Last week, I focused on how to plan Christmas with a drug or alcohol user. I promised I would go into more detail about boundary setting this week. This is a crucial starting point for anyone who lives with a drug or alcohol user. Let’s get straight into it.


Principles to think about


The Vesta Programme is based on 4 key principles:

  1. To reward your loved one when sober- plan rewards in for when your loved one is sober, remove the rewards if they have used
  2. Use positive communication techniques- use I messages
  3. Disabling enabling behaviours (don’t do anything that makes their substance use easier like giving money or cleaning up after them)
  4. Withdrawing when your loved one uses (if they drink or use, remove your company from them using an I-message, this gives a message that you won’t be around if they choose to use. If you have planned a reward or to do something nice, leave them to it and explain that you love them but will not be around if they choose to drink)

Keep these in mind and if you can, memorise them or write them down, put them in the notes on your phone to refer to at tricky times. I cannot go through all the details here as it takes a full programme to explain but you can sign up to my Mailing list or my Facebook page for updates, information and advice here.


Boundary setting


The reason you need to set boundaries is:

  • Because you need them to look after yourself
  • It is beneficial to your loved one in the long run that you can take a step back and think about what you can and what you can’t accept
  • It keeps you safe from harm.
  • It prevents you from being in a vulnerable position so that you can start to live a better life and recover from your loved one’s substance use.
  • It gives you a baseline to refer to when your loved one oversteps the mark. It keeps the focus on you and gives you some control of the situation. It will also help you to tip the balance so that the benefits of your loved one’s substance use are outweighed by the consequences.


How to do it:


  1. Think about the last month. Which behaviours have been acceptable, and which haven’t? Make a note of these and how many times each have occurred.
  2. Think about what the consequences will be for your loved for each unacceptable behaviour. Keep these relative to the problem. For example, if they use in the house, will you ask them to leave? If they puke everywhere, will you stop cleaning up for them? If they ask for money, will you give it to them? What if they bring drug or alcohol using friends home? What about domestic or emotional abuse? Covering up for them?
  3. Will you accept substance using behaviour around you or in your home or not?
  4. Do not even think about setting boundaries when your loved one has used/had a drink!
  5. Plan a time when you know there is a pattern when they are sober and open to having a conversation without other people being present.
  6. Write down what you want to say and if it doesn’t work out at that time, keep trying.
  7. Use I-Messages to plan out what you are going to say.
  8. Say it calmly (shouting and nagging doesn’t work!)
  9. Put your own needs first but tell them you love them and care for them.
  10. Follow through with your consequences calmly if needed.
  11. Don’t give in to manipulative behaviours. This is part of problematic substance use and if you have made plans and your loved one doesn’t want to take part, carry on with your life.
  12. Now is not the time for conflict. Try and make your life as peaceful as possible and join my Five Days Towards Family Recovery programme to find out what to do next.


This will change your life. Why? Because regardless of whether your loved one chooses to continue drinking or not, you will start to gain the confidence to get on with your own life.


I can help


If you are living with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use, I can help you.

My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area. You can also get help via Skype and an online group therapeutic programme.

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I share lots of great information and advice on my Facebook page.

Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free 10 Steps to Family Recovery download.

Take Care.

See you next week,


Victoria x