How Toxic Relationships Threaten Recovery

There are a number of things that can potentially threaten your recovery. One example is the people we surround ourselves with in life. Toxic relationships – whether they are romantic, familial, or friendships – can threaten recovery and significantly increase the risk of relapse.

If you or someone you love was in a toxic relationship before seeking treatment, know that the relationship can be detrimental to your sobriety. In order to maintain recovery post-treatment, changes must be made. That may include ending a relationship that is not conducive to your sobriety.

Excel Treatment Center can help you or a loved one achieve a life of recovery today. There is a better way, and we can help you find it.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

Toxic relationships can exhibit many characteristics. There is no singular definition for a toxic relationship except for being in a relationship that does not make you feel good. Both friendships and romantic relationships should be relatively joyful experiences. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but when everything about a relationship makes you feel worse, unsupported, or unsafe, there is a problem.

Some people typically associate these relationships with domestic violence or abuse. However, a toxic relationship is not solely characterized by violence or abuse. Gaslighting, emotional and verbal abuse, and other behaviors can be harmful. Toxic relationships are not only within romantic partnerships either. They can occur within school friendships, professional connections, and family dynamics.

A toxic relationship can be any connection with a person where your emotional, mental, and physical well-being is at risk.

Recognizing the Signs of Toxic Relationships

Since so many factors can play a part in a toxic relationship, it is challenging to determine what the signs of one are. They can include the warning signs of a potentially violent relationship, such as:

  • Your partner speaking to you in a disrespectful or insulting manner
  • Placed blame that makes you feel like all problems are your fault
  • Lack of control in a relationship or inability to make decisions
  • Fear of discussing certain things with your partner
  • Feeling forced to do something you do not want to do

However, warning signs of a toxic relationship are not limited to these. Other signs to look out for include:

  • Lack of support from your partner
  • Holding on to grudges
  • Being dishonest with each other
  • Feeling like you are walking on eggshells
  • Not prioritizing your mental, physical, or emotional well-being
  • Feeling like you give more than you receive
  • Needs not being taken care of in a relationship
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem
  • Bringing out the worst in each other and never feeling like you are your best selves when together
  • Feeling like you are always to blame for things that go wrong

If you recognize any of these signs within your relationship, you may want to reconsider your situation. Perhaps couples therapy or other interventions can save the relationship. However, it takes two to tango. Both individuals in the relationship must want to make amends. Likewise, understand that there are situations where a connection can meet a point of no return.


A common thing seen within toxic relationships is gaslighting. In a 2023 article published by Forbes Health, contributor Marissa Conrad defines gaslighting as “a form of psychological manipulation that hinges on creating self-doubt.” When someone gaslights you, they are trying to “distort reality” in a way that allows them to manipulate you for a number of reasons.

The more someone manipulates you in a relationship, the more you may begin to believe the lies. Additionally, gaslighting can lead individuals to experience a number of other mental illnesses or related symptoms. Gaslighting victims may encounter anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or suicidal thoughts.

Toxic Relationships and Addiction

Another indicator of a toxic relationship is if the relationship seems to be based on substance use. You and your partner can seek treatment together, but you must both be on board. That can be hard to do, especially if one partner is abusive and unable to recognize they are struggling with addiction.

Additionally, it is not unheard of for people to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to cope with their toxic relationship. If your relationship is causing you to self-medicate, it is a clear sign that something is wrong. Self-medication can quickly turn to dependency. No toxic relationship is worth a life of active addiction.

Knowing When to Walk Away

Walking away from a partner after years of manipulation, gaslighting, and other toxic practices can be challenging. It is, however, necessary for recovery. Staying in a toxic relationship post-treatment can be triggering and may increase your risk of relapse. Consider seeking treatment. You can learn how to confidently walk away from one for the sake of your sobriety.

Toxic relationships can be hard to recognize, especially if your partner, family member, or work superior is gaslighting or manipulating you in other ways. In many cases, toxic friendships or romantic relationships are fueled by substance use. Either the foundation of your relationships is founded on substance use, or you turn to substances to cope with a toxic relationship. In either scenario, it is quite easy to become dependent on drugs and alcohol if you begin self-medicating. For that reason, although it can be challenging, leaving toxic relationships is crucial. If you are struggling with addiction and are seeking treatment, call (833) 883-9235 today. Excel Treatment Center would love to help you. 

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