It’s Just Me and My Boundaries!

[00:00:00] This is Discover a New You Through Recovery, an addiction and recovery podcast. Through a series of interviews with clinicians and addiction experts, this podcast tells the story of what addiction really looks like and what makes recovery truly possible. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about the nature of addiction, how to identify if it’s time to seek treatment, combating common misinformation, and what treatment means, what it feels like and how to get it. From Niznik Behavioral Health and Discovery Point Retreat, I’m your host Noelle Carmen.

[00:00:44] Hello, everyone, and welcome to Discover a New You Through Recovery. I’m Noelle Carmen and on today’s show… it’s just me. I wanted to share a life lesson that has been pulling at me for some time now. You know how in life we tend to keep repeating the same patterns? Good ones and not so good ones? And the not so good ones are the lessons that God, the universe, your higher power, however you believe, keep throwing at you until you finally learn them, until you finally understand?

[00:01:20] Well, I have been learning hard lessons about something I have struggled to understand and really struggled to practice. They are these things called boundaries. Some of us have no idea what this means and some of us are great at setting them. So where do these so-called boundaries come from? Well, sometimes we don’t even know they exist until someone crosses one of them. Our experiences create our boundaries. One thing I have been really trying to understand is that boundaries exist for our own personal protection.

[00:01:59] I grew up in a very Italian family. If you were to greet anyone in our New York Italian family, it was expected that you always offered two kisses on either side of the face. I knew– I never knew any different. It was regarded as a greeting, but also as a sign of respect. Now, fast forward to when I was first engaged to be married and living in Texas. My then fiancee, who was not Italian, took me to meet my future in-laws: his mom, his dad, his sisters, their husbands. If there was ever a call for an Italian greeting,this was the one. I proceeded to do what I believed was expected of me: I kissed everyone in the room. However, when I got to my future sister-in-law’s husbands and noticed the look of horror on their faces, I realized I may have crossed a boundary.

[00:03:02] No words were exchanged, but the message was clear. Noelle, stop kissing everybody! And I did. And we got along great. But what about setting boundaries for myself? This was much harder for me personally because I was taught ‘do not hurt anyone’s feelings under any circumstances’ and hoops you have to jump through, ‘well, you better make sure to jump through all of them so that everyone else is comfortable.’ That was what I was supposed to do. Even if that meant the hoops I was jumping through or 50 feet up in the air and on fire. The reason it’s hard for me to set boundaries is that I’m so afraid of losing the relationship. I’m so afraid of losing the person that in my mind, if I don’t ever say no to them or require anything of them, then they will love me more and they will never leave me. But here’s the kicker. The biggest, hardest lesson is that when I actually set boundaries, it improves the relationship.

[00:04:10] So I have this uncle who works overseas. He’s my favorite relative, I would do anything for him. Almost. One day he asked me if he could store all the furniture from his apartment in my garage. I knew the second he asked me that this was not OK with me and I replied, ‘yes, of course you can. I would love to store the entire contents of your apartment in my garage and not have a place to park my car. That sounds amazing to me.’ I hung up the phone and I started to get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was a defining moment because I knew turning my garage into a purgatory for recliners and neon beer signs for an undisclosed amount of time was going to make me miserable. But I didn’t want my uncle to be upset with me, and I sure didn’t want to hurt his feelings. After spending the night staring at the ceiling, pacing my living room floor and agonizing over every word of the elaborate speech I prepared for him, I called him up the next day. My knees were shaking, the room was spinning, but I got the words out. I actually told him and before I could start groveling and apologizing, he said, ‘OK, kiddo.’ And I thought, ‘Wait, what? What do you mean ‘Okay, kiddo’? You mean this isn’t the end of our relationship? You’re still going to talk to me?’ Well, lesson learned… until the next time when I had to learn it again. But that’s another story for another day.

[00:05:57] This should seem very obvious, but I think it’s easier said than done. If we want to know ourselves, we have to have a defining line between what is and isn’t OK with us. It’s hard to ask for love and respect from other people. Boundaries are a way of asking for what you want and showing people how you want to be treated. Boundaries are the divide between what you will put up with and what you won’t. And every relationship needs them to be safe and happy. The path to loving and healthy boundaries requires, well, first, understanding what your feelings are and where they come from. Then communicating your needs kindly and effectively and, finally, through and forcing the boundaries you need to feel safe and happy.

[00:06:48] This sounds like a neat little formula for happiness, doesn’t it? But oh my gosh, it’s hard. Every feeling is an important message from ourselves to ourselves. For me, it is about honoring those feelings. Don’t try and get rid of them, shed light on them instead of hiding them away. Journal or pray or meditate. Talk to someone. Look at your past and find times you felt this way and try to find the courage to look at old wounds and insecurities and other half forgotten memories that get stirred up by strong emotions. Listen to music or just silence. And for a few moments, just let yourself feel. There’s no rush. You’ll be discovering new things about yourself for the rest of your life. For me, I learned to stop just being nice in order to make everyone else feel okay. Also, here’s the best part– I have finally learned I get to decide who I choose to have in my life, and I don’t have to be nice just for the sake of it. It is so liberating. So far, my life lessons tell me these things. Say what you feel: you can ask for respect. You can ask for what you need. You can ask for help. You can always walk away. In the end, I can’t tell you what boundaries you need to set because your boundaries are yours and they will inevitably look different from mine.

[00:08:21] Take care and be courageous.