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Taking Out the Trash: How to Purge Your Toxic Relationships

There are people in life who just aren’t good for us. Look back at their text messages. Remember the convos and the phone calls. If someone causes you more grief than joy, then you’ve got to cut them off. This is your life on the line.

Welcome to the Cutoff Point

Let’s look at a few things that will help you figure out if someone’s toxic – and then we’ll talk about how to cut them off.

  • Apologies, Apologies
    Do you find you spend a lot of time apologizing to this person? Whether the apology is warranted or not, this is a sign of a toxic relationship. If someone demands apologies when you did nothing wrong, then it’s clearly a red flag. But by the same token, if you find yourself doing things you feel you need to apologize for, that’s not a healthy relationship for you.
  • Lack of Forgiveness
    Does this person frequently bring up your faults or things you did that you regret? Does he or she do so at times when you are in an unrelated conflict? This is toxic. You shouldn’t live in fear of punishment for past deeds, real or imagined.
  • Irrational Anger
    Some people just plain have a mean streak. I had a friend for awhile who used to erupt on such a regular schedule that my other friends called him “Mount X.” If someone is nice to you for awhile but then is suddenly, well, mean, cut it off.

So you’re ready to end a toxic relationship. (You might find it easier said than done.) Here’s what I’ve found that works:

  • Play Your Recovery Card!
    Say, “Hey, it’s really important to my recovery that I stay away from relationships that have a lot of conflict. Let’s take a break for now and check in in a few months if you’re up for it.”
  • Claim to be Really, Really Busy
    You probably are busy! You’ve got work, school, meetings, raising or being a part of a family. Stay busy and avoid toxicity.
  • Expect Push Back
    Toxic people don’t want to let you go. This is where you need to stick to your guns. Activate your healthy support system.

Take a Calculated Risk

Part of being in recovery means realizing that you can’t please all the people all of the time. Nor should you. You were not put on this earth to be a punching bag. So cut them off, or at least cut back on contact. Move your emotional eggs into other baskets. Find new friends or connect with different family members who make you feel good.

Try this exercise: Make a chart – just two columns. In one column, put the number of times per week a person makes you feel good. In the other column, put the number of times a person makes you feel bad. Do the math.

You have the right to healthy, happy relationships, but you’ve got to fight to defend that right. Many of us who had substance use problems had them largely because we couldn’t handle toxic relationships. Maybe we never learned the skills, maybe we were vulnerable due to trauma, maybe we were dropped on our heads as little kids. Who knows? It doesn’t matter. All that matters now is that we fight for our right to be happy and surround ourselves with people who truly want the best for us.

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