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Drugs Are Toxic—And Some People Are, Too

June 24, 2022

When you have been in the grips of a substance use disorder, you understand the ways in which drugs or alcohol can be toxic—to your physical health, your mental health, and to your ability to function in the world.

Life Lessons On Toxicity

cropped shot of man in white button down shirt using both hands to separate wooden figures - toxic people concept

That is important knowledge to have, and you are unlikely to forget it, having learned it the hard way.

But in the early days of your sobriety, you may find that you have another important lesson to learn.

That lesson is this: For a person in recovery, some people are toxic.

And just like you had to give up the drugs or alcohol to reclaim your life and move forward, you will need to give up these problematic people as well. Otherwise, their influence in your life will consistently be a threat to your hard-won sobriety.

What Makes People Toxic?

There are a couple of different types of individuals who might be considered toxic people if they play a significant role in your life.

The first is anyone who was directly involved in your drug or alcohol use. While you were taking drugs or drinking to excess, you may have thought of these people as your friends. But if they were supplying you with drugs, encouraging you to continue self-destructive behavior, or simply were never sober when they were in your company, they are almost certainly a toxic threat to your ongoing recovery. Hanging out with individuals who remind you of the time you spent under the influence of drugs or alcohol—or who actively encouraged you to take drugs—is not a good idea at all.

The second kind of person who might be thought of as toxic is anyone who seems to take pleasure in belittling you or in being unkind and unpleasant. While it is certainly true that all friendships—no matter how strong their foundation—can be shaken by disagreements or misunderstandings, some relationships seem to be wholly constructed out of conflict, jealousy, judgment, and the like.

If you notice that every interaction you have with a person leaves you feeling worse than before the encounter, you have found a toxic person in your life. And when you are in recovery, it is essential that you end the connection between the two of you—no matter how long you have been “friends.” Otherwise, the relationship may steadily chip away at your self-esteem and, by extension, your recovery.

How Do You End Relationships With Toxic People?

Ending relationships is never easy, so you may be feeling quite nervous about how to even go about it. There is quite a bit of advice out there, and we won’t rehash most of it here. Instead, we want to offer two key concepts that may be helpful.

When it comes to ending a toxic relationship, you need to be clear and consistent.

Being clear simply means telling the person in question directly and honestly why you need to end your relationship. This could be an in-person conversation, a phone call, an email, or even a text—whatever seems best for you and your well-being. You should be clear—but you are not under any obligation to be expansive. You don’t have to explain yourself at length.

You might be wondering if simply ghosting the person would be better. It’s a tempting option because it seems like a way to avoid conflict, right? But it isn’t easy to truly avoid a person who isn’t aware that you are purposely avoiding them. So being upfront now may save you some awkwardness later.

And that brings us to consistency. Once you have broken the news, you need to cut off contact. No calls, texts, or emails. No connections on social media (we suggest unfriending and adjusting your privacy settings so the person in question can’t see what you post). You can’t go to the same gatherings—and you have to be ready to leave if you encounter the person somewhere you didn’t expect them.

No doubt this all seems pretty dramatic. That’s because it is. But protecting your sobriety is important enough for some dramatic—and possibly difficult—action on your part.

One more note: The other side of the coin here is that you should lean into your supportive relationships. That’s a great way to protect your sobriety, too.

You Can Have a Healthy Relationship With Us

At The Farley Center, we are wholly committed to building a relationship with you so that we can create a personalized treatment plan to address your substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health disorders. We will listen carefully and then bring our expertise, experience, and compassion to bear to ensure that you regain your sobriety and feel well equipped to maintain that sobriety as your recovery journey gets underway.