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What to Do When Boundaries Become Meaningless

by C.J. Stunkard on July 17th, 2014 in Men

boundariesWhen I began my recovery journey, I set a number of boundaries in my life. I went to bed when my wife went to bed; I wouldn’t stay in our apartment alone; I wouldn’t go online without a specific purpose. I made these concrete rules for living to avoid the situational triggers that led to my pursuing porn.

These boundaries helped me succeed in my first year of recovery, but during year two, my needs changed. I had developed different habits. I was writing my first novel and needed to work on it while my wife slept. I also found I could be in the house for a whole day alone without feeling any temptation.

You might think I was backsliding or being lax, but it’s just the opposite: adjusting appropriate boundaries at appropriate times is a healthy way to grow in your sobriety.

Boundaries are useful only to the extent that they have meaning; a meaningless boundary does nothing but impede freedom, and recovery is all about being free. This is why I treat many of my boundaries as lines in the sand rather than laws etched in stone (Tweet This!). As habits and patterns change, so too should our mindset; addicts need to get to a place where freedom is normal again.

When I tell others my recovery journey, I frame it as an ongoing process, one that began as a defense against engaging in unwanted behavior before shifting into a quest for integrity and honor. It began with my fear of being alone with the Internet, then shifted to wanting to use the Internet with intentionality and purpose.

In sports terms, I stopped playing defense and started playing offense.

In the beginning, a link was tantalizing, and I fought not to click it. In time, however, that same type of link became repellant to me. I had experienced real change to the point that I wanted no part of porn or its false promises. Once I understood this, using the Internet became not only safe but eventually purposeful (I self-published my novel, I now blog again, and I provide articles to other sites like the one you’re reading).

Should I ever reach a point where that type of link becomes a temptation once more, I’ll know I need to adjust my boundaries back to something more like what I had in year one.

The obvious next question is, “How will I know when I can shift my boundaries?

One answer I can give is: When you are certain won’t use that device, or that environment, or that situation to engage in your behavior, then you are ready. If it’s a possibility, don’t chance it.

Big help, right? If you are not sure, ask those who are on the journey with you. They should already know the boundaries you’ve put in place, and they can help you determine if they can or should change. This is a reason why an accountability partner or groups (like X3groups) are so important. Others can help you see your blind spots or conversely encourage you when you can move forward.

Boundaries are tools to enhance freedom, not stifle it (Tweet This!). They do not limit your choices; they protect you from enslaving addictive behaviors. Even at four years sober, I still have boundaries in place (for example, I use X3watch). They provide a paradigm in which we can be secure, but they all need not be set for life. The boundary you have in place today may be necessary, but two years from now, you may not need it, and keeping it arbitrarily defeats the purpose. The goal of sobriety is freedom (Tweet This!). Boundaries are another tool to experience it. Establish them and adjust them when appropriate, and, as always, keep fighting.

 

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What to Do When Boundaries Become Meaningless by XXXchurch.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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  • Great little article. I really appreciated when you highlighted boundaries as a tool not an end in themselves. When I was younger and trying to learn how to manage the Internet, boundaries became an end in themselves. That is kind of hopeless.

    But, if boundaries are a flexible tool to use, not an end, they can bring freedom. Anyway, thanks again.

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