One of the consequences of living by a set of unhealthy principles is boundary confusion and mayhem. A boundary is an invisible and essential fence that is supposed to guard our personal space. Every human has them. They are flexible and can be adjusted as situations arise. I have a very thick boundary around my relationship with someone who has a history of verbally abusing me. I have a very thin and pliable boundary in relationship to my husband who is kind and respectful and loving toward me. There are two kinds of walls - one is internal and the other is external. The external wall serves to protect us physically and sexually. The internal wall protects us intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. In both situations we have a responsibility to share with others our boundaries so that they can respect them. We have a responsibility to respond according to what they teach us about their willingness to respect our stated boundary. Perhaps most important of all - we are absolutely responsible for deciding and living by our boundary preferences. We cannot make someone else respect our boundaries BUT we can make decisions that keep our boundaries intact.
For whatever reason, Substance Use Disorder disrupts the boundary system of the suffering person, their family, and their friends, but a host of other issues also disrupt boundaries. Some folks choose to build a fortress to protect themselves from the chaos that the active addiction creates. Others are so freaked out by the chaos that they completely abandon their walls and crash through the walls of the person they love who is suffering in a misguided attempt to save them. They are overly helpful. In the biz we call that enmeshment and enabling. Healthy boundaries help us choose whether we will say yes or no to others; they also help us graciously receive a yes or no response from others. As we heal and grow, we begin the necessary work of repairing the walls. One of the “simple” but hard to apply aspects of our work is learning the discipline of using our boundaries based on God’s will, not our own. We turn to his word for guidance. We learn, for example, that no matter how desperate we feel it is not okay to treat others disrespectfully. We have a boundary of respect for self and others BECAUSE God says that this is how we treat one another. There are countless examples of re-framing our boundaries and beliefs as a result of leaning into the work of understanding how God says we are created to live and be in the world. This is the journey of a lifetime.
But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!
~Psalm 18:16-19, The Message