By Haley Kennedy, Recovery Coach – 3.26.2021 —
Substances are destructive, but they don’t just harm the body, they can also damage relationships. Friendships, marriages, and families change when alcohol or drugs take control of yourself, or someone you love. After years of abuse, recovery allows us to not only restore our physical health, but to repair and rebuild relationships that are vital to our overall well-being and long-term recovery. As human beings, relationships are literally crucial to our survival. So, for people on the road to recovery, a strong support system helps to keep them focused and grateful, while toxic relationships put their recovery at risk.
Your recovery is ultimately yours and only yours. But relationships play a big role within it. So, it is up to you to decide which relationships are healthy for you. It’s no surprise that active addiction brings with it unhealthy patterns in relationships, and a key to maintaining responsibility for your recovery is learning how to practice better judgement, and to set limits and boundaries. Think of it like this… You wouldn’t give credit to someone else for all the hard work you’ve put into your recovery, so you can’t blame others for a relapse.
Through my experience, I have learned there a few personality types that I try to avoid in order to protect my recovery. * Keep in mind that no one is perfect, and there are good people who may have to work through some of these characteristics at times. *
The Reminiscer: For those is recovery, the past is an unhealthy place. So, I think it goes without saying, it’s better not to be reminded of it often. The Reminiscer unfortunately feeds off the misfortune of others and focuses on the addiction and shameful behaviors/situations.
The Static: They stay in the same places, with the same people, doing the same things, usually centered around substances. Recovery makes it clear that when you remove the substances, you have nothing in common with The Static, and it’s unattractive to hear the old gossip or war stories.
The Sabotager: Remember that although you’ve put in work for your recovery, there are a lot of people who have not. Ever heard “water seeks its own level?” Your recovery is a threat to the lifestyle of The Sabotager, who are still using, and they might try to encourage you to use in order to feel better about themselves.
The Critic: A person who finds subtle or, not so subtle, ways to inform you that nothing you ever do will be good enough. In recovery, The Critic will highlight your faults, despite all proof of your hard work.
The Blamer: A close cousin to The critic. Whereas The Critic is quick point out all your flaws, The Blamer is quick to refuse responsibility and use you as a scapegoat for their misfortune.
The Pessimist: In recovery we learn skills to address our distorted negative thinking patterns, so being around The Pessimist can be contagious. Negative energy distracts from accomplishments and leaves you feeling unhappy and heavy.
The Smotherer: Being concerned and wanting to protect you is kind, but The Smotherer takes it to the extreme. Although it can seem good intentioned, The Smotherer interferes with your opportunities of growth in recovery.
The Narcissist: Like The Smotherer, on the surface it seems that The Narcissist is genuinely interested in your recovery. The issue here is boundaries. For the Smotherer, your needs come first, before anything and everything in their own lives. The Narcissist ignores all boundaries because they can only care about themselves. They feign interest in your recovery, if or when, it suites their needs and will then take on another role as The Abandoner, usually when you need them most.
It’s unrealistic to believe you’ll be able to completely avoid anyone who falls into the categories above… But you owe yourself the chance to cultivate relationships with people who inhabit healthier tendencies. Things that I look for in my safe people are:
– Consistent mutual respect.
– Open, honest, respectful communication skills.
– An eagerness to learn.
– Reciprocated relationships – those who support me and count on me to support them.
– Kind and empathetic.
And if or when you find yourself a part of an unhealthy or unsafe relationship (romantic, family or otherwise) remember to value your recovery.
Start by opening up a conversation with this person. Be sure to include the importance of your recovery, and ask that they accept that you have moved on from your past. This’ll provide an opportunity to learn new substance free ways of spending time, and connecting with you. And if they cannot, or will not, then at least it’ll be clear that it’s time to move on. Be genuine and only put effort into relationships that you truly want to be a part of. It can be hard to break the habit of contacting someone you once felt close to, but it is natural to grow apart sometimes. And it’s likely that process will be painful, you’re grieving a loss. That is okay. Remember, you’re working hard in your recovery process, and you’re proud of that, so don’t throw it away over an old using buddy. It is okay to detach from people who cause unnecessary stress; boundaries are necessary in all relationships, and you are allowed to defend yours when others take advantage of or break them. Open yourself up to new relationships with people who support your recovery, and to experiences or hobbies that bring you joy. Try things… like join a book club or local running club, find a gym, take an art class, volunteer your time… And if it’s not a good fit, then try something else. The point of recovery is to get to know yourself again and to build a newer, healthier, fuller life.
Change, growth and recovery are hard. But there will be a time that you look back on those painful situations, conversations, and breakups, and realize that you made the right decision because you replaced negative relationships with healthier more positive ones and you are a better person because of it.
Never allow something to threaten your recovery – remember, a relationship isn’t worth the risk. No relationship is worth your life.