Setting Family Boundaries During the Holidays 

in Addiction
Published Dec 22, 2020
setting boundaries

Setting a boundary, especially setting family boundaries, can be particularly challenging for people in early recovery. We may lack the confidence or struggle to find the courage to ask for our needs to be met. We’re also not great at putting our well-being first. And we can fear the rejection of someone we set a boundary with. However, boundary setting is a critically important aspect of sustaining long-term recovery

How do I start?” you may ask. Don’t worry, we’ll give you an overview and some helpful tips to get started.

What is a boundary?

Boundaries are guidelines, sort of internal and external rules and limits of what you feel comfortable with. That might be a behavior you will or won’t tolerate, like someone shouting at you. It might also include activities you are or are not willing to engage in. For example a person in early recovery might choose not to go to bars to keep themselves and their recovery feeling safe and protected. 

There are six main types of boundaries:

  1. Physical boundaries relate to your physical space, like whether you want someone to display physical affection or greet you with a hug.
  2. Sexual boundaries protect the level of intimacy that you feel comfortable with.
  3. Mental boundaries relate to your internal thoughts, values, and opinions. That might include whether you approach a conversation with an open mind or if you are open to receiving a range of ideas and concepts. 
  4. Emotional boundaries apply to being able to separate yourself from others thoughts and feelings. We can only be responsible for our own thoughts and feelings, not others.
  5. Material boundaries relate to your physical belongings and those you borrow or lend from/to others.
  6. Spiritual boundaries relate to your relationship with god or a higher power of your understanding.

The great thing about boundaries is that we get to set them — no one else can tell us where to place a boundary. 

Setting family boundaries

Boundaries are critical to healthy relationships and a healthy recovery. The skill, however, doesn’t come easily. But, just like taking on a new hobby, the more you practice the better you become. The key to setting boundaries is sticking with them! We also want to acknowledge that putting our needs first and setting healthy boundaries may feel like new territory. But that’s the great thing about recovery: we learn new things, such as treating ourselves and wellbeing as a priority. 

Top tips for setting boundaries include:

  • Trusting your gut
  • Know your core values
  • Communicate clearly and don’t over-explain yourself
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Don’t be afraid of being assertive
  • Follow through and be consistent in implementing your boundary – this part is important. 

Setting different boundaries

Here are some ideas of how to set different types of boundaries.

Emotional boundaries

Remember these are separating your emotions and feelings for others. In setting emotional boundaries it’s important to know your emotional limits. If you experience stress or sadness, consider at what point is most beneficial to you to stop and take time out. Another emotional boundary might be if someone upsets you. You may feel that you need time to process what they said before responding. In a relationship, healthy boundaries may include not taking responsibility for someone else’s feelings, like your partner being angry or upset. You can set a healthy boundary by acknowledging their distress but not taking on the need to change their feelings and instead allow them time to process. 

Physical boundaries 

These might include asking others how they wish to be greeted. For example, “I’m a hugger, can I give you a hug?” Before going in and hugging them without asking. A different physical boundary might be a technological boundary, like feeling uncomfortable in sharing passwords and PINs — that is entirely at your discretion. There is a reason they are called personal identification numbers; they are personal!

Mental boundaries

The word “no” is a complete sentence. You don’t need to even explain a reason for expressing it. You could be declining an invite, saying no to extra work, protecting a physical boundary like having sex, or simply not answering your front door. 

As far as ideas for sexual or spiritual boundaries go, these are even more personal. It might be worth taking a moment to decide what your boundaries in these areas look like. Maybe discuss them with a therapist or recovery support person. What’s key is that they are within your comfort zone and prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional health. 

You might also find these helpful…

How to Help a Family Member with Addiction

I’ve Finished Detox, Now What?

How to Tell Friends & Family You Don’t Drink


If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we are here to help. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432