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How Do I End a Toxic Relationship With Family Members?

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Relationships play a prominent role in an individual’s journey to a healthy, sober future. Whether battling constant cravings or trying to overcome the mental and emotional trials of a sober daily life, the influences one is exposed to make a monumental difference in their recovery. Families are often the most immediate unit available and share some profound connections. However, family members are still people, and not all familial relationships are necessarily positive. One’s family may negatively impact their recovery, and toxicity can permeate even the closest relatives. Identifying toxic relationships with family members and distancing oneself from them is crucial for a healthy recovery, even if the relationship consists of brothers, sisters, or even parental figures. 

It’s Your Journey

Families play an essential role in recovery from addiction. While one’s family may be understanding and supportive, they aren’t necessarily always on the same page. Just because a loved one is a longstanding family member doesn’t automatically mean that they will be the best support or influence. Holding the title of a “family member” doesn’t impart any special rights regarding the delicate recovery journey. Many different factors influence recovery, but it is still an individual endeavor in the end. Putting distance between oneself and a family member is better for sustaining sobriety in some cases, and it’s ok to acknowledge that to increase the chances of successful recovery. 

Just as families are born, they can also be constructed from people outside of direct blood relatives. Creating a new family in recovery can be a testament to their dedication to themselves and sobriety. These new families often comprise peers and friends who have exemplified their support and can be curated to fit an individual’s new sober life. These families are just as crucial as any biological one. While unfortunate, it may be necessary to put space between oneself and their birth family to create a new unit with a focused, sober future.

Identifying Toxicity in the Family

Toxicity in a person is a reasonably vague concept because it can manifest in many different forms. In general terms, a toxic person consistently takes actions that negatively impact another’s mental or emotional health, either by direct or indirect influence. While some of these behaviors may be easier to identify, such as calling names or lying, toxicity can also be more ambiguous while still carrying its detrimental effects. 

Examples of a Toxic Family Member

Because of the myriad of ways toxicity can occur, it is crucial to remain vigilant when identifying the signs of toxicity. Some of these include:

  • Setting unfair expectations
  • Disrespecting personal boundaries
  • Needing the “last word” in conversations
  • Unwillingness to take responsibility
  • Avoids apologizing or acknowledging of own mistakes
  • Employs guilt as a manipulative strategy
  • Belittling language
  • Inability to compromise
  • Doesn’t acknowledge changing needs in recovery

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of actions that can create a toxic atmosphere, it can help each individual better understand the feelings engendered by this type of behavior. Distancing oneself from these influences is paramount for maintaining a healthy, confident image of themselves and their recovery. Toxic relationships can compromise self-confidence, and introduce doubt, guilt, or any number of other debilitating emotions that may undermine an individual’s hard work in recovery. Distancing oneself from these influences is crucial to continue progressing towards their goal and maintaining a healthy mindset and motivation.

Ending Relationships With Toxic Family Members

The idea that people should stick together simply because they are family members is a complete fallacy, as earning respect and trust is necessary for all people, regardless of blood relations. While challenging, cutting ties with toxic family members may be required for one’s health. 

Establishing other trusted social groups when separating from these relationships is essential. Much of the turmoil regarding a toxic individual comes from feelings of loneliness or isolation that accompany ending the relationship. Creating tight-knit social groups and developing a trusted, deep connection with peers makes it easier to identify toxicity and distance oneself from unhealthy individuals. 

Also, disappointment isn’t any one person’s fault. While a loved one may be disappointed that an individual isn’t visiting for a holiday party, deciding to keep one’s distance even if they are “expected” to attend is powerful, especially if their sobriety isn’t understood or accepted. Keeping safe from unnecessary high-risk situations is critical. By saying “no” to dangerous situations, individuals can establish their own needs and boundaries while moving away from toxic relationships. 

Lastly, family is not entitled to any information that someone isn’t willing to share. Just because an individual is a sister or brother doesn’t mean they need to be kept in the loop of somebody’s recovery, especially if they have been less than helpful. Ending relationships can begin with closing off a stream of information or communication. By responding to prying questions with “I don’t know,” or “I don’t want to discuss it,” one can further separate their emotional health from the impact of toxic family members. 

Family is a powerful resource. However, they are what you make it, and distancing yourself from toxic family members can be instrumental in establishing your sober future. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, located in Santa Ana, California, we understand the complex and vital nature of surrounding yourself with supportive, positive influences to maintain your sobriety. From detox and residential care to outpatient programs, our extensive options can all be customized to fit your unique needs and goals. They are all backed by an intimate, supportive atmosphere where you can interact with peers and professionals in a positive and uplifting environment. Whether you are looking to take your first step towards a sober life in a toxic-free climate or further develop your coping strategies and social circle in sobriety, we can help you today. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call us today at (949) 426-7962.

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