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. 

Setting Boundaries With My Loved Ones

Addiction recovery is a long and challenging process. Learning to manage your addiction requires learning how to set boundaries with loved ones. When managing addiction, you may find it difficult to set boundaries because you don’t want confrontation. However, setting boundaries is imperative to ensuring that your recovery always comes first.

What Are Boundaries?

Before you can set boundaries, it’s important to understand what you need. Boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves and others. They define what is acceptable or unacceptable within a relationship. For example, if you have a friend who always wants you to pick up their slack, it could be helpful to establish a boundary that says: “I will help you with your work now and then, but only if it doesn’t interfere with my other commitments.”

Boundaries give you power by allowing you to protect yourself from people or situations that aren’t good for your recovery. Healthy boundaries also allow you to take care of yourself properly so you don’t exhaust yourself emotionally or physically.

In healthy relationships, everyone has their own unique needs and desires. However, when someone feels like they’re being taken advantage of or manipulated by another person’s demands, these become “boundary issues.”

Understand Your Needs

You may have been so focused on your loved one’s needs while managing your addiction that you forgot to consider your own. Part of setting boundaries with them is establishing your needs and then asking for them to be met.

Here are some examples of things you might need:

  • To feel safe and sound in your own home
  • To not be around other individuals that trigger you to want to use
  • To take care of yourself and make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and practicing daily exercise that helps your recovery
  • Keeping alcohol and other substances out of the home or in a place where they won’t be easily accessible

Learn to Say “No”

Learning how to say “no” is a vital skill in recovery. It can be difficult when managing addiction and saying no to loved ones because you may be used to always giving in and doing what others want you to do. Often this is because you feel guilty or obligated by other people’s needs. If you manage an addiction, it is important not to slip back into patterns that promote substance use. You need to understand that your recovery comes first. Therefore, learning to set boundaries with others will help you and your loved ones focus on managing your recovery.

Use “I” Statements

In order to successfully set boundaries, it’s important that you express how you feel about a situation in a calm manner. It is essential not to use “you” statements since they can be accusatory and cause conflict between yourself and the person you are communicating with.

A good example is if your loved one is always late or missing events or occasions you planned together. For example, you may ask them to join you at a meeting or appointment that is important to you. Instead of blaming them by saying, “You forgot my appointment. What am I supposed to do? This isn’t fair at all.” Focus on expressing yourself. Instead, try using an “I” statement such as “I am disappointed because this meeting was important to me.”

Make It a Habit

You might be thinking, “I don’t want to hurt them.” While you value the relationship and don’t want to hurt a loved one, you need to remember that your needs need to come first – especially when you have already tried setting boundaries with those around you, but they are overstepping these boundaries. Soon your rules and needs become meaningless. It is important to say a firm “no” and stand your ground if your loved ones are not respecting your boundaries.

It’s time to take a step back and start over with some new strategies that help rather than hurt the relationship. The following tips can help you set healthy boundaries with your family member or friend:

  • Make sure you’re not isolated from other people during recovery
  • Don’t enable other people’s behavior
  • Make sure you take space when you need it

Boundaries Create Healthy Relationships

Setting boundaries is one of the most difficult and necessary things to creating a healthy relationship with your loved ones. While telling someone that their behavior is affecting your life may be uncomfortable, it’s an act of self-care and protection. Setting boundaries helps you build healthy relationships and prevent relapse by ensuring you are not living in fear or taking on responsibilities for others.

Recovery is an ongoing process. As you continue to work on your recovery, it’s important to remember that setting boundaries can be integral to maintaining healthy relationships. By being aware of your needs and triggers, learning how to say no, and making boundary setting a habit in all your relationships, not just with family members or partners, you will be able to maintain a healthy balance between yourself and others while still having room for compromise. As you follow through with setting healthy boundaries, your relationships will become more functional and respected. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, give us a call, and we would love to help you in your first steps towards recovery. We can help you through this process of creating healthy boundaries as well. Please reach out for more information. Call (833) 883-9235.