5 Ways to Set Boundaries in the New Year

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New Years Resolutions and Recovery

The new year can be challenging, especially when we’re sober. We can’t check out with a glass of wine or a few cans of beer. We are here and present for all of those uncomfortable feelings that arise when we’re with our families, friends, or just out and about.

Sometimes all it takes is one comment to trigger a whole host of negativity: shame, lack of self-worth, self-consciousness, etc.

It took a long time to realize that I had control over how I felt in these situations and how I responded to them. The revelation came as a complete surprise. I remember asking my first sponsor in an utterly perplexed way, “You mean I can say I don’t want to talk about my weight?!”

While it isn’t easy at first, setting boundaries can make you feel a whole lot more empowered in the long run. And your emotional well-being is crucial to a sustainable recovery.

Here are some key ways you can set boundaries:

1: Don’t be afraid to use the word “no”.

Sometimes you’ll feel the need for alone time, and that’s okay! You shouldn’t feel unable to be honest about how you feel. For example, if you are tired but your mom wants you to visit because an aunt is visiting from out of town and she wants to everyone to get together, it is okay to respect your need for rest and decline her offer.

2: Understand that how people react to your boundaries isn’t your problem.

You are only responsible for you. If someone is upset about a boundary you’ve set, that is their issue to address. No means no. No doesn’t mean let’s negotiate or let me back down to make you feel better. Boundaries only work when they are applied consistently.

3: Take some time to consider your needs.

If a friend or loved one asks you to do something but you’re already feeling overwhelmed, it is okay to say that you’ll get back to them. “I’m unsure if I can do that right now. Let me get back to you by ___” is a perfectly acceptable response.

4: Changing your mind.

Even if you have previously agreed to attend or even host an event or party, it is okay to change your mind if you don’t feel well or are exhausted. You don’t have to explain yourself other than to say you’re not feeling up to it and that you’ll either need to take a raincheck or cancel altogether. Those who love and respect you will honor your needs. You may even find that they’re thankful for a night in.

5: It is okay to leave.

I always have an exit strategy for parties. Whether it’s telling the host that you have to leave after dinner or deciding to say your goodbyes early, know that it is okay to leave the party when it feels right for you to go. I always used to feel obliged to stay to the bitter end, but eventually I realized that I was in control of how long I stayed!

Above all, it’s important to stick with the boundaries you set. There will be plenty of reasons to abandon them along the way, but they’re about putting yourself and your recovery first and foremost in your life.

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