for. With the ones that I know... and eventual physical separation also happened. ... when the sober spouse was ready for it.

Keep posting and reading, CbyC. And thank goodness you found some meetings... your reaction to him the other night was a result of that, I think. Good job!

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Old 08-26-2007, 06:49 AM
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Good for you for setting the boundary and not reacting to AH. By not reacting you
save yourself from engaging in emotional and verbal conflict.

A boundary is making a covenant or contract with yourself about what you are willing
to do/accept for your own well being. The consequence when a boundary is crossed is as important as the boundary.
For example I set a boundary I no longer will listen to the addict's quack quack quacking, angry outbursts or crazed talk. My consequence is I detach by leaving the room/ house or if on the phone I say
Sorry, I have to go now. Take care. End of conversation.
Ditto to what Big Sis said: Boundaries are a great way of discovering..... what
*I* want.
Try to determine what consequence you can set when AH uses in your home.
Only you can determine what that is. Tell AH your consequence and follow through.

I told AS if he was using he could not live under my roof . When he crossed
my line in the sand, I asked him to leave and live elsewhere. I no longer allowed him to stay. It worked!
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Old 08-26-2007, 07:11 AM
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It took me awhile to learn that boundaries are for ME and not for someone else. A boundary says this is what I will or will not accept/allow/tolerate. It DOESN'T say what he can or cannot do.

I had to learn to set the boundaries that I was willing to live with at the time AND was willing to enforce.

I started with smaller ones and moved up to bigger ones as my self confidence and self esteem grew. I also learned that setting and maintaining boundaries was different with a spouse or boyfriend than it was for my sons. With my sons, I could say that I wouldn't allow drugs in my home so if they chose to bring drugs into the house, they would no longer be allowed to live there. Their names weren't on the mortgage or the title of the house, so it was fairly straightforward. It was very painful to enforce, but I did it. NO second chances, no real conversation. The drugs came in, the son moved out.

With my spouse it was a bit more complicated. It took me awhile to grasp that my boundary was about ME... so when I said I would not live with someone who said or did "X", I needed a consequence that I could live with and follow through. It meant I was ready and able to leave our family home if he didn't leave instead. It wasn't a threat, it wasn't manipulation and it wasn't said in anger. The boundary came from a peaceful, loving and sad place within me... it said I was worth it and I wasn't going to continue to share a life or living space with someone who didn't respect me.


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Old 08-26-2007, 07:51 AM
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it said I was worth it and I wasn't going to continue to share a life or living space with someone who didn't respect me.
I believe that I have always had personal boundaries.
I know those boundaries were compromised while living with an addict.
It was little things at first, then before I realized it I had no boundaries.
I believe that is where I lost my self-esteem.
I hated MYSELF for allowing someone to disrespect me and not being strong enough to stand up for myself.
I deserve respect for the person that I am, but until I believed that myself I wasn't going to get it.

Now it is so clear to me but it wasn't always that way.
I only needed ONE boundary....I cannot and will not live with an active addict.
Addiction sucks.
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