Sober solutions – boundaries

How to have boundaries in your life

Image courtesy of anankkml at

Image courtesy of anankkml at

I had no idea what boundaries were until I got sober. I had no idea that I could protect my personal space and keep myself safe. I was so used to doing what I thought everyone else wanted that I would continuously put myself in risky and abusive situations. So setting boundaries was one more life lesson I had to learn. Boundaries are our responsibility; we can’t expect other people to protect them for us. Other people may invade or run over our boundaries and it is our job to put the boundary back in place. Saying ‘no’ is a boundary; it puts a limit on what we can do and what we can’t.

I also thought that there were certain people I couldn’t have boundaries with, such as family members. Actually, you can. I had a particularly difficult relationship with one family member. I was never able to say ‘no’ and always felt frustrated and resentful towards them. When I learnt to set boundaries I realised that I could only do what I felt capable of doing. If people were hurt or offended by that, then I just had to let them be hurt and offended as I wasn’t responsible for their feelings. As I began to assert my boundaries with family in the shape of ‘No, I can’t spend all weekend with you but I can meet for you lunch next Wednesday’, I found that they adjusted. I accepted that they wanted to see me (compromise) but it was going to be on my terms. When they pushed (and they will) I just politely and firmly repeated my boundary. I didn’t get angry. I expected them to challenge my boundary and was prepared. Over time this got easier and easier. We allow others to violate our boundaries in many different ways.

Here are some examples:

• Not being able to say ‘no’
• Violating personal values or beliefs in order to please others
• When giving to others causes you to suffer
• Letting other people make decisions for you and not speaking up when we don’t like them
• Not standing up for yourself because you’re scared you will offend someone
• Expecting others to know what your needs are and fulfill them automatically
• Expecting someone will take care of you and not helping yourself when you can
• Agreeing with others because it’s easier
• Never letting your real feelings show.

These are just some of the ways we give permission for other people to abuse us. Developing healthy boundaries takes time and practice. But if we begin to implement them into all areas of our lives, we will notice that how we feel changes. Having boundaries is a way for us to feel in control of our feelings rather than at the mercy of others.

Let’s go over what healthy boundaries look like. These are the boundaries we need to adopt and implement in our lives.

Saying ‘yes’ when you mean it
• Saying ‘no’ when you mean it
• Not over explaining answers
• Not giving unnecessary explanations
• Understanding that you are responsible for your own feelings
• Identifying the causes of your feelings
• Responding with appropriate feelings to appropriate events
• Resisting the urge to ‘rescue’ others
• Being able to ask for help
• Making time for self-care and self-love
• Prioritising what is important to you
• Being with people you choose to be with
• Gracefully removing toxic relationships from your life
• Saving yourself.

Developing boundaries is a process; it will take time. You will make mistakes. That’s OK. Be gentle with yourself and move forward at your own pace. These tools will help you to build a robust defense against drinking again.

This is an exclusive extract from my new book ‘Get Sober, Get Free.’ Currently available to download on Amazon.

4 thoughts on “Sober solutions – boundaries

  1. claire

    Hi Veronica
    Yes yes yes! I am 400 plus days into my sobriety journey and I am only just starting to work to establish my boundaries – I have only just discovered what mine are. My own opinions and feelings got so lost amongst everyone else’s, and the need to be loved.
    Great advice, thank you !

  2. Kristen Johnston

    Once again, I must insist you get out of my head. The way you boil down complicated issues to their root just blows my mind.
    I’ve emailed & tweeted this link to as many as possible.

    As someone who’s been at war my whole life with making others happy vs. self-care, I read this and am very happy to acknowledge how far I’ve come.
    And how far I still have to go.

    Kristen @kjothesmartass

  3. Veronica Valli Post author

    Thank you my dear, we are just so similar aren’t we? Having boundaries was beyond life changing for me, life saving actually. And the more you practice having them the easier it gets. xxx

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