“You need to set boundaries and keep to them,” I heard in my first SAnon meeting. “What in the world are boundaries?” I had absolutely no idea! The more I attended meetings, any meeting, I heard more about boundaries. I heard about them in books and counseling and still really didn’t understand how they worked for me. My first thought was that they were lines that my husband would never cross. That sounded great! I set them and he doesn’t cross them! But at the same time I learned the 3 C’s in SAnon, “I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Control it and I can’t Cure it.” I couldn’t set a line that my husband wouldn’t cross, that was beyond my control. So I was more and more confused with boundaries.
In the 4 years that I’ve been working on my own recovery the understanding of boundaries has come slowly; however, in moments of great need it has come with clarity. The first boundary that I needed to consider was safety, for myself and my children. In my situation physical safety was not an issue, however, emotional safety was. My boundaries began with prayer and asking the Lord to help me identify what I needed. Boundaries included no porn in the home of any kind – period! They also included the way that we would talk to each other, not missing counseling sessions, attending recovery meetings, etc. When both Jeff and I were at a good point was the time to discuss what boundaries were, how we would set them and what the consequences would be. It was also very helpful to discuss these with our counselor. When it was US setting them and not ME, then we were working together for recovery. It sounds pretty cut and dry, but it isn’t, and that’s ok. It just gives us room to grow.
Principle 8 in the Spouse and Family Support Guide is “Be Firm and Steadfast”. The first section is We Can Set Appropriate Limits to Protect Ourselves and Our Families. An impactful quote for me from this is, “We often feel torn between supporting our loved ones and setting clear limits with them. We want to show our love for them while at the same time demonstrating our love for the Lord.”
Frankly, at the beginning I didn’t care about showing my love for Jeff, I just wanted the behavior to stop. I wanted my pain to stop and I wanted the life that I thought I’d had back. But this is why these are “steps” and not “destinations.” Every time I redo a step or reread something I learn something new. I don’t consider that I ever graduate from a 12 step program any more than I graduate from keeping the commandments. I think of it in the way that Henry B. Eyring referred to it as related by Dale G. Renlund. He talked about being a lifelong learner. He was asked what he did when someone told a story he’d heard before or used a scripture he was familiar with. He said, “I ask myself, ‘Why is the Lord underlining that for me?’ and ‘What have I yet to learn from that story or scripture?’”
The scriptures are filled with examples of looking past the mortal failings and to the way that God sees each of us as His children. Another section in Principle 8 is Finding the Good That Exists in Our Loved Ones. It helps me to continue to understand that, “In our relationships, the things we focus on largely determine how we feel about a person….If we make an effort to listen and observe with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can see the potential in everyone, even those who have hurt us.”
In those early days I wept on my bed, pleading to the Lord to help me know what to do. A sweet spirit filled my heart and I heard the words, “Be still and watch and listen.” I have reflected on that moment countless times. It was direct revelation to me. It has not been easy to follow this, especially the “be still” part. However, as I have followed this I have been blessed. When I am still, I see more, when I see more I understand, or “listen,” better. When our boundaries are written with a Heavenly pen and we allow the Lord to be our co-author, the story of our recovery is a better one than we could have written for ourselves.