Families with an addicted loved one need to create and enforce healthy boundaries. As part of St. Joseph Institute’s Family Program, we encourage families to develop a written contract with their loved one to establish ground rules and facilitate a strong recovery.
A contract is useful for several reasons:
- It makes both parties aware of how their behavior affects the other
- It creates the common ground for change
- It sets the rules for loving confrontation, should it become necessary
- It helps both parties feel respected, heard, and supported
If you and your addicted loved one agree to write a contract to support recovery, consider including the following clauses (or modifying them to fit your situation):
For Family/Support People:
- We agree to practice healthy detachment. We agree to allow you the gift of your mistakes because we know they will help you learn, grow, and develop a healthy self-respect.
- We agree to practice healthy validation. We commit to noticing your positive changes and reinforcing them.
- We agree to practice healthy confrontation. If we notice you returning to destructive patterns, we will lovingly make you aware of them. We will provide honest feedback if you ask for guidance.
- We will not nag, criticize, judge, or condemn, since these behaviors are destructive to you and to your recovery.
- We agree to exercise healthy boundaries. We will allow you to think your own thoughts and feel your own feelings. We will give you the freedom to be who you are, even as we bring your attention to destructive behavior.
- We will advocate your recovery by removing temptations (making sure our home is free of addictive substances; securing prescription medications) and by accepting the same limitations you have (not drinking or using in front of you or asking you to attend functions where alcohol or drugs are available).
- We agree to seek outside help—from a therapist, spiritual advisor, or other source—if we cannot set or manage boundaries on our own.
For the Recovering Addict:
- I agree to respect your healthy detachment and to accept the consequences of my behavior.
- I agree to acknowledge and express gratitude for your healthy validation. I will also offer validation to you when you respect my needs.
- I permit you to give your honest feedback if I begin to fall into destructive patterns.
- I agree to listen to and be grateful for your feedback, and I will try to learn from it.
- I agree to exercise healthy boundaries. I will allow you to think your own thoughts and feel your own feelings. I will give you the freedom to be who you are, even as I bring your attention to destructive behavior (like nagging, criticizing, condemning).
- I agree to commit to my recovery by avoiding circumstances and people who expose me to alcohol or addictive substances.
- I agree to commit to my recovery by asking for outside help when necessary—whether from a therapist, a sponsor, a spiritual advisor, or some other source.