Dug and Heidi McGuirk Answer “How Do I Set Boundaries?”
A few weeks ago, we covered the dangers of enabling discussed in the Revolutionary Growth video, “How do I know I’m Enabling?” Dug and Heidi McGuirk explained enabling and how to stop doing it. The best way to stop enabling is through setting boundaries with your addicted loved one.
Furthermore, in the next video, Dug and Heidi McGuirk, who run the Revolutionary Family program for Palm Healthcare, answer:
How Do I Set A Boundary?
After you have made the decision NOT to enable your addicted loved one, the next step is to set clear boundaries. At this point, you have decided to no longer support their addiction. Instead, you are determined to support their recovery and beyond.
To do this, you must set healthy boundaries, but how exactly does one set healthy boundaries?
First, it is important to remember you are setting boundaries, not ultimatums.
“It’s all about you. You can’t set a boundary to manipulate another person. That’s called an ultimatum. We aren’t doing an ultimatum. Those don’t work,” Heidi McGuirk says.
“We are doing a boundary which is people are going to do what they’re going to do, and you need to decide how you are going to experience what they’re going to do, and that’s it.”
It is crucial to take steps to ensure your addicted loved one knows where you stand. Do not become upset and argue with them if they do not abide. Do not tell them to simply stop their behavior. Instead, commit to your boundaries.
Dug and Heidi McGuirk’s steps to creating clear boundaries:
- Be Clear:
Let your addicted loved one know what it is that you won’t tolerate and what your plan is if they do not abide.
- Use Direct Assertive Language:
No “wishy-washy” behavior. Use very few words and let them know the consequences.
- Make Consequences You Will Follow Through On:
Try not to make consequences that are unmanageable. Make consequences that you can commit and follow through on consistently.
- Check for Understanding:
Make sure that they have heard you. If needed, have a cheat sheet to communicate more effectively.
How to Create a Boundary “Cheat Sheet”
If you struggle with communicating boundaries and consequences, Heidi and Dug McGuirk recommend carrying a cheat sheet that will help guide you through the process.
Cheat Sheet Example:
“When you ___, I feel ___; I want___ If you___, I will___.”
Here is how the cheat sheet can be applied when communicating boundaries:
Cheat Sheet Applied for Drunken Behavior:
- “When you come home drunk, I feel nervous, scared and violated. I want to have a sober, healthy and safe home to live in. If you come home drunk again, I will leave for the night; lock the doors, ask you to get treatment, etc…”
Cheat Sheet Applied for Verbal Aggression:
- “When you speak to me that way, I feel assaulted, attacked, upset, frustrated, scared, and violated. I want to be able to have a rational discussion with you. I want to feel safe in our conversations together. I want to not be around that anymore. If you continue to speak to me that way, I will walk away, leave, hang up the phone, etc…”
The key is to follow through with the boundaries you set:
“You might have to leave, walk away, hang up the phone 25 times, but the key to this is to follow through because that’s really how you teach people how to treat you so make sure you’re prepared to do what you say you are going to do,” Heidi McGuirk says.
After some consistency, your loved one will know what you are going to do and when you are going to do it whenever they mess up. Eventually, all you will have to do is give them “the look, ” and they will know exactly where you stand.
If you want to read more about boundaries, download our free E-book “What is the Difference between Helping and Hurting?”
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The Importance of Commitment
Dug McGuirk explains this concept of “the look” using their toddler, Ellie, as an example. Often, toddlers know exactly what you are going to do because the boundaries were followed through with many times in the past.
“There’s sometimes the look or the countdown or the whatever. You do that a few times, and they know what’s going to happen because it’s been implemented,” Dug McGuirk says.
However, this awareness will only happen if you follow through with the consequences consistently. Do not become lax with your boundaries. It is important it is to commit to boundaries even in weaker moments.
Heidi McGuirk describes how their toddler Ellie would receive a time-out every time she smacked her. It was important Ellie knew this behavior was inappropriate. One night, right before bed, Ellie decided to smack her again.
Heidi McGuirk knew she was tired, in bed, and knew giving their daughter a time-out would be a major inconvenience. However, she realized this is exactly why enabling behaviors happens.
Often, the loved ones of addicts do not follow through with their boundaries because they are constantly tested during these inconvenient moments. It is important to follow through when tested during weaker moments so that your addicted loved ones knows you are serious.
“What I’m saying is the more that you practice your chops at holding your line, the less testing they’ll be” Heidi McGuirk states.
“Patience and Discipline are the parents of execution,” Dug McGuirk affirms.
Overall, setting boundaries is a matter of knowing what you need and knowing how you want to experience your loved one’s addiction. The next part is committing to the boundaries you set. We know it is not easy. Therefore, if you have a loved one struggling with addiction, of if you are having trouble dealing with your loved one’s addiction, please reach out to us. We want to help. Do not wait. Call now.
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Author: Shernide Delva
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
I’ll never forget when I told my mother I needed to go to rehab. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, and what broke my heart was when she asked- “What have I done that my child has to live like this?”
This is not an uncommon question, so if you find yourself asking it please do not be ashamed. It is one of the most frequently asked questions from family members and close friends when a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol. A lot of people have a tendency to internalized the struggles that those they love most experience and wonder if they had some part in creating or adding to the issue. A lot of times mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, or even sons and daughters will see the suffering their loved one goes through and ask- is it my fault my loved one is addicted?
In a word- No.
The reality of addition is that any substance use disorder is more powerful than you or them, and likewise out of your control. As hard as that is to hear, it may be the most important thing to remember in the beginning. It can’t be your fault, because it was never up to you.
Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorder is just that; a disorder. The root of this issue lies in the individuals thinking, which is why many in the medical world have defined it as a kind of mental health disorder that develops over time. No one can take all the blame for someone developing a disorder like addiction, no matter how hard it is to set aside that mindset.
Of course as we experience hardships we want to find someone to blame or pinpoint a logically explanation that makes sense to us, but the truth is it isn’t that black and white. Searching for a place to put all the fault is not effective or conducive to recovering.
Now some may examine the facts and read them one way, but it isn’t a fair assessment. We can even look at the idea of addiction coming from the perfect storm of nature and nurture.
The Perfect Storm
The ‘perfect storm’ comes from a unique combination of nature and nurture that create just the right atmosphere for an addiction to develop. So many people want to say it is because of generics, while others want to say it is because of the home, upbringing or life-style. The truth is, it is both, so it can’t be the fault of either.
Every human being on this planet is born with a genetic predisposition to addiction. Different DNA designs will promote different susceptibilities to addiction, and depending on the environment the individual is consistently in they may be exposed more or less. There is no precise formula for addiction that includes it being the families fault.
This is only further proven by the fact that substance use disorder impacts all walks of life:
- Rich or poor
- The homeless
- Successful people
- People with traumatic childhoods
- People with nurturing childhoods
- Men and women
- Young or old
- Any race
- Any religion
- Every culture
So even a parent who wants to blame themselves and say, “well it was my genes passed down and I raised them in this environment, so it must be my fault,” this is still not the case. All of this connects with how we turn to different coping skills. An addicted loved one makes a choice to rely on a substance as a coping skill, and the storm stirs to the point they have launched into a full-blown substance use disorder.
Guilt and Enabling
Many family members and friends will wonder if some action they took at some point pushed their loved on to use drugs. They will wonder if an event in the relationship had such a significant impact that they drove the addiction further. People are crippled by guilt when they think they had some hand in forcing their loved one’s decision, or maybe thinking they did not do enough. This guilt is incredibly counterproductive. It is not your fault because you cannot control how anyone decides to cope.
The sad part is that some addicts will notice their loved one’s guilt, and they will manipulate their family and friends using that guilt to get what they want. Your loved one may even try to justify their behaviors by blaming you, playing on your emotions to rationalize their harmful actions.
This is just one of many symptoms of enabling, but the reason most people give for supporting their loved one’s addiction and enabling their habits is that they feel responsible for the person. People enable addicts to avoid the guilt of ‘abandoning’ them. One of the biggest hurdles that family members and close friends must overcome is letting go and accepting that they have no control of their loved one’s choices.
We would like to offer you the FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.
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Your Own Recovery
Recovery is not just for the individual, it is also for those closest to them. Learning the difference between how to give compassion, love and support vs enabling and minimizing is very important to the addicted loved ones recovery, and also to your own peace of mind. The recovery process for the family and friends means learning more about how it isn’t you fault a relative or companion is addicted. Learning more about the science of addiction and the causes of risk behavior can also take more weight off your shoulders and help you better understand your loved one.
Even if the individual is avoiding or refusing treatment, getting help for yourself may provide you with a better understanding of how to deal with issues that arise. And the better knowledge you have, the better a position you may be in to help.
Having a family member who has suffered can be harder on you than you know. Too many people don’t know how to get the help they need for their loved ones, and too many of our loved ones suffer for too long because they are afraid of the affects that the ones they care about most will face.
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Dug and Heidi McGuirk Answer “How do I know I’m Enabling?”
Enabling is a highly dangerous behavior that often discourages addicts from seeking treatment. Yet many loved ones of addicts struggle with enabling because they do not understand the consequences of their actions.
In a recent video, Dug and Heidi McGuirk, who run the Revolutionary Family program for Palm Healthcare, addressed the crucial topic of enabling. Often loved ones are in denial of their enabling behaviors or are unaware of how damaging enabling is.
Two of the most common questions they receive from loved ones of addicts are:
- How do I know if I’m enabling?
- What exactly IS enabling?
Dug and Heidi explain there are two barometers to determine whether or not you are enabling. First, you must decide the motivation behind your actions. This will help you understand why you are doing what you are doing. Next, you must determine whether your actions are a product of wanting control over the situation.
“You can’t control anybody,” Dug McGuirk says. “You can only control yourself.”
Furthermore, if you are doing the following things, you are enabling:
- Manipulating an outcome
- Trying to “keep the peace”
- Attempting to change someone
- Trying to prevent a consequence
- Trying to rescue or bail out
You must commit to stopping your enabling behaviors because ultimately, enabling causes more harm than healing when it comes to helping your addicted loved one.
“The lie we tell ourselves is that if we don’t do what we are doing, our loved ones will die,” Heidi McGuirk says. “Of course, that’s the biggest lie of all. More people die from enabling behaviors than other stuff.”
In the discussion, Dug and Heidi explain the greatest roadblock enablers tackle is determining whether or not their actions comes from a place of love or a place of wanting control.
Most enablers believe their behaviors stem from a place of love. But this could not be further from the truth.
“Enabling is the most unloving thing you can do,” Heidi McGuirk reiterates.
“Without pissing anybody off here, enabling is selfishly motivated, and it’s not about the other person,” Dug McGuirk says.
Instead of love, enabling is more about:
So how does one stop enabling?
First, you must make the decision to stop, Dug McGuirk affirms.
Next, frame your decisions around two barometers. Before taking any action, acquire an awareness of your behaviors by reflecting on the following questions.
- Are you doing what you believe in?
- What is your motivation?
“You don’t have any control over how someone operates or who they are, but you have control over how you experience them,” Heidi McGuirk says.
After you are aware of your current behaviors, the next step is to make decisions based on what is best for you, not your loved one:
“Once you have that awareness, now you can start making a better decision so step two would be to figure out what you want for you, not for your loved one, [but] for you,” Dug McGuirk states. “What is it that you want to experience? […] Because if someone in your family is struggling with addiction, they’re always going to have that malady, so the question is how are you going to go through it?”
When it comes to helping a loved one struggling with addiction, set boundaries by asking:
- How do you want to participate in their addiction?
- What are you willing to be around for?
- What are you not willing to be around for?
- How are you going to experience their addiction?
If you want to read more download our free E-book “What is the Difference Between Helping and Hurting?”
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In the next discussion, Dug and Heidi McGuirk delve deeper into the steps loved ones should take to create clear boundaries. Stay tuned for next week’s post where we will explore the topic of creating boundaries further. You can also download our checklist to determine whether you are helping or hurting a loved one with an addiction problem.
What questions do you want us to answer next?
If you are currently struggling with any part of the recovery process, please reach out to us for help. Our highly qualified specialists strive to make a recovery possible for everyone. If your or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
It isn’t always easy to see the signs of being too dependent, especially in ourselves, but a lot of us have developed some emotional habits that put us in a position to depend on others in some form or another. They say we all need somebody to lean on… but how much is too much, and how many of us depend on others to the point where we would collapse without them?
These signs are not always easy to read and identify with, because of course we all want to believe we can be independent and strong as an individual, so seeing a reflection in the mirror that tells us we exhibit dependent characteristics is going to bruise the ego a bit.
Every person struggling with independence will one day reach a point when they realize they cannot climb any higher in life without taking a few steps alone, self-discovery. Those of us who battle with dependency issues can apply our dependent nature to all types of things, including:
So here are just 6 signs of being too dependent. Maybe some of these apply to you, and maybe that means it is time to sever some ties, take off the training wheels and find a way without depending on others for happiness, security and purpose.
- Can’t make everyday decisions on their own
Now before we get too far into this, appreciate the fact that of course if you’re going to make a major life decision that could alter the course of your future then I’m not giving you grief for talking it over and getting a variety of opinions from family and friends. By all means, crowd source the heavy stuff.
But with being too dependent we are talking about being incapable of making everyday decisions without someone else’s guidance, or every time the decision is made it is motivated by fear instead of logic.
- Fear of confrontation
The fear of confrontation follows along with a lot of the other fears of someone who struggles with being codependent, such as the fear of failure or the fear of making the wrong decisions on their own.
A person who is too dependent frequently does not feel worthy of having an opinion, especially one that differs from the opinion of someone else they feel they need, and to express that opinion seems even more impossible. If you notice yourself holding back on speaking your mind and standing for what you believe in because it might not work with someone else, it is a very real sign of being too dependent.
- Fear of failure
People who are too dependent tend to shy away from being exposed and vulnerable because it may cause others to realize how “worthless” they really are.
The fear of being a failure and having your weaknesses put on public display can cause immense anxiety for someone who is too dependent. For people used to depending on others it is easier to avoid failure by not taking initiative or following through with actions. People who are too dependent typically find themselves abandoning their goals before they even get started on the journey.
- Cannot be alone
Always expecting the worst is part of being too dependent, and this sense of impending dread often leads them to not feeling competent enough to live their own lives without others.
Being alone means being vulnerable and unprotected, which are both things overly dependent people will try to alleviate with the presence of other people… even if those other people are not good for them.
To someone who is overly dependent it is impossible to comprehend having to cope with whatever life throws at them on their own- so of course people who are too dependent rely on the stability and strength of others to see them through… even if those other people aren’t as stable or as strong as the dependent would believe.
- Always seeking approval
This may especially hard for a dependent person to acknowledge, because no one wants to admit they are a people pleaser. One was that people who are too dependent trick themselves into justifying their overly dependent and unhealthy behavior is by adopting the other person’s expectations as their own.
If the person struggling with being dependent “fails”, they assume it is a failure not only to the expectations of the other person but also their own, and thus each failure reinforces the detrimental judgment of self.
Dependent people crave validation and approval. Some would say a dependent person desires approval as desperately as an alcoholic craves a drink, so an alcoholic with a dependent personality in relationships has a lot standing against them.
- Lack of Boundaries
In most cases the only boundary the person has is to be included in the relationship they latch onto, and subsequently all other personal boundaries are unsolidified and traversable if it helps them keep their grip on that desired relationship.
This unhealthy and self-depreciating willingness to ignore or alter personal boundaries in order to maintain a relationship creates a vulnerability that some people look to exploit.
Some personality types are happy to find out how much a person is willing to give, then use them for all they have for as long as they can. The needs are never met, and the dependent person will never feel enough- this cycle is terrible and tragic, and so many people who have to rebuild emotionally due to drugs or alcohol tend to become overly dependent in some aspect of their life, putting them in greater danger than they realize.
Overall, becoming independent in any kind of relationship can end up supporting your sobriety exponentially. In some cases, it can lead to relapse. In recovery we learn to be less dependent on people and instead rely on our principles and our actions, along with a spiritual fitness. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Harm reduction is one method of addressing the nation’s drug issue that may seem to some as a philosophy of enabling, while to others it makes sense to offer safe alternatives to individuals who abuse drugs because these strategies can prevent the spread of disease and the damage to the community. It was estimated that 2015 would be a big year for harm reduction, as many suspected that drug policy reform would reshape the landscape in the wake of the “failed war on drugs” while there were efforts being actively put forth to alleviate the suffering caused by the opiate epidemic.
Needle exchange programs are one way that harm reduction can be implemented in a community. Supplying clean needles and safe disposal sites for addicts to use keeps them from sharing needles infected with disease, and now one kind of needle exchange program is changing the game.
In Seattle the volunteers behind a needle exchange are now handing out meth pipes to drug users for free as well. So is this the same kind of harm reduction being utilized to keep people safer, or is this just negligence at an all-time high?
Meth Pipe Program
It seems some think harm reduction means catering to more than just needles. This strange meth pipe program was launched by a group called The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance about 2 months ago, and is offered 5 days per week off an alley next to a church in Seattle’s University District.
About 25 to 30 meth pipes are handed out each day, and according to the executive director of the alliance Shilo Murphy, the demand for the free meth pipes has been growing ever since. The theory behind the program is that by handing out the pipes, some drug users will rely less on needles, which in turn helps to cut down on the risk of certain diseases in the community. Murphy stated:
“People kept coming to our program and saying that they were getting syringes because they didn’t have access to a pipe.”
So in essence this program has tried to circumvent the whole needle issue by giving users access to another method of ingesting their drugs that put them at a much more decreased risk of infection.
Many former addicts are actively involved in these movements to try and help change things in the community. Some even say that this program also helps those who have never used needles, because it is still possible to spread diseases by sharing pipes if there are open wounds in the mouth present. Regg Thomas, a drug user for the past 20 years who currently works with the Urban Survivors Union stated:
“Whatever the reason is why both parties don’t have their own… They wind up sharing. Well, this program has prevented that because all it takes is a cut orally and you’ve transmitted a disease possibly,”
Whether the theory for the program actually works is still up for debate.
So we have seen how harm reduction can help, and I can even begin to understand how this might actually be a useful tactic for addressing a local drug issue, BUT according to state law handing out drug paraphernalia like the pipes is still illegal in Seattle. And Murphy said he knows that, but he disputes that so was syringe exchange 25 years ago. And yet Seattle has syringe exchange programs and it’s proven to be one of the biggest advantages they’ve had for fighting HIV infections through injection drug use in the state.
Even though it’s illegal under state law to give someone certain kinds of drug paraphernalia, police said they’re more concerned with what’s put into the pipes and not necessarily the pipes themselves.
Making a Real Difference
It isn’t all about the bureaucracy for those involved in this movement. It seems this is more about making a real difference and less about placating to the drug users to enable them. Murphy said this is the first program of its kind in the nation, and he believes it has not just reduced risk behaviors, but it has helped get various users tested for Hepatitis C.
But Murphy does not stop with handing someone a pipe and telling them have fun. The program lets drug users pick up wound care kits and get crucial information about treatment options. Murphy insisted:
“By engaging them, we gave people self-worth… Give back people’s desire to live better in life and live better in society,”
It seems that even though it is technically outside the realm of the law, this program could actually inspire similar changes as far as officials and organizations stepping up to keep citizens safer and more informed as drug addicts instead of labeling them all criminals and locking them up.
I have to say, harm reduction programs to me always seem like an awful idea at first because I believe in abstinence and a program of recovery, but these programs aren’t ever meant to be permanent solutions, only temporary effective vehicles to get individuals the help they need and provide safe and educational support for them until they are willing to get the help. It may sound like it is enabling, and it some ways I guess it is, but it’s saving lives and at least offering an opportunity most would never know about. Maybe harm reduction has more potential than we are currently using.
Enabling addicts to keep using is not a good personal decision, but at the same time putting in place a system to keep the community safe from the spread of disease or more dangerous circumstances is important, especially if it gets people the help they need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135