How many times did it take for you to stick to a boundary with an addict?



I am struggling with sticking to my boundaries. Hell, I had to google what a boundary even was and I always had a hard time grasping the concept in family therapy during my boyfriend’s rehab days. Personally, to me, they seem like ultimatums. I understand the groundwork of them - If this happens, then this is how I will react/take action. That’s the set-up, right?

I love my boyfriend so much and I have tried to instill boundaries, but for some reason I find myself after a day or two easing up on them and letting go. I start to feel bad for him, or my codependency kicks in and I just want to help him with whatever is going on and then all of the sudden…poof…there goes my boundary and I can’t help but feel, my self-respect too.

We just had a really large argument over the fact that the he had been lying to my face about secretly drinking, even when I would straight up ask him if he had. The argument did not go well and he left to sleep in a hotel for two weeks. I had told him prior to this argument, but after countless others (mostly revolve around lying), that I cannot keep doing this and I want to live in a space with people I can trust and I currently cannot trust him. Therefore, the next time I would find out he was lying to me, that would be it and our relationship would be over.

Well, two weeks came and went and he is back in our place and I am somehow now working on myself (which I should always be doing no matter what) with therapy, and trying to detach and co-exist, all the while showing him that I yet again did not stick to my very clear and labeled boundary. I love him, but I am mad at myself. Has anyone else been in this situation. It’s a sick ride and I want off. I am either upset or hurt by his actions, or upset and frustrated at mine. Help.


This is very personal to me. I was with my recovering addict ex boyfriend for almost a year. Basically the whole time I was trying to set boundaries regarding how much he drank around me, drinking at my apartment/ in my car, me driving him to the liquor store/ buying him alcohol/ paying for his drinking. I finally ended the relationship about a month ago because he wanted “just $3” for liquor the day after I had a panic attack in the parking lot of my work over the tension and resentment that had been building (he was basically living with me and not working for 3/4 of our relationship, I was driving him daily to his treatment clinic, court, probation) The break up has been so hard and I feel like no one understands why. Even though you are very hurt or upset or disappointed in yourself, there is still so much deep caring and affection. I tried to set boundaries of no contact and time and space during the break up but he repeated broke these (calling me off his mom and moms bf phone, emailing, etc) and I had to tell him that he was jeopardizing my mental health and to leave me alone. I am absolutely crushed that I had to say that and it is tearing me apart. I feel like I wrote your question and I am sorry that I don’t have much answers or hope but I do know what terrible feeling it is.


Hi @Sarah. I’m glad you found this community! I think everyone struggles with boundaries so you’re definitely not alone here. I really couldn’t understand the difference between boundaries and ultimatums when I first started my recovery journey.

Now, it helps me to see it this way:

Boundaries are for you and you only. It’s that limit you set for how much you can take. It’s that invisible line that marks the space between you and another person. You are your own person and you are the only person who can truly know your mind/body/spirit and give yourself the care you need.

An ultimatum is about the other person. It’s about trying to get them to do something by threatening or limiting their choices. The ultimatum you set may not be something you even want, but you’re hoping it’s enough to get them to change.

When my husband was in active addiction and the lying, the using, the deceit would not stop, I told him he needed to get help or leave. He left. He stayed in a hotel for a night and I was out of my mind worried. I didn’t want him to leave. I wanted to help him. That was an ultimatum. He came back the next day and ended up going to rehab, but he felt forced into it.

When my husband relapsed, and went back to the lying and using and refused to go back to rehab, I set a boundary. I told him I couldn’t live like this anymore - in a home where I couldn’t trust him and I was going insane. I couldn’t let out child live in that house. So I took our son and left the house. I went to my sisters place out of state for a couple of weeks to distance myself, give myself time and space to focus on me and think about what I really need and want. In the meantime, he got clean on his own terms. I didn’t know what I was coming home to, if the clean time would last, it it was really going to change. I came home, it got better, and I still hold on to that boundary. I will not go back to living in that cycle of lies.

Maybe it would help for you to ask what your motivation is before setting a boundary. Are you trying to make him change with your choice? Then it’s probably an ultimatum. And keep in mind - boundaries don’t have to be black and white. My boundary isn’t recovery or divorce. If I have to leave again then so be it, but I’m not going to end the relationship right away. If it continues to happen, maybe I will have to re-evaluate.

Anyway, I hope that’s helpful. I’m for sure not an expert on boundaries - I only have my own story and someone else may have different ideas. Sorry so long - I always end up writing a novel when I’m answering these questions! :woman_facepalming:t2:



@shea, thank you for responding to me. I am proud of you for holding to your boundary. It is such a weird feeling for me. I want to respect myself and make sure I am mentally healthy and aware, but at the same time I almost would rather make sure he was better off than myself in those categories. I am a pretty logical person and I know what I just typed seems a little messed up. It has been consuming me. I am trying so hard to focus on myself and redirect my energy, but I am just so worried about his feelings and reactions that I don’t want to upset him even though that’s all I really end up being upset from what he does to me.

I am always here if you need someone to chat with :slight_smile:


I have had many years of this cycle with my daughter. Mostly ive carried on because she has ended up taking overdoses on a few occasions and it is terriffying as a mother. However, i also know that we as parents, and her as an adult cannot keep living in this constant cycle. So i have stepped back and allowed her to be in really terrifying situatiins because I cannot co troll what she is doing. Its the hardest thing ive ever had to do but when i know that it may help her -i can keep my resolve. Thats the only way i know how and it is a last resort but its the only thing i have left. We have tried everything -so now we are trying something else in the hope of a different outcome.


@momentsandlight, thank you for your response. The way you defined a boundary may be the most clear way anyone has explained it to me. I so appreciate that there are people out there that do not necessarily look at the relationship with an alcoholic as either staying together, or leaving as the only options.

I went to a local Al-Anon meeting once and when we broke out into separate groups the people asked me to tell my story. I started off with, “My boyfriend…” and a woman stopped me and told me that if we are only dating that I need to get out of the relationship now. She didn’t even to wait to hear what I had to say and jumped to the conclusion that since we have not signed a marriage certificate that I should take off. I understand that she has probably gone through a lot to make her have that ideology, but I was so disheartened. I never went back.