California Highlands

Toxic Relationships in Recovery

Those Still Sick and Suffering in This Room

Many people equate toxic relationships to active addiction and using. Typically when we are engaging in dangerous activities like abusing drugs and alcohol, our overall ability to make good decisions is severely impaired. But what about once we get sober? Toxic relationships in recovery are far more common than you’d think.

The skeleton in many people’s closet that they like to avoid discussing when preaching principles and positive messages in recovery meetings is what goes on behind closed doors. In fact, many recovering people are suffering in silence. Toxic relationships in recovery are a very tangible and unfortunate reality for many sober people.

Is it Toxic?

What is a toxic relationship exactly? Toxic relationships possess behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and sometimes even physically harmful to their partner. Typically speaking, being in a toxic relationship is synonymous with being in an abusive relationship.

As if the emotional carnage resulting from a toxic relationship isn’t bad enough, there are multitudes of health side effects as well. The subsequent heart problems that may develop can even be potentially fatal.

Addiction Whack-A-Mole

It’s nothing new when I say that addiction takes many different forms. When we remove the drugs and alcohol from the equation, the fluidity of addiction frequently rears its ugly head by popping up via different avenues in our lives, including relationships. This is my dilemma. Once I departed active addiction, the depravity associated with toxic relationships in recovery kicked in full force.

Toxic Warfare

The way I like to describe toxic relationships in recovery to people who can’t relate on a personal level is that it feels like standing without any cover at ground zero of a nuclear explosion. The intensity of the blast radiates throughout your body in such a way you can almost feel your molecules rearrangethe internal metamorphosis from recovering addict to a full-blown relationship junkie. Even when the powerful blast ceases, the fallout of the nuclear explosion that was your toxic relationship can be even worse than the initial blast.

Nuclear Fallout

The toxicity looms in the ambient space despite the absence of the actual bomb, or in a non-metaphorical sense, the individual. You’re left stuck in the vacuum of space and time, frozen, gasping for breath while reaching out to anything or anyone that might pull you back from the edge of the abyss.

The person that was once your lighthouse in the storm you thought was guiding you ashore was actually the current dragging you out to sea. The reality is that they’re gone and it’s time to stand on your own two feet.

In order to successfully navigate toxic relationships in recovery, you must remember everything you’ve learned thus far. Utilizing the tools you’ve acquired, you can get through this and get through it sober.

1.    Recognize it for what it was

Identifying a toxic relationship and comprehending that seemingly impalpable truth is the first step towards a return to sanity. Much like in the 12 steps, we must first admit that we are addicts and alcoholics prior to any sort of recovery setting in. The longer we subsist in denial, the longer we toil in toxicity and edge closer to self-destruction.

2.    Set proper boundaries

Once we have successfully labeled our relationship as toxic, we must begin the fortification process. By setting healthy boundaries for future relationships, we are safeguarding ourselves from a relapse into the toxic relationship once again, sober or not.

Typically speaking,  toxic relationships in recovery are not a singular, random catastrophic event that unfolds in our lives. It is either the harbinger of further toxic relationships in the future or another notch in the metaphorical belt of our unhealthy relationship history. By setting standards of acceptable behavior for both our subsequent partners and ourselves, we will intercept tragedy before it unfolds.

3.    Reach out to our support system

Again, as in recovery, one of our most vital and vigorous tools we gain through the program is our support system. Our support system is characterized by the presence of positive influences in our lives in the form of a sponsor as well as other recovering addicts and alcoholics who may provide us insight and support during our times of difficulty in sobriety. By utilizing our support system to vent and seek emotional assistance in lieu of the toxic person, we can begin the healing process.

4.    Implement the program

During the aftermath of toxic relationships in recovery, returning to the program is vital. The 12 steps may be applied to absolutely any type of addiction; it is not specifically for drugs and alcohol recovery.

As the program worked to rid us of active addiction, it can be successful in the removal of the obsessive and compulsive tendencies associated with a toxic relationship as well. Revamping our program and returning to our prayer and meditation also may give us the necessary strength to avoid another unhealthy relationship in the future by working through the issues that led us there in the first place.

5.    Take responsibility

Taking responsibility is a key element to a healthy person both in a generalized sense and in recovery as well. You cannot be the victim and take responsibility in tandem; you must look at the situation honestly and realistically.

However, a hallmark of a toxic person is the pass blame off onto the other individual solely and completely, thus negating any responsibility of his or her own. Take responsibility for your mistakes and your mistakes alone and don’t perpetuate the mental abuse or gas-lighting tactics used by your toxic partner. Own what’s yours and leave the rest. Once you take responsibility unreservedly, you are free to rectify the behavior in the future.

Confessions of a Survivor

As a lucky survivor of toxic relationships in recovery, I can personally attest to the difficulty of successfully vacating the unhealthy partnership as well as the immensely taxing ensuing healing process. I’m still not entirely sure what’s worse, being in it or getting out of it. After over two years of emotional, mental, and occasional physical abuse, I developed a mental state similar to that of Stockholm Syndrome.

The narcissist I had attached myself to had infiltrated my body similarly to a pathogen, attaching itself to my once healthy cells and converting them to a state of toxicity themselves. Like cancer, I was transfigured into a toxic person myself, engaging in and allowing unhealthy behaviors to run rampant throughout my life. It was both cataclysmic and exhilarating.

Finding Peace

While I wish I had never even opened Pandora’s Box, I am grateful for the experience overall. Being on the other side of the situation, though I still have much work to do, I am able to see the situation for what it was with an astonishing honesty I never thought possible. I see where my character defects came into play as well as my partner’s.

I know now that’s not something I ever want again, I was just blessed to get out of the toxic relationship before giving up my sobriety and deteriorating into relapse.  Recognize your self-worth and be your own biggest advocate.

Now that the explosive has detonated after years of teetering on the edge and I survived the plunge into darkness, I am able to allow the dust to settle over my life and begin the rebuilding process. Utilizing my higher power and the tools so graciously presented to me as a result of recovery, I am reassembling myself brick by brick.

If you or anyone you know is suffering as a result of drug or alcohol addiction, give us a call 24/7 at California Highlands Addiction Treatment and speak to a caring and knowledgeable member of our staff who can get you the help you need. Don’t wait for it to get better, take the first step towards a happy, healthy life today!