Self Expression Magazine

The Boundaries That We Keep

By Doulalovelou
Picture There's something amazing about setting and sticking to a boundary you've set in place. Being able to recognize your need for a boundary is one thing, but actually having the strength, conviction, and love of self to actually enforce it; man, there's nothing like it!
Setting boundaries does not come easily for me. It's something that I've had to work really hard on for years. Innately independent and stubborn, you'd think it'd be the opposite, but throw in co-dependence and self-worth struggles and you have me - someone who is VERY aware of her needs, but often unable to communicate them in an effective manner.
Lack of boundaries has led to a lot of messiness in my life - mostly at the peril of my own sanity. The typical manifestation is one that ends with me completely over committed, overwhelmed and in a heap of tears on the floor, not to mention in the throws of a serious relapse.
And that's where I was headed earlier this year. I could feel it starting to happen - my commitments were many, my self-care was seldom, and my recovery was starting to suffer. I could sense God warning me of the eventual outcome and could feel Him guiding me through a series of situations where "pruning" was the key theme. I wrote about this process in May and through that post and further reflection, I came to the decision that my life needed to be simplified. Hard decisions would have to be made and I'd have to figure out if I loved myself enough to make some serious sacrifices.
By far the most difficult of these sacrifices was taking a hiatus from my role as Community Manager at Whole Women Ministries (WWM). It wasn't one I made lightly, but in the end I believe it was the one that actually benefited me the most.
Recovery ministry is hard. For those who are involved in it, I know you can relate. Not only are you called to encourage, build up, pray for, and help guide fellow addicts in all stages of recovery, you're also called to take care of yourself and your own recovery. It's no easy feat and one that I had to work really hard at. At WWM there are A LOT of women that are new to the realization of their addiction and new to the knowledge that there are other women out there who struggle. The amount of raw emotion seen in the online forum on a daily basis, simply can not be described. It's incredibly easy (or was for me) to get caught up in everyone elses sobriety and recovery instead of your own.
In my almost 3 years as Community Manager, I believe that I did a pretty good job of being able to separate my own recovery from those of the women on the forum, but as my exhaustion and anxiety levels heightened, I found it increasingly difficult to set the boundaries I needed to in order to effectively do my job. Not to mention, my own recovery was at a bit of stand still and was seriously threatening to back slide if something didn't change. I knew I needed to take a few months to focus on myself and delve deeper into the emotional barriers that were keeping me stuck.
So I did. I informed Crystal about my decision knowing full well that she'd receive it with love and support. Her encouragement was so helpful in reassuring me that I was indeed making the right decision.
For 5 months, I steered clear of all things WWM related and I didn't venture onto the Community once. I stayed the course, focused on my recovery, and for a specific period of time was VERY selfish with my time and my energy. I went into a bit of hibernation mode, associating only with those people who would help build me up in my spirituality and recovery. I said "No" to the things that threatened my sobriety and said "Yes" to the things that added to a healthy and balanced life.
It wasn't easy and it wasn't fun, but in the end, it was necessary.
The effects of my sabbatical of sorts have been many. I've learned to recognize the difference between introversion and isolation. I've become acutely aware of my shortcomings and taken some drastic steps to alter them. And really, my recovery has been fortified immensely. I can't really describe it, but the shift is evident. So evident, that when Crystal emailed me last week to discuss my return from my hiatus, I found myself secure in the knowledge that I was ready and confident that I am capable of maintaining balance and sobriety in recovery ministry.
If you struggle with the process of setting boundaries, you're in good company. It is my experience, that most addicts (especially those new to recovery) don't know how to stick to boundaries, let alone, set them in the first place. Most of us don't even understand the NEED for them! But I believe that boundaries are imperative to healthy and sober living. Knowing your needs, learning how to vocalize them, and loving yourself enough to follow through are HUGE factors in TRULY living life. There's a lot of research and guidance regarding boundaries and recovery - my favorite being from Pia Mellody.
In your own time and with guidance from a mentor or sponsor, I encourage you to assess the boundaries that you keep and ask yourself some deeper questions regarding them.
As contradictory as it may sound, setting boundaries brings freedom. It takes a strong sense of self, courage and conviction, but if you're patient and WILLING to get a bit messy, the freedom that awaits you is like no other. BELIEVE ME and have hope! I pray that as you go deeper into your self that you'll come face-to-face with God and that you allow Him to open your eyes to the beauty of life as it was meant to be lived; that you see the need for surrender and self-care are not signs of weakness but signs of growth; and that He gives you a willing spirit to push through the junk our culture dumps on us, in order to experience the freedom on the other side.

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