How do I set healthy text message boundaries?



How do I set healthy boundaries regarding text messaging when my (supposedly recovering) alcoholic is repeatedly texting me, and following up with texts like “hello…???” And “are you mad at me?” And “are you missing me at all!?” That will eventually escalate to “you’re throwing us away!” “Give me some time!” And “this is a 50/50 problem!!!” I Have explained so many times that I’m not “mad” and it’s not about that. And then feel like I’m being rude or unkind when I don’t respond and it seems to feed the fire and I just wish he could be “normal” but he proves over and over that this situation is so not normal and I just don’t know how to trust that he will ever be normal and it’s such a scary feeling!

Communication is terrible

@Emkawa I know the text message boundary issue all to well. Whenever my mom gets to a bad point of intoxication, when she’s confronted, she ends up getting very defensive, often resulting in her sending my siblings and I barrages of texts. Most of the times, it can get so bad that I usually will just switch that text chain to a “Do Not Disturb” mode. My mom’s the type of person that, once she calms down, will forget the issue at hand and go back to texting me in a normal fashion. If I confront her about the texts, it usually doesn’t help, so I usually just do the “do not disturb” thing until things quiet down. If I were you, though, I’d probably try calling your loved one or sending him a text that explains that you have a life too, and that him texting you constantly is getting in the way of it. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about him, but that you need some healthy space. Reminding him that you love him and care for her may put a lot of her worries at bay.


I agree with this whole heartedly :smirk: I’ve dealt with this as well with my fiance and what worked for her was looking inward and realizing why she felt the need to control or attack me if I wasn’t responsive at all times of the day. She needed to do some self work and learn to be happy being alone, finding that her behavior was a product of her own self worth. Once she did that the relationship was much healthier and we could have comfortable space in the relationship.


Your safety is first. The control one constantly has when an addict is instilling a fear into others to control their emotions. Focus on you and all the time these go on do remain silent, as the constant poking at you his knowing ability to control you. Leave it alone, say nothing and if it leads to threats then you have that in your hand. I’ve dealt with an alcoholic, narcissistic, manipulative, compulsive, liar (ex brother in law) and this is just the way it went. Quiet him and use your voice and explain what’s going on to anyone including authorities so it’s a known issue. You don’t have to turn him in but, he needs help. Your interests don’t seem to be his priority until substance abuse has reached a certain level right? If so that’s when you must continually explain to him it’s not going to work unless he gets the help he needs. Provide him in sober moments you are willing to go to places such as AA, NA meetings with him if he’s willing to go. At the very least suggest it or seek someone you may think could influence him to make a decision to change for the both of you but, him first! He has to do it for him and the only thing he’s truly throwing away is an unimaginable life in recovery. All the best and good luck with your journey. Know there’s people to help you no matter where you are your blessed!


Curious @Dean_Acton - did you and your fiance ever have a specific conversation about text message boundaries, or is it something that sort of resolved itself over time as she did some self worth work?


Hi @Emkawa, I can really relate to this post. When my brother was in active addiction (different drug of choice, but active use regardless) I would come out of work meetings with 50+ messages from him, and this completely flipped me out! I had no idea how to handle setting boundaries with him via text when he lived in another country! When I was dealing with this a colleague helped me figure out how to set boundaries.

Similar to @ashleykm3’s suggestion, I sent him a text message saying (I don’t have it because it was over 3 years ago but something like this): “I love you and I’m here for you and want to help, but during these hours I will not be looking at my phone because I’m in work meetings. In addition, in order for me to help you, it would be helpful for me if you could limit the amount of messages you send me at a time. If you aren’t able to respect my boundaries I may put your messages on do not disturb and you may not get a response from me for a bit. How does this sound?”

In addition, dealing with text tone can be really difficult, so it may be helpful to try and communicate on the phone or via video chat so tone isn’t misunderstood!

Here is a similar post that you may want to check out for help setting your own boundaries!

Please comment below so we can continue this dialogue, @Emkawa. I’m here and happy to help!


Thank you this! I certainly do ignore the rants and just feel so guilty, knowing it s the right thing to do helps me stay strong


I like this suggested response @erica! I just tried reading it as if I were the recipient and it sounds firm but very caring.


Thank you!!! Im going to use this verbatim! once the expectation is set hopefully he will just calm dow w the barrage of texts


@Emkawa - It has taken me about two years to do this but I have to block my sister. I had changed my phone number a few times but I realized I can’t keep doing that. I have learned that a conversation at night from my sister is not good. She WILL be drunk. She WILL be abusive to me. And all depending on my mood, I may or may not be strong enough to abide by my boundaries. Good luck!


You’re welcome @Emkawa, let us know how it goes! :slight_smile:


Good point about the time of day thing @dbfbilly1. I once heard from some parents in a NarAnon meeting that they turn off their phones between certain hours from night to morning. This essentially trained their son to just stopped contacting them in that time, and he started to reach out during the day time when he was more likely to be of sound mind.


@katie it happened organically. Her clinginess and insecurity caused a lot of strain on the relationship. We talked a lot about self help early on in the relationship just because it was a common interest and with the strain after a few months she realizef I’d become distant due to her behavior it ironed itself out


Im so sorry the you have health with this @dbfbilly1, it is so draining and can feel so overwhelming! setting boundaries is the first step and having the addict/abuser follow is another story. Detachment is difficult when the other person won’t let go


Thanks for sharing! Bet this is helpful for others, too!