Your recovery should come first. Don’t make room for people who cause you pain or make you feel small. It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change. But if a person disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and continues to treat you in a harmful way, they need to go.
Rehab is about getting rid of the toxins that affect your life in a negative way. During detox, the physical substances that have been causing harm to your body will be flushed out in order to restore a neuro-chemical and physiological balance. During treatment, you will learn more about the relationships in your life and what kind of toxic aspects they may carry. Removing toxic people from your life is equally as important as removing the toxic chemicals, though in some cases, it may prove even more difficult. Ultimately however, excising toxic people from your life is going to prove beneficial to your overall mental, emotional, and physical health in the long term.
“People who are not happy with themselves cannot possibly be happy with you.”
What is a Toxic Relationship?
A toxic relationship is any kind of relationship which is characterized by a negative or harmful dynamic between the two parties. Typically, one party is abusive, manipulative, and takes advantage of the other using criticism, judgement, and oppression in order to dominate the relationship. Anyone can find themself trapped in a toxic relationship with someone. People who have low self-esteem and who use substances to cope may put themselves in toxic relationships because they want to feel loved and are willing to put up with anything in order to get it. Similarly, anyone undergoing a massive change in their life, such as being freshly sober, may be vulnerable to feeling trapped in a relationship.
Toxic relationships are also not limited to romantic relationships. Toxic relationships can exist among peers, between friends, and among family members. The first biggest indicator of a toxic relationship is any person who does not fully support your recovery. This includes toxic people that you may have been friends with prior to your addiction. You should avoid anyone who enabled you while you were using. You should also realize that some people who say they support your sobriety are in fact toxic. Anyone who can fill one or more of the following roles:
- Plays the Victim
- Serial Pessimist
- Constantly Need to be Right
- Serial Liar
Toxic people are to be avoided at all costs after you have complete rehab. Toxic people can be subtly manipulative and cause you unneeded stress at this point in your life. A toxic person who knows you especially well is dangerous because they can more easily manipulate you, inflicting damage to your image and creating uncertainty and emotional dependence on them.
Recognizing When to Cut Ties
This is the most difficult part of growing after recovery. Relationships that may have once seemed ideal could now be cast in a new light after your time in treatment. Even seemingly harmless old friends could now be a risk to be around. People also change, and they might not be the same individual you thought you knew. Regardless, here are some signs to look out for that it may be time to cut someone from your life, or to reduce time exposed to them.
Here are some quick signs to look out for that you may be in a toxic relationship and several more in-depth explanations of how toxic relationships grow:
- Lack of Trust
- Constant Judgement
- Nonstop Narcissism
- Lack of Communication
- Continuous Disrespect
- Insufficient Support
- Control Issues
- Negative Energy
- Constant Undermining
- Continual Dishonesty
- Filled with Criticism
- Makes Your Unhappy
“If they do something often, it isn’t a mistake, it’s just their behavior.”
Things Have Changed For the Worse
The one constant in life is that things change. As time goes on, situations, relationships, and individuals change. You’ve undergone immense change by deciding to complete treatment for addiction. This is an example of a positive change in your life. However, if you find that your relationship with someone has changed for the worse, it may be time reevaluate that relationship. People who were once treasured friends may begin to adopt toxic traits as a result of something in their lives. If you notice that someone you have a relationship with is displaying toxic traits, consider either confronting them or spending less time with them.
You’re the Only One Trying to Make it Work
A healthy relationship is one in which their is mutual respect, trust, and support. Love and friendship should not be a one-sided affair. Both people in the relationship should put in visible effort to make it work. In other words, you get what you give. If you leave rehab and find yourself back in a relationship that feels completely one-sided, i.e. only you are putting in effort to make the other person happy, it’s a sign that this relationship has become toxic. Toxic people tend to take more than they receive. They will take advantage of people who show them kindness. In return for your love and attention, toxic people will often return selfish behavior expertly disguised as love. Over time, you will undoubtedly notice the drain this takes on your emotional well-being. Their egocentric tendencies will undermine your own self-worth and could be a potential trigger for your relapse. There’s simply no point in including someone in your life if the only thing they bring to the table is making your life difficult.
“Toxic people pollute everything around them. Don’t hesitate. Fumigate.”
You Feel Unsure About What You Mean to Them
The people that your turn to in your time of need after treatment should be those who truly care about you. They should appreciate and recognize the progress that you’ve made and encourage even more. The toxic people in your life may offer support, but not in any tangible way. Instead, they may become jealous of your new-found strength and secretly hope for your relapse, so that the power dynamic they once held will return. You need to take a step back and observe the big picture objectively.
The Relationship Feels More Harmful Than Happy
Any good relationship should be a source of joy and comfort. Loved ones make our lives feel warmer and happier. When your relationship with someone becomes a source of stress, torment, or pain, then you may be dealing with a toxic person. It can be upsetting to come to this realization, but it is ultimately for the best if you are able to identify and stop a source of pain in your life.
What is Codependency?
One of the most toxic aspects of having a relationship with an addict is the development of what’s called “codependency.” This is a psychological term for a set of behavioral characteristics usually found among people who have close relationships with addicts, though it is not limited solely to this demographic. The codependent relationship can arise in any dynamic, and are one-sided and sometimes emotionally abusive.
Codependency usually arises from dysfunctional families in which one member suffers from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is continually denied or ignored. This type of pain usually comes from one or more family members having an addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, or work, or who is physically or emotionally abusive or has a chronic mental illness. Dysfunctional families grow up learning to accept that a problem exists but refusing to confront them. Family members learn to repress their emotional well being and disregard their own needs, becoming survivors. Instead of being open with one another, family members can become strangers in their own homes.
This type of thinking leads to codependent people growing up with a “need to be needed” mentality. A codependent person may look for anything outside of themselves to feel better or worthy, whether it be drugs and alcohol, the approval of others, money, success, or relationships. Codependent persons may enter into toxic relationships because they are drawn to this unhealthy dynamic.
“It’s nice when toxic people stop talking to you. It’s like the trash taking itself out.”
Can Toxic Relationships Become Healthy?
People who find themselves inside a toxic relationship may become hopeful when they see a glimmer of a chance that the relationship could work again. While it is entirely possible for a toxic person to change their behavior to form a healthier relationship, it’s something that they have to do on their own volition. It’s more likely that a toxic individual will not change their behavior. As someone in recovery, you need to focus on taking care of yourself, not to mend a broken relationship or try to salvage something that does not work.
How to Confront the Toxic Person in Your Life
Staying in a relationship because you are used to it is no reason to continue cycles of abusive behavior. It’s okay to be afraid of leaving or being worried about what will happen to you. Many people find themselves in toxic relationships and do not know what to do. Just remember that staying in this relationship will only justify their continued poor treatment of you. In the short-term, staying in a toxic relationship may be the easy choice. In the long-term, staying in a toxic relationship will only hurt you.
Confronting the toxic people in your life can be difficult, so be ready to expect fireworks. Toxic people will lie, make excuses, and do everything to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. Don’t let toxic people manipulate you into believing they are the victim. When you do confront the toxic person, you have to be honest and resolute in your stance. Try not to let your emotions take control of you. Lay out how the person’s behavior is affecting you and clearly articulate what steps you are taking to reduce their presence in your life.
You can also enlist the help of close friends and family who know both of you. Those close to you can offer another perspective and support your decision. Turn to the most trustworthy people in your life and build a plan of action for confronting your toxic person. It’s not easy, but it will be worth it in the long run.
“Letting toxic people go is not an act of cruelty, it’s an act of self-care.”
Ending any relationship can be difficult. You may experience guilt, anger, and grief at the loss of a relationship. However, it’s important to remember that your health and recovery need to come before catering to someone else’s needs. Chances are, the people who genuinely care about you will give you the love, respect, and support you need to traverse the road to recovery. Recovery is so much more than simply getting sober. It means rebuilding your life and relationships, sometimes from the ground up. The kind of people you choose to surround yourself with will play a significant role. Landmark Recovery is a drug and alcohol recovery center that help addicts take the first steps towards achieving and maintaining sobriety. Our caring staff is trained in residential treatment, individual and group therapy, as well as intensive outpatient and detox treatment.