Know When to Walk Away: Leaving Toxic Relationships in Recovery

Knowing when to walk away from toxic relationships in recovery

In drug and alcohol addiction recovery, every person has to take a long, hard look at each of the relationships they have and decide how to improve them or let them go. When you’ve identified the people close to you who are likeliest to hold you back, though, how do you make the decision to walk away?

During counseling and both group and individual therapy sessions at FHE Health, you’ll gain more insight into making the best decisions for your individual needs — something nobody else can do for you. At this moment in your life, you need to think about yourself and your future. Though hard, this may mean removing some toxic relationships from your life.

First Step: Define the Future You Want

First and foremost, you must put your own recovery first. Once you have done that, can you fit this problematic relationship into your life without putting your recovery in dangerIt’s easy to see how some “friends” no longer fit into your daily life in recovery. However, most relationships are more complex. Before you can decide who to break ties with, focus on what you need and want most out of your life right now. In recovery, you must surround yourself with supportive people who can further your success. Healthy relationships are the backbone of your ability to remain relapse-free. Consider what this means for you personally.

To remain in a relationship, it must be possible for you to reconstruct it around your new life in recovery. From friendships and family to your spouse, this means considering how the relationship will change, such as:

  • Changes in how often or how you communicate
  • Forgiveness for past wounds
  • Developing new patterns of interaction
  • Sexual intimacy changes
  • Redefining the role you plan within any relationship

Life changes significantly after recovery. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that up to 60 percent of people who enter recovery will face relapse. You need to ensure the relationships you create are not leading to that point.

How Do You Decide Which Relationships to Fix and Which to Leave?

In recovery, you will spend some time evaluating every aspect of life around you, including each of your relationships. During this evaluation process, you may learn that some relationships are really holding you back from living the life you decide. Take a look at a few steps that can help offer some clarity to this process.

1. Evaluate the Relationships You Have Now

Is the relationship healthy for you? Is there a lot of baggage with relationships? Is it a disruptive relationship? Do you feel obligation to them? Do you want this relationships to continue?As you are in treatment and perhaps your first months out of it, consider which relationships you have right now. Who is speaking to you, contacting you or supporting you? These are the first relationships to work on, since they play a role in the most delicate phase of your treatment. Ask these questions:

  • Does this relationship make you feel anxious or uneasy every time you contact this person?
  • Is there drama that’s long and drawn out, perhaps hard to rebuild?
  • Does this person bring disruption to your life?
  • Do you feel responsible for this person (such as a friend or spouse), or do you want to enjoy life with this person?
  • Do you want this relationship to continue?

2. Look at Past or Distant Relationships

Take a look back over the period of your drug and alcohol abuse at which relationships stand out the most. Consider whether those ties influenced, supported or even encouraged you to enter your path towards substance abuse. If so, the presence of these individuals in your life right now, especially if they continue to use, is highly dangerous.

3. Consider the Road Forward

You cannot fix a relationship unless you fix yourself first. Considering this, ask yourself if this person is going to be there to support you and wait for you to make these changes.Here’s an important statement to consider about relationships in recovery. The healing and improvement you need to do right now has to be more important and possible before any relationship healing can occur. You cannot fix a relationship unless you fix yourself first. Considering this, ask yourself if this person is going to be there to support you and wait for you to make these changes.

Don’t be upset if they can’t. Remember, they have a life to live as well. Only when you become healthy can you begin to work through past injuries and relearn how to trust.

4. Family Isn’t a Requirement

This is perhaps the most difficult realization to come to when you are in recovery. Just because someone is a relative doesn’t mean that person needs to be in your life. Drinking can stem from past abuses by an older relative. Perhaps there is someone who is hurtful and angry towards you. You may even be unable to rebuild a relationship with a sister or a brother who continues to choose to use drugs or alcohol.

Though very difficult, it’s important to realize that sometimes family can also be toxic. If you simply cannot write off someone close to you, ask that person to remain out of your life until you’ve rebuilt your emotional health.

5. Be Okay with Saying Goodbye

You don't always need to confront the individual to break off the relationships. Rather you need to make peace with yourself. Not all relationships can survive recovery. It’s important to find a way to break free when necessary. Disengagement, especially from a spouse, significant other, parent or sibling, is very difficult. Yet, it tends to be the best decision for all involved.

Find an approach to this that fits your needs. Your counselor will work with you to develop a step-by-step process for handling difficult relationships. Some options may include writing a letter or documenting your decision in your journal. You don’t always have to confront the individual to break off the relationship. Rather, you simply need to make peace with yourself. Inform the individual that you cannot be a part of their life right now, and mean it.

You are likely to encounter numerous situations like this throughout your lifetime. Keep yourself and your future as your primary goal.

Finding the Help You Need at FHE Health

When you are faced with these types of harrowing decisions, realize you’re not alone. In many ways, you can still work closely with your counselor, even after your treatment ends, to handle difficult situations as they arise. Most people have to battle relationships on an ongoing basis.

Take the first step in improving your life by enrolling in drug and alcohol treatment at FHE Health. Work with a team that’s dedicated to helping you make the best decisions for your future.

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