Perspective: Using the “I” Word

by Anne Marie C. (Family Program)

I set out on my recovery journey almost 15 months ago.  I am not an alcoholic or addict; however, I am just as sick as they are.

I have alcoholics and addicts in my life. I LOVE them all. Some have found recovery, and some have not.

I have learned many things throughout my journey from watching my loved ones work at their recovery and drawing much inspiration from them, and from watching my loved ones not in recovery – yet.  Through this, I know what I feel in my heart and soul is true.

I am powerless over the alcoholic and addict. In fact, I am powerless over anyone but myself.  I can only control what I can control and that is me, my actions, my feelings, my words, my health and my heart.

Last summer as my son found his recovery, I hit my rock bottom. I remember that awful, despairing feeling. I wanted to end it all.

But then, out of desperation, I made up my mind that I would slowly try to find recovery for me. Without that, I am just a shell of what I can be, what I want to be and all that I want for myself, my grown children, my husband, my family and friends.

I want to LIVE my BEST life, authentically and happily.  Even when it is difficult and sad.

I found recovery through Renascent and Al-Anon. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that the angels at Renascent and Al-Anon saved me. I learn many things each week from these people.  One is setting boundaries, and it may have been the hardest.

Setting boundaries for myself with other people and sometimes for just me, helps me.  Yes, I do talk to myself and I listen when I set a boundary.

I am learning that when I speak from a place of love, respect and trust for what I truly want for me (and that in itself is a boundary), it feels freeing. It lets me tell myself and others what I want and I feel. Black and white, no grey. Non-threatening and meaningful.

I have never been one to knowingly speak out loud and give idle threats, but it can be tempting with an active alcoholic and addict to do this when I feel threatened or taken advantage of – and particularly when I began to realize how much I was enabling our son and my other loved ones.

I had to stop doing this. It was not helping.

Boundaries are safe, strong, and allow me to see that line in the sand. They also allow others to see that line in the line – no kidding, no fooling – without tears, shouting or empty promises, which I have made over and over again.

Heather and Sabrina, my ANGEL counsellors at Renascent, taught me to use the “I” word when setting boundaries and telling others (and myself) how I feel and what I want. And that I mean it.

Using the “I” instead of “YOU” when setting a boundary works beautifully.  “I feel like this” instead of “YOU made feel like this”; “I am afraid when I see this happening to you” instead of “YOU did this and YOU made me feel afraid”; “I will help you and drive you to rehab if I hear that you have relapsed” instead of “You have relapsed and you have made me angry”; “I want this to be done” instead of “You can’t do this”.

Just using the “I” word changes everything. It does not put me or my LOVED one on the defensive and it is respectful and thoughtful, yet assertive.

I have also discovered that when I choose this word it lets me think about what I want for me, not for anyone else.

It is also a wonderful thing talking with my son who is almost 15 months sober, as he helps me to LIVE my BEST life. He teaches me everyday how to LIVE for me, not anyone else. And he helps me as I watch him set his boundaries almost as easily as breathing.

Boundaries have been difficult for me to learn. I spent a very long time feeling hurt, taken advantage of, afraid, angry, and sometimes just plain ticked off. Fourteen months ago, when I realized I’d hit bottom, I decided little by little that I wanted to LIVE, and I did not want to feel hurt, angry, afraid or confused any more.

I did not want to beat myself up every time I felt that I caused my loved ones to drink or use, or that I had screwed up my kids’ lives, my work, my husband, etc.

It came to me one day that I had a choice. That choice was to work hard at recovery, keep at it, and use that “I” word for what I wanted. And to forgive myself. Learn from my mistakes, and move onwards and upwards.

I find myself setting boundaries for myself with my work and my family daily. The “I” word makes it easier.

See how well I am doing, I have used the “I” word over 30 times in this writing!

As I read over this, I think about my son and something he said to me last year at this time: “Open your heart and let the good come in.” I listened, and I opened my heart and this is the only exception for me to not set a boundary.

Let true, deep and authentic LOVE know NO boundaries.

I am worth it.

Aren’t we all worth it?


A jewel from the TGIF vault, originally published August 12, 2011.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email