Tuesday, September 29, 2009


We went to visit our son in jail on Sunday. I know that I have said we don't visit. That is one of our boundaries. I'll have more to say about later.

Alex looked good. He was in good spirits but was very concerned about where he was to go when he is released. He seemed to have reconciled that if he could not get into a clean living environment he was homeless in the winter. This was causing a great deal consternation with him and I could tell with that on his mind he was not focusing on what I felt was actually more important, how were things going to be different this time. We finally told him that where he would live after he got out was actually a simple problem to solve, there are many options and this is an easy issue, it only takes money. We ask him to focus more on "what" was going to happen when he got out. How is it going to be any different this time. He seemed a bit relieved but I'm not sure he actually understands how much bigger that issue is to deal with rather than where to live. But that goes to an addicts one day at a time and living only in the moment.

When we have set a boundary about not visiting in jail because jail is punishment why would we go visit and violate our own boundary? Actually, we went for mom. Mom had been having bad dreams about Alex and in all of her bad dreams was Alex and all of her dead friends and relatives. She was troubled by this. I'm not sure if she puts much stock in that sort of thing as a premonition or something but she is religious and so she was worried. I just look at it as a dream and so what, but it troubled mom so that troubles me. The visit calmed her worries.

To be clear, I do not see boundaries as a solid impenetrable wall that resembles something like the Berlin Wall with heavy life or death consequences at the mere thought of violating them. I see boundaries that we set for ourselves more like a rope line. There is a clear demarcation of where we should not go, there is security to make sure we know there are consequences for crossing but there are circumstances that necessitate crossing the line and there may be consequences that you or your loved one may have to pay for that crossing.

Boundaries must be set after much calm and reasoned thought. My experience of setting boundaries in the heat of battle with my addict resulted in failure every time. Especially because those boundaries I was probably hollering were being set for him or at him and not for me. If you are setting boundaries for yourself and using a calm deliberate approach success can be more easily achieved and you can control your own actions. That really goes well with the control freak in me.

Setting good boundaries for yourself allows you, the loved one of an addict to bring a measure of sanity into an insane situation.


Anonymous said...

I have been following you for some time now, and although I am not in your situation I work as an RN with people who are every day. Todays post was absolutely correct, you do have to give yourself some slack. Everyones situation is not exactly like others and although it is a fine line sometimes you have to do what feels right. I admire you both.

Syd said...

Thanks for this excellent description of healthy boundaries. I find that instead of having inflexible boundaries, it's okay for me to let them bend occasionally.

The neverending battle of child's opiate addiction said...

I also agree. Setting healthy boundaries can only be done effectively in a calm manner, not out of anger. Just like a river, sometimes boundaries have to bend a little to keep things flowing. Awesome post as usualy and I am glad Mom was able to get some relief by visiting.

Sherry said...

You are both blessed to have each other - a mate that supports your feelings/wishes!

Anonymous :) said...

Aw, if it troubles mom, it troubles me. That's awesome.

Her Big Sad said...

I think that was really nice, not only that you recognized that it troubled her, but that you cared enough to go with her. Visiting in jail is so emotionally draining and I would have appreciated that kind of support from my spouse.

I also like your boundary-setting description. I like your thinking about setting them after calm reasoning - not in the heat of the moment.


Bar said...

I'm glad you were able to visit him and agree about the boundaries, you have excellent boundaries but there is nothing wrong with making a decision WITHIN those boundaries.

Annette said...

I agree with Madison....that one line is so precious. Great perspective on boundaries too. My gosh, we are people, not machines. Things change and our boundaries must be flexible to accommodate our growth.

I have to say, its a privilege to read you.

Kathie said...

Thanks, Ron, for what you are doing to help others. I appreciate your willingness to share. I added another of your articles to my website, www.tgcoy.com.
Kathie Keeler
licensed clinical social worker

Bobby said...

Thank you for your post. Boundaries are important. However, your son's concern over having a place to live after being homeless is the most important thing for him to focus on. The most basic needs of an individual must be met before any higher though processes can take place. How can he possibly think of anything else? Eating and staying warm are two really pervasive priorities.I am not judging you. I have no doubt your son has given you more than enough reason to question his sincerity. He does however need the basics to survive.