Setting Boundaries

Setting Boundaries

by Amber Hansen

“How do you quit drinking alcohol without God?” That was a question that was asked in one of my non-traditional sobriety classes the other day. I am not a traditional Alcohol Anonymous sober person. I found my alcohol-free life through spontaneous sobriety, which sounds rare but is actually quite common these days.

But that question has stuck with me.

“How do you quit drinking alcohol without God?”

The way I heard it initially was as an ask for advice, but reflecting further, I think it was a rhetorical question. Because the answer is you can’t—or you can’t without some form of Higher Power helping you, guiding you, or lifting you back up.

I was born into a “7 am Sunday morning, front row sitting, matching dresses with my sisters” Catholic family. I loved going to church, but as I got older I lost my way. Maybe I am still a little lost, but at the time I stopped believing there was a God. For six years (give or take a few), I found my love for alcohol and the way it made me feel—a replacement for God’s love perhaps?

But near the end of those six years, I started contemplating the idea of life without alcohol. My friend gave me her old Bible one day and said “Here, you may need this more than I do,” and set it on my desk in my dorm room. That is where I started reading Proverbs and planting seeds that would come to fruition many years later.

Trust in the Lord with every ounce of your being because He knows what is best for you and He knows where you are heading. He has the power to make your life right again. I believe the Bible speaks to us in many ways during our time of need and as I was reading, every word reinforced that being alcohol-free was the path I needed help making straight again.

It wasn’t for another nine years that I would actually stop drinking, but quietly I was soaking up every last word I could from the Bible I was given. I had Post-it notes sticking out of it, I highlighted passages that I didn’t want to forget, and I had written in-the-moment feelings as I read.

I finally tried quitting alcohol for 1000 hours on September 16, 2019. And while it was the most uncomfortable and loneliest thing I have ever done, I didn’t feel completely alone because I had built this relationship with God. I did not expect to rely on Him that much in those first few months.

I started keeping a journal and while journaling I would talk to God. I’d ask him to help me find strength, patience, confidence, and compassion. I was praying! I didn’t realize I was doing it at first but the seeds I had planted 12 years prior had started to bloom.

Prayer and gratitude became a daily quiet moment. As time went on, I found myself praying on the way to parties, happy hours, work events, and gatherings. It gave me the confidence I needed to get through the next few hours without picking up a drink.

The power of prayer is undeniable. I started to feel like I could actually do this. I saw my future without alcohol.

Though I could see myself living a life alcohol-free, I knew I needed some boundaries set to maintain this lifestyle I had created and longed for. Boundaries were not simple to create and never have been for me. I’ve always been a yes-man, a people pleaser. I just wanted everyone to like me, which is why I drank, to be someone I am not.

With the help of journaling and prayer, I was able to come up with two boundaries I knew I could implement right away and was 89% sure I could uphold them. They were “leave early” and “say no.”

Happy hour after work? I left after the first hour.

Birthday party on Saturday? I left by 8 pm or said no if it was at a bar.

Girls’ weekend in Nashville? I said yes, but then I decided not to go.

A glass of wine while cooking dinner? I replaced it with sparkling water or NA Prosecco.

I was determined to stay on the path that God had helped me straighten out. After getting myself comfortable with these boundaries I was able to add more, but boundaries are tricky in sobriety. They only work when you have support; you can’t do life alone.  

Had my friend not placed that Bible on my desk, I’m not sure I would be here writing this to you. Through my painful journey, my relationship with God that I thought was forever lost was resparked.

I can’t imagine doing something this difficult without feeling the constant support of God. He was always with me, felt my pain and joy, knew how I was feeling and thinking when no one else did, and was constantly giving me choices. And with the right boundaries set, I am able to choose the right ones for me and this life He has helped me straighten out.

Amber Hansen is a sober wife and mother of two living in Denver, CO. She is a Certified Professional Recovery and Life Coach and is the founder of Healing Arrow Recovery. You can find more about her at or on Instagram @healingarrowrecovery
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