Thursday, February 25, 2010

Boundaries: Drawing a Line in the Sand

The year was 1987. A curious event took place at a local Richmond, VA high school. I remember it as if it was yesterday. The high school I attended was a Catholic Military School. Part of the “fun” of military school is the experience of being hazed as a freshman to include things like excessive push-ups, cleaning the school bus with your nose, and eating in absolute silence during lunch. However, on this day, lunch did not remain silent for long. Allow me to explain…

As some of you may remember through your high school experience, people tend to sit in groups based on social status. For example, there are several diverse groups such as jocks, popular kids, geeks, emo kids, science nerds, stoners, and artsy kids, to name a few. True to the norm, I sat in my social group which, much to my dislike, was the “geek” section. I remember another “geek” section across the room that included a high ranking member of the “jock/popular group”. I never understood why he would denigrate himself to sit with those of less social status than himself. I came to find out that he lived near those kids so he could get away with sitting next to them. But, to save face, he had to verbally berate them daily to keep them in their places. But, on this particular day, the Geeks rose up in defiance and would have none of it!

Imagine a quiet lunch room and the only sound is forks against plates and the sounds of dishes being washed in the kitchen when all of a sudden you hear a loud CRASH that pierces the silence like a gunshot that echoes through the woods. I looked up from my otherwise dull lunch to see the popular kid’s head covered in spaghetti with a mixture of sauce, meatballs, and blood running down his face. Across from him, the nerd he berated for days on end was standing up defiantly and held the remnants of his lunch plate now snapped in two that he used to encourage the young man to leave him alone. The whole place broke out in applause! And, I, for once, breathed a sigh of relief and flashed a victory sign in my mind seeing that we just might be able to take back our social dignity and get through this thing called high school!

I tell this story because it is relevant to our topic of discussion this month which is the book Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine. Katherine makes the point that each of us deserves basic human dignity and respect. We maintain that dignity with the use of boundaries. There are 5 main boundaries that we all get to keep regardless of who we are or where we came from. They are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and sexual boundaries. Maintaining our boundaries is important because, as Katherine notes, it helps us realize our love and acceptance of ourselves. It teaches us that we have value and deserve the best for ourselves.

Properly setting boundaries can help addicts to stay sober. Boundaries keep them from going back to unsafe people, places, and things which can result in a relapse. They also help replace bad behaviors with good ones. For example, you can choose to set the boundary of a 10pm bedtime instead of pulling all-night drug binges!

The hard work of setting appropriate physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and sexual boundaries can seem daunting and pointless at first. However, in time most addicts realize that a boundary kept is oftentimes a life saved!

Chris Newcomb - Aftercare Councelor / Coordinator

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