Caspar writes about the importance of personal boundaries in our work at Write to Freedom and in our wider lives.
The magic with W2F is in our ability to connect and hang out together, to be in our village, work together and at the same time be able support our individual recovery and growth. The ease I feel and see others experiencing in our work is the result of many years of gentle, loving work, building the foundation stones of what we do and who we are. Key to this is creating a safe space or ‘container’. We don’t offer therapy as such but what we offer is therapeutic in many ways. So even in the hanging out by the river, duding around, swimming, talking, laughing, walking, there is always an awareness of the work we are offering, how we can help maintain a strong container and how people can feel safe and supported while still relaxing, learning and growing together. This is one of the key areas of skill and expertise our facilitators need to keep the good vibes flowing and the recovery growing as beautifully as it does.
We help heal many levels of trauma. This is a complex, steady process and is at the heart of our vision. We have ‘in house’ psychotherapists both on our residentials and in our ongoing support programme. Much of the trauma we work with connects to the crossing of boundaries at some point in our lives and the need to heal these wounds. Maintaining healthy, respectful boundaries is essential to keeping the balance between a tangible sense of safety and an ease in being and growing together. When W2F began we were a male only programme. In a lot of ways this simplified our focus, particularly as we were working with young men between 16 and 18 years of age. I had for some years been wanting to create a programme for addicts in recovery. Creating a village of different backgrounds, ages and gender. Having run several pilot residentials, we made the official transition to addiction recovery in 2016, a bold, exciting leap. This quickly led to an amazing flowering of our work in many positive, life changing ways for us all.
With the programme now mixed gender, 18 years plus, and individual trauma healing in the forefront of our minds and hearts, another key area for us all to take real care with is around the potential for intimate, sexual relationships to develop between those involved in our work. It’s not that we are looking to stop this happening, that’s outside our remit! It’s more about bringing awareness to the need for those of us in early recovery to be mindful of the impact of our attentions, intentions and behaviours on others in myriad ways. It’s also very much about how to develop an intimate relationship with ourselves before we reach out to connect romantically to another. Like the suggestion says, begin with taking care of a plant in the first year of recovery, then possibly a pet in year two and if we’re lucky maybe a special, intimate relationship in year three!
We ask everyone involved, staff and participants, to be aware of attaching too closely to any one person, or people. To stretch out of our comfort zones and see if we can find common ground with everyone we meet in W2F. To learn to track our old behaviours as we forge new ones. It’s all about developing a watchful, loving, inner parent in all we do. Exploring old patterns and feeling into whether the connections we have or are seeking with others is appropriate, safe, respectful and all importantly, reciprocated.
Having had a long history of not really understanding healthy boundaries (as a result of bad role modelling from those around me), it’s taken many years of gentle, loving focus to learn to contain myself in a healthy, loving way. To know when to express my thoughts and feelings and knowing when an attraction is mutual. W2F offers an opportunity to explore these new ways of being and seeing ourselves in a professional, safe and gentle way. It isn’t so much as doing it right or wrong but in finding support and feedback along the way to help us each (staff and participants alike) find out who we truly are, what we want from life and what we can bring to the world. Healthy boundaries are essential to help nurture self-esteem, self-love and above all a freedom to be who we are, who we were born to be. Its all about our individual and collective, right to freedom.