The Practical Tool of Maintaining Physical Boundaries

I found out when I started to sober up and get into recovery that part of not lusting required keeping physical boundaries. In my active addiction, I did not pay attention to this and had no idea that there are healthy boundaries. For me, this means no intimate hugging with men and women and making sure I have enough space around me to stand or sit. So I need to pay attention to this at meetings or conventions.

In the beginning, I was angry and expected that others would know and respect my boundaries. My sponsor enlightened me that it was my responsibility to take care of my own boundaries. She shared with me how she took care of herself and I will share with you now how I do this.

I avoid hugging. If a person steps towards me, I may step back. Most of the time I will put my hand out first, with enough room for a handshake. Sometimes with members who I have known for longer and are sober, I will hug. This is not an intimate hug but a hug in the form of capital letter A. Minimal body contact.

Sitting in a car or elsewhere, I make sure there is space between me and the other person. In a situation where there is less space, I sit on the outside and can put my bag between me and the other person. Or I ask for space. If that is not possible, I can always get up and move to where I have more space.

I am not able to share a room with other women that I don’t know well enough. I need to be careful with this as I also lust after women.

Some years ago I was at a 12-Step women’s retreat where we had to sleep in rooms with bunk beds. My bed was the bottom one. I had brought some extra scarfs or towels so I could put these around my bed like a curtain. This way I would have privacy changing clothes and I did not have to see others changing. On one occasion, a woman who had showered and walked around naked was dressing in the middle of the room. I wanted to ask her not to do this. I could hear my sponsor saying that this would be a controlling behavior. I needed to take care of myself so I prayed and started to read my pocket AA Big Book. This worked (had it not worked, Plan B would have been to remove myself from the room).

At a convention held in a language other than English, there were a few male members who sat very close to the foreign members and whispered the translation in our ears. This did not work for me as I found it very lustful. I had to say no to the translator. That meant I did not understand what was being shared, but felt still part of the meeting.

At another fellowship I go to, it is more normal that men and women hug each other, which is fine. At the face to face meeting sometimes there will be a group of men standing outside. I don’t join that group, I greet them and go inside. If I hug, it will be somebody I have known for a longer time. I don’t go around the room hugging everybody. Sometimes when there is a newcomer, they want to come up fast and hug straight away. I don’t do this, I step back and give a handshake. They are a bit surprised about this but I don’t have to explain why I do it. I just need to take care of my own physical boundaries.

Jackie H., Den Hague, The Netherlands

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