Boundaries: Mine, Yours and Ours

I’ve been attending a new group therapy and it’s been amazing. It’s been painful, awkward, uncomfortable, revealing and difficult – you know: amazing!

I started my healing journey by sharing – by confessing. I confessed my addiction, my addiction-fueled crimes, my rape – my healing. And it worked. I found compassion and was given support from everyone I talked to.

And boy, did I talk! In my blog. On social media. At work. At parties. In group. At breakfast, lunch and dinner. In meetings – both therapeutic and business – you couldn’t shut me up.

But recently, I shared a little piece of my vulnerability with someone with no vested interest in me or my healing. His response was indifference and his attitude – in stark contrast to mine – ended up offending me. It was the start of a really rough day. So I talked about this to my new group, and my sponsor. And here’s what I’ve learnt:

There are three kinds of people I interact with:
1. The casual contact: “How you doing? Good? Not Good? Right…let’s get down to business.”
2. The close casual contact: “How you doing? Good? Not good? Yeah…me too. I know how you feel. Right…let’s get down to business.”
3. The close contact: “How you doing? Good? Not good? Before we get down to business, let’s just take a moment to connect, share, empathise and listen to each other.”

That is a very simplified way of looking at it, but it contains everything I need to know about what to share.

Where I am speaking to a colleague, or an acquaintance – unless they ask to be invited into the space where I share the story of my life and my recovery, I only risk damage to my vulnerability and insecurity if I simply open up and start sharing, without being asked to.

Close friends have my interests at heart, like I have theirs. It is a shared space of friendship, love and compassion; it is the right space to open up about me, my thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams – all those little personal intimate things that are mine.

Group meetings and invitations are other healthy spaces to share, as is my blog – because the people listening or reading have come out of their own interest and their own free will.

This has been quite a revelation to me. It’s taken a while to sink in – but this week, finally, it has. I found myself yesterday silently appraising people in the group I was talking to and applying a number to them, based on the three types I listed, above – and then measuring my discussion with them to fit the level of intimacy that we connected on. Amazing.

So, what does this mean? Well, probably less intimate Facebook updates, for one. And the people at work will probably find I am a little quieter – more reflective – than usual. I may come across as a little withdrawn, not quite the loud, life-of-the-party I was before…and that’s OK. To the ones who matter – the ones who fit into Type No. 3 – they will come forward, and firmly establish that common ground where friendship and compassion belong.

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Image © Mimi and Eunice


  1. I guess I’m not relating to this in a direct way, but through a veil of experience. I’m not in recovery (although some would suggest this wouldn’t be such a bad thing for me) but when I divorced I went through a time of bleeding emotions all over social media. I shared and shared and shared, and people offered lots of virtual hugs and so on. It helped, although it was hard to retract from what I’d glibly referred to as a state of “honesty”. Now I remain honest to everyone, but more protective of how much I share. It works.
    I admire you for pushing through with your commitment. Not everyone grasps the stranglehold addiction can have and how much it takes to prise yourself from its grip.
    Here’s hoping that you continue to find ears to share with and voices of support that keep you focused.
    Also, screw them if they don’t “get” you. 🙂

    1. Thanks Scott – this has been such an amazing two years-and-a-bit (again, refer to my definition of amazing, in the opening of the blog) – and part of my growing up, is to learn that being open and honest will always ALWAYS be a ‘thing’ – a huge drive for me – but that it’s OK (and perfectly sane!) to select my audience.
      I used to waste so much time on “those who didn’t get me” – all that energy poured into people who were apathetic, uninvolved or malicious – while I neglected those who cared. There’s a lot of momentum in that habit, and like my addiction, I’m working damn hard to put my energy into people who matter.
      Thanks for the kind words of support – they are gold to me!

  2. I love reading your blog and admire your honesty and wilingness to share both the bad, the OK and the good. I believe if more people were honest about their struggles without whingeing and whining about how cruel life has been to them, others would be encouraged to admit to their addictions without fear of humiliation and blame. We are all fallible.

    1. That thing you talk about – admitting addiction without fear of humiliation and blame – is a critical thing! To witness someone’s life spin out of control and to not add to the calamity through enabling, humiliation, judgement or sanction, is a careful, measured attitude – but one that is absolutely necessary before one single iota of REAL help and support should be offered, because without this, the help is often well-meant but misguided.

  3. So true and never be afraid to just be you, who cares what others think but guard your heart and who you put your full trust in. There are some crazy people out there and they come in all shapes and disguises. Have your inner circle to whom you can be you and the rest well they are just secondary/superficial friendships. We do need both kinds in our lives. Thank you for always being so honest in your posts, I enjoy reading them immensley.

    1. I agree – we DO need both…I am now learning it’s OK to have these layered interactions. Thank you for you kind words!

  4. Great post!!!!! I’m just now coming to the realization that there are certain things I don’t have to share. I’m beginning to realize that those intimate details are just that, intimate. They are a gift to share with those close to me, and giving them away to everyone stops me from having true intimate friends.And if I don’t treat them ike a gift, I can’t expect anyone else to.

    1. It’s a powerful realisation, that boundary between intimate, personal and public – complex, beautiful and empowering!
      Thank you for your kind words and good luck with your personal journey!

  5. Firstly very proud to be a #3 for this makes me smile. Just like the ride home on Friday and the chat we had, that level of connection was so comfortable and good!

    It’s amazing just how much one can learn from you Dave. I think most people could definitely learn to bleed less on facebook and keeping the personal to a select, intimate group.

    I will say this, the “normal” Dave will be missed at work. People have gotten far too used to it, some like me relay on it to be a little more themselves at work too.
    On the plus side this does leave more room to meet up outside of work and just have a good connection in a comfortable space.

    1. Sweet Ryan! Haha! Yes, I think the photographer on Friday evening also got more earful than he bargained for! As for work – yes, ‘normal’ Dave will be missed – but only for a while, because to those who matter and to whom I matter, they will seek out the reconnection, and things will be as normal. But not everyone is interested – and to be fair to them and myself, why waste energy there?
      Looking forward to many more chats and connections with you!

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