Families and Addiction: Creating Boundaries.


In order to support your addicted loved one the skill of creating boundaries is vital.

This means that you are allowing the addicted person to be responsible for their behaviour. Please remember boundary setting is not about manipulating the addicted person into different behaviour or about punishment.

Boundaries are to be enforced when they are for the good of yourself and your family.

Without boundaries it’s likely family members will try to take responsibility for their addicted loved one’s recovery and become more unhappy and frustrated. Remember the three C’s – you didn’t Cause the addiction, you Can’t control it and you can’t Cure it.

What are boundaries?

Boundaries mean this is where ‘you stop’ and ‘I begin.’. Boundaries also assist in creating the line between the issues the addict is facing (and the consequences of these issues) and the needs and well-being of the family members.

Some of the reasons why boundaries are so important for families affected by addiction include:

  • To determine what is and isn’t acceptable within the family and what the consequences will be if a boundary is violated. This is sometimes known as detaching with love.
  • To help the family members avoid losing touch with their own well-being and become consumed with solving the issues of the addicted family member.
  • To allow the addicted family member to take responsibility for their actions which is key for their recovery

How do I start setting boundaries with an addicted family member?

Start thinking about the behaviours the addicted person is showing that are unacceptable to you. Are they stealing from you? Asking you for money? Being late all the time? And so on…

Write down a list of behaviours you observe. It can be important to agree any boundaries before hand with any other family members so you can work consistently to implement them. It’s no good for example if mum doesn’t give Tommy money any more but he asks dad who lends it to him.

When dealing with an addicted family member it is also vital to get support. You need to be able to talk with others who understand your situation and discuss the options you have, please do go to your nearest Al-Anon meeting.

Your boundaries need to be impermeable, not changeable to manipulation. Once you have set a boundary you need to stick to it and the consequences if it is broken by the addicted family member. We can help you find family addiction support groups for you or places where you can go to seek and receive help.

Who am I contacting?

Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0800 024 1476calling