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Episode 63 | April 9, 2024

Lianna Purjes, LCSW, therapist and Empowerment Coach joins us to talk boundary setting, the power of the pause, developing meaningful relationships after childhood trauma and how to support loved ones with substance use disorders.

Lianna shares her insights about taking a pause when communication gets difficult or too uncomfortable. Taking small steps in the right direction to build better, longer lasting friendships, relationships and respect among coworkers.


Welcome to “That’s a Hard No”the podcast about learning to say no and set boundaries to live our best lives. 

Follow along with me as we learn from fellow strugglers and experts, so that you too can start saying no without feeling fear, guilt, or FOMO. 


Lianna Purjes, LCSW is a therapist and Empowerment Coach helping adult children of alcoholics master the tools and strategies needed to build healthy and long lasting relationships. Lianna has Masters degrees in Clinical Social Work and Education and over 15 years of experience helping clients improve their relationships.
As an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACOA) herself, Lianna benefited greatly from going to therapy and 12-step programs but kept wondering, now what?! She was starting to heal but felt something was missing. Her relationships were often short-lived, disappointing, and left her feeling like something was wrong with her for not being able to find the companionship she so desperately wanted.
It wasn’t until she started her training as a therapist that Lianna began to connect the dots and actually make concrete changes in her life. Now she’s happily married to an incredibly supportive man and has genuine friendships with people who she considers family.
And then she thought, “how did nobody teach me this stuff sooner?!?” Lianna decided to take all of her knowledge from her clinical training and lived experience to create a coaching program that helps other ACOA’s gain an understanding of what their childhood experiences did to their developing brains and find the path to healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Key Takeaways

“our guest today knows how much work it takes to set a boundary with a parent and also knows how much you can improve your life by doing the work.”

[00:02:24] Setting boundaries with family

  • Recognizing when someone has a problem or how you are being impacted by someone with an addiction

[00:06:33] Adult children of alcoholics

  • Realizing differences as you get older
  • Self esteem issues, difficulties in relationships, communication struggles – people pleasing or setting boundaries at all
  • Keeping things inside or ignoring feelings
  • Educating yourself

“I always recommend let’s just start noticing. And we’re not judging. We’re not saying it’s bad or I’m messed up or something’s wrong with me. We’re just noticing.”

[00:11:21] Attachment theory and its impact

  • Knowing background, noticing behaviors/patterns – not judging just seeing what is happening and learning to shift those mindsets
  • Kids who have insecure attachments have different reactions to their caregivers – downplay their feelings, unsure how to comfort others, try to find comfort themselves

[00:15:24] Setting healthy boundaries

  • It’s okay to be uncomfortable
  • Practice saying no – this can be small things, it’s hard
  • Try to turn off guilt and autopilot
  • Pause first! Then respond


  • Loving someone with a substance use disorder – deciding how much you will/can help to ensure you are supportive but not enabling and continuing to stand firm
    • This can take trial and error, try to be patient with yourself – there is not a right/wrong way
  • Taking a long hard look at romantic relationships, friendships, and coworkers
    • Especially, people of authority – being able to have work/life balance

“I messed up. I hurt people’s feelings. I had to break some relationships. I annoyed people. I flubbed.”

[00:23:15] Empathy versus enabling

  • Recognize that struggle is normal and expected
  • Comes down to your personal lines and boundaries – understanding this can change
  • Having different levels of comfort, something that might not feel great, something that feels bad, and something you is a non-negotiable
    • the work is hard and complicated but the blueprint is worth it

[00:27:31] The Power of the pause

  • We do not have to react immediately – take the pause, step away, take a breath
  • Allowing yourself time when decisions need to be made or you are having big feelings

“I love that you reemphasize the pause. I think that pause is the magic trick because you have to give yourself time”

[00:31:06] Trauma and brain rewiring

  • When children deal with trauma their brain is rewired to manage survival more often and consistently than others

[00:35:59] Enabling behavior in families

  • Do not supply addicts with the substance
    • Help them get to detox
  • Remember this is not them, it’s the disease
  • Enable them to get help
  • You can change your mind!

“that’s something that takes ongoing work and practice and being able to sit with the discomfort of keeping a boundary.”

[00:41:05] Setting and keeping boundaries

  • Keeping boundaries is often times more difficult because its a continued practice

“I find it’s very easy for me to set the boundary. I can talk the talk, but keeping that boundary is where you walk the walk.”

  • It’s important to meet your own needs in order to even help and support your loved ones and be the best version of yourself
  • Try a new way, change your habits, progress is bumpy, it is not linear – the setback may feel difficult but keep moving forward

“The way we repair trauma is through relationships, through connection. We are pack animals. We are built to live in groups with other humans. And that connection to other humans is the most important factor in healing.”

Where to Find Lianna

Facebook Group  Adult Children of Alcoholics: Master Tools to Build Healthy Relationships

Credits and Thanks
  • Many thanks to our friends and families (our “villagers”) for listening, and for your continued support.
  • That’s a Hard No is a production of Clever Girl Marketing
  • Marketing and Production Coordinator, Maura Del Rosario
  • Production Support, Evergreen Podcasts, Noah Foutz, Producer
  • New Rock Anthem Music: Written by Noah, and performed by his band, The Big Leagues
  • Videographer, Kae Holmberg