Cutting ties with people who can sabotage your recovery

A person in recovery from addiction who is surrounded by supportive friends and family are less likely to relapse. With 40% of individuals in recovery reporting that having a support network was vital to their success. Conversely, without a strong support network, their journey becomes far more challenging.

It is very important for long-term success to recognise and sever ties with individuals who sabotage your recovery, whether intentionally or unintentionally.


This article will cover the role of social relationships in the recovery process, how to identify relationships that hinder recovery and strategies for cutting toxic ties while fostering supportive connections.

Signs that someone is trying to sabotage your recovery


Recognising when someone is sabotaging your recovery is crucial for maintaining your progress and well-being. Here are some key signs that may indicate someone is undermining your recovery efforts:


  1. Negative influence: A person may encourage or pressure you to engage in behaviours that jeopardise your recovery. This can include urging you to skip therapy sessions, partake in substance use, or engage in other detrimental activities. Such negative influence can be particularly harmful as it directly contradicts your efforts to stay on the path of recovery.
  2. Lack of support: If someone constantly belittles your efforts and achievements in recovery, it can severely impact your self-esteem and motivation. Statements that undermine your progress or mock your commitment to recovery can create self-doubt and hinder your progress. This lack of support often stems from their own insecurities or a misunderstanding of the recovery process.
  3. Manipulative behaviour: Emotional manipulation or guilt-tripping can be subtle yet powerful tactics used to undermine your recovery. Someone might use your past mistakes against you or make you feel guilty for prioritising your health and well-being over your desires. This manipulative behaviour can lead to increased stress and a sense of obligation to revert to old, unhealthy habits.
  4. Inconsistent behaviour: Erratic support can cause instability in your recovery journey. One day, the person may be supportive and encouraging, while the next, they may be indifferent or even hostile. This inconsistency can create confusion and emotional turmoil, making it harder for you to stay committed to your recovery plan.

Accidental ways of sabotaging recovery


Unknowingly sabotaging someone’s recovery can happen in various ways, often stemming from a lack of awareness or understanding of the recovery process. Here are some common ways this can occur:


  1. Enabling behaviours: Enabling behaviours often involve providing access to substances or environments that trigger relapse. Family members or friends might do this unknowingly by maintaining old habits or not changing the home environment to support sobriety. They may think they are helping by offering comfort or avoiding confrontation, but this can make it harder for the individual to resist temptation.
  2. Ignorance about addiction: A lack of understanding about addiction and recovery can lead to harmful comments or suggestions. People might suggest “just having one drink” or dismiss the seriousness of triggers. This ignorance can undermine the individual’s efforts by making them feel misunderstood and unsupported.
  3. Stress induction: Creating stressful situations or drama can be detrimental to recovery. Stress is a significant trigger for relapse as individuals may turn to substances to cope. Family conflicts, financial stress, or emotional drama can all increase the likelihood of relapse.
  4. Lack of boundaries: Failing to respect the individual’s need for boundaries and personal space during recovery can also be harmful. This includes not respecting their need to avoid certain social situations or people or not giving them the space to engage in recovery activities like attending meetings or therapy sessions. Invasion of personal space or constant supervision can lead to frustration and resentment, jeopardising recovery.

How to stay on track with recovery


Staying on track with recovery can be challenging, but incorporating certain strategies can significantly aid in maintaining progress and preventing relapse.


Strong support system


Surround yourself with individuals who understand and support your recovery goals, such as family, friends, or members of support groups. Social support apps like Sober Grid can help connect you with others in recovery, offering a platform to share experiences and receive encouragement. 


Regular counselling or therapy


Engaging in professional support through regular counselling or therapy is essential. Therapists can help you navigate challenges and stay focused on your goals.


Self-care routine


Prioritising a self-care routine that promotes physical, mental, and emotional well-being is fundamental. Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and ensuring adequate sleep are critical components of a robust self-care routine. Incorporating activities like yoga or meditation can significantly enhance your overall well-being and reinforce your commitment to recovery.

Cutting ties carefully


Cutting ties with someone who negatively impacts your recovery requires a thoughtful and compassionate approach. Here are six steps to help you navigate this difficult process:


  1. Assess the relationship: Start by evaluating how the relationship affects your recovery and well-being. Reflect on whether the individual drains your energy, causes stress, or hinders your progress. Recognising the negative impact is the first step in deciding to move on.
  2. Set clear boundaries: Communicate your needs and boundaries clearly and assertively. This might involve expressing how their behaviour affects you and what changes you need to protect your recovery. Effective boundary-setting can improve the relationship, but if not, it lays the groundwork for distancing yourself.
  3. Gradual disengagement: If a sudden break feels too challenging, reduce contact gradually. This can mean less frequent interactions or avoiding places you know they frequent. Gradual disengagement can make the process less overwhelming and provide time to adjust.
  4. Seek support: Lean on supportive friends, family, or support groups during this transition. They can offer emotional support, practical advice, and a sense of community, which is crucial when letting go of a toxic relationship.
  5. Be honest but compassionate: Converse honestly with the person about your decision. Explain your reasons without placing blame. This approach can help avoid unnecessary conflict and allow both parties to move on with clarity and respect.
  6. Focus on positive relationships: Redirect your energy towards nurturing positive and supportive relationships. Surrounding yourself with people who uplift and support you can significantly aid your recovery and personal growth.


Remember, cutting ties is an act of self-care and essential for your recovery. Being firm in your decision and prioritising your well-being throughout the process is important.

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