As sobriety progresses, relationships need to be reevaluated.
Recovery is a time to surround yourself with positive people who are supportive of your decision to become sober and distance yourself from those who are not.
When a person is in recovery, it is important that they separate themselves from people in their lives who do not support their sobriety or cause them to experience negativity or stress. These types of relationships are called toxic relationships.
Identifying Toxic Relationships
In order to avoid future toxic relationships and distance yourself from those you are already in, you have to know what to look for. Very often when a person is using, their life is wrapped up in drama, emotional turmoil, and manipulation. Since it is a large part of their lives, they are not able to see the potential dangers that exist. Instead, they just see it as a part of their normal life.
Toxic relationships can occur between any two people, including family members, friends, or romantic partners. Unlike a healthy relationship where both people care about each other and are supportive, toxic relationships are unhealthy and are damaging to the mental or physical health of one or both persons.
Common types of behaviors that are toxic include:
- Enabling: When someone does or says something that makes it easier for you to engage in things that are not in your best interest, they are enabling you.
- Guilting or shaming: In order to control your behavior, this type of person uses guilt and shame. They often bring up incidents where your behavior was poor while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even though you have made amends, they make you feel like you owe them.
- Belittling: This type of person regularly makes fun of you and your accomplishments. They make you feel bad about yourself. They may doubt your ability to stay sober and even try to put you in situations that could trigger a relapse.
- Distancing: This type of person doesn’t return your calls and cancels plans at the last minute. When you are together, they are not focused on you.
- Overreacting: This type of person is used to seeing things in black and white. They generally see small problems as huge obstacles and small mistakes as unforgivable. They thrive on unnecessary drama.
If you are afraid to give your opinion, speak openly, or feel like you are always “walking on eggshells”, you are more than likely in a toxic relationship This is especially true if the other person lies to you on a regular basis.
Additional signs of a possible toxic relationship include:
- They ignore what you want and always get their way.
- When you are together, much of the time is spent gossiping or complaining about other people.
- Nothing gets resolved—even though you argue constantly.
- You no longer enjoy spending time together. Instead, it seems like a chore.
- You feel insecure and moody after spending time together.
- Other people have told you they are concerned or worried about the relationship.
Toxic People in Recovery
When a person is in recovery, there are four different types of people that are toxic.
Pretenders: These people say they care about you or love you only when it benefits them. Often addicts themselves, they want to use your friendship as a way to further their lifestyle.
Drama Kings and Queens: These types of people love chaos and thrive on the drama it causes. To satisfy their needs, they actively create drama and stress in your life.
Users: These types of people are only in the relationship to see what they can get from you. Despite what they say, they do not care if they hurt you and they are not concerned about your well-being.
Clinging People: These types of people cling to the past. They are often co-dependents or addicts themselves and try to move you back into their comfort zone by doing and saying things that encourage relapse.
Principles to Remember Regarding Toxic Relationships
According to William L. White, there are five principles and prescriptions to keep in mind regarding toxic relationships.
- Personal healing must take place before relationship healing.
- Recovery can threaten an intimate relationship.
- Healing a relationship takes time.
- It may take outside help to heal a relationship.
- There are some relationships that cannot be salvaged in recovery.
If you are in a toxic relationship that is affecting your recovery, ending it is imperative to your sobriety.
If You or a Loved One Needs Help
Having a network of family and friends that are supportive is an important part of your long-term recovery. Yet many people are still struggling with taking the first step to getting the help they need for their substance use disorder.
If you or a loved one needs help, call and speak to a professional at English Mountain Recovery Center. Located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, this residential treatment center offers gender-specific treatment services for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing.