3 Guardrails That Can Save Your Life


She seemed like the All-American mom: three beautiful kids, a handsome, successful husband, involved in their church and community. Imagine my shock when I learned that her marriage was hanging by a thread because of her long-term alcoholism.

Even in the most peaceful, suburban family existence, real trouble can be just around the corner. Crippling addictions, relationship meltdowns, and other preventable problems don’t discriminate, and they don’t just happen to “other people.” By setting up some boundaries in your life, you can save yourself from falling victim to one of these destructive problems.

1. Alcohol addiction. While men are statistically more likely to abuse alcohol overall, women are vulnerable in different ways. According to a 2010 article in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, women who drink “tend to progress more quickly from using an addictive substance to dependence (a phenomenon known as telescoping). They also develop medical or social consequences of addiction faster than men, often find it harder to quit using addictive substances, and are more susceptible to relapse.” How can you ensure that you don’t trip over that line?

  • Don’t drink at all. If you have a family or personal history of dependence, the risk that comes with social drinking may be far greater than the reward.
  • Set strict parameters around your use of alcohol. (Example: never drinking alone, never more than one or two drinks, only with a meal, etc.)
  • Have an accountability partner to keep you within the safe zone, preferably your spouse.

2. Drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, abuse of prescription painkillers is sky-rocketing in the US, and the rate of dependence among women is especially troubling. Women suffer from more chronic, pain-related conditions than men, and therefore receive more prescriptions for opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin, and Demerol than men. The Centers for Disease Control reports that overdoses on these types of painkillers now kill more people than cocaine and heroine. How can you keep legitimate use of these drugs from becoming a problem?

  • Less is more. Even if you’ve been prescribed a powerful pain medication following a surgery or illness, take only as much as you absolutely need to cope. If your pain tolerance is moderate to high, you may actually need very little medication.
  • Once you’ve recovered from a procedure, dispose of any remaining pills to prevent recreational use by yourself or others—especially teens.
  • If you find yourself craving the effects of the drug in the least after a reasonable usage period, stop immediately and talk with your doctor. There may be other pain relievers or treatment options which are less risky that you’d be wise to switch to.

3. Online and social media dangers. With the explosion of social media, married people are exposed to potentially disastrous types of communication and interaction with others on a daily basis. That old boyfriend who just wanted to say “hey” via Facebook or Twitter? It’s a terrible idea. Exploring those adult sites just out of curiosity? Equally unwise. These digital pathways make it possible for married women and men to wander far off the path without ever leaving the house. After all, every affair starts with “just a conversation,” and every addiction to pornography with “just a look.” Where should your boundaries be to ward off these problems?

  • Talk it out with your husband. He may be comfortable with you exchanging pleasantries in a public way with a large group of friends, but not privately with any male friends. Likewise, you should be comfortable with the boundaries he keeps in these online arenas.
  • Set up your social media accounts so that all of your posting and communication is visible to all of your friends, and make sure your spouse is one of them. No private messaging or chatting.
  • If it’s just too complicated or causes tension in your home, give up your social media life altogether. It’s not worth it if it endangers your marriage.
  • Place filters on all family tech devices to prevent yourself and others from the temptation presented by pornography. 

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