How To Set Boundaries While Living With People Who Drink

We respond to the conditions of our home environment. If it’s cozy and clean, we wake up feeling less stressed. If it’s out of order, we’re more likely to feel imbalanced and disconnected.

During recovery, living with roommates or loved ones who drink at home may cause you to isolate or feel out of control. That’s what slowly happened to me. In this situation, after the overwhelm became too great, I decided to address these concerns with my roommates.

I experienced a rush of anxiety before and during this conversation. In retrospect, a long talk with myself would have helped me initiate this discussion with a greater sense of ease and confidence.

Navigating sobriety or moderation is a great time to embrace what might feel uncomfortable. Whether the scenario has already created instability, or if you’re confronting the issue early-on, I created the following exercises to help clear your head, establish your needs, and have a firmer conversation than the one that I experienced. Here’s how you can set boundaries with yourself and with others in order to stay healthy and alcohol-free in the long-term.

Create your personal boundaries

When facing a potentially difficult conversation, your mind may start to focus on what could go wrong, or what words could be misunderstood. Suddenly, the problem feels larger, and the anxiety settles in — all before the conversation even takes place.

Before discussing any adjustments you’d like to see at home, it’s important to clarify your needs to yourself. This will help guide the conversation, and you’ll have a clearer sense of what compromises may or may not work for you.

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Jennifer Chesak, a Healthline writer, explains, “The word ‘boundary’ can be a bit misleading. It conveys the idea of keeping yourself separate. But boundaries are actually connecting points since they provide healthy rules for navigating relationships, intimate or professional.”

Here’s a list of fill-in statements to help you visualize your ideal home environment. The goal of this exercise is to encourage a solution-oriented approach to advocating for yourself, and set yourself up to clearly communicate your needs.

  1. I would feel _________ if there was less alcohol in our home.
  2. When I see alcohol at home, I feel like _________.
  3. When there’s less or no alcohol at home, I feel _________.
  4. I need more _________ in order to feel supported and comfortable in our home.
  5. What if we created a system where _________ if alcohol is entering the space?
  6. When alcohol is in our space, I’d like it if _________.
  7. I need _________ days/hours/minutes to self-regulate before alcohol enters the home.
  8. When feeling triggered to drink, I need _________ days/hours/minutes to regain control.
  9. When feeling triggered by alcohol, I positively/negatively respond by _________.
  10. I value a home that feels more _________ and less _________.

Communicate those boundaries

Now it’s time to have the conversation. When you practice having difficult conversations ahead of time, you can help reduce anxiety in the moment. With repetition, you’ll memorize what needs to be said before walking away.

When practicing, it’s often effective to come up with questions you can ask in real-time. If you need some assistance, I’ve included 10 samples for you below. Edit for context and to suit your voice!

  1. Have you ever lived with someone who doesn’t drink ?
  2. If you have, what systems, if any, were created to make sure everyone felt comfortable?
  3. If not, have you had any personal relationships with someone who doesn’t drink ?
  4. After hearing me out — and thanks for listening — what’s a compromise that might work well for everyone right now?
  5. When alcohol will be brought home, what system can we create to communicate that in advance?
  6. Going forward, how often do you think alcohol might be brought home?
  7. In general, what influences you to want alcohol in the home?
  8. How might everyone be affected by having less or no alcohol at home?
  9. Would you like to know anything specific about how alcohol affects me?
  10. How do you feel about communicating more often about alcohol use in the home?

With a little practice, you will approach this conversation with less tension, which means you’re more likely to reach the desired result without conflict.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Avatar photoAbout the Author: Latiana Blue (she/they) is a freelance sobriety writer, rare INFJ and the founder of Office Hrs. Latiana has been alcohol-free for nearly two and a half years. Follow Office Hrs on Instagram. You can connect with Latiana on Instagram and Twitter @heylatiana!