If you’re far along in your recovery, you probably already know that recovery is an entire lifestyle change. It’s not simply the end of drinking or drug use; it’s an entire transformation of your life. And part of this transformation will require letting go of friendships and acquaintances that simply are not healthy.

This might sound selfish. It might sound like recovery requires being rude or arrogant or self-centered. However, one of the most important lessons to learn on the recovery path is that what might at first seem like selfishness is actually a means of self-care.

For some, one of the negative patterns that might have contributed to having an unhealthy lifestyle is the tendency to put the needs of others before yours. This is particularly true for women. And this is particularly true for those who grew up in homes in which one member of the family struggled with an addiction. In homes with addiction, there is often a pattern of rushing in to help the one who is “sick” and putting your own needs last.

If this was the case for you, you might have trouble learning that recovery is actually a time to put yourself first. It’s a time to be sure that your own needs are met first before meeting the needs of others – and this applies to relationships and friendships. Although we might want to maintain a friendship because of your history with that person, the memories you share, the way in which you’ve been able to connect to that person in the past. You might want to maintain a friendship with someone because you know that he or she might be hurt if you were to end the friendship or relationship.

However, if that relationship is harmful, then you are again putting the other person’s needs before yours. Relationships might be harmful if:

-your boundaries are not being respected
-he or she doesn’t support your sobriety
-that person triggers you to drink or use drugs
-he or she is still using or drinking
-he or she is argumentative or negative
-he or she represents a past that you’re trying to move on from
-the relationship/friendship is draining or feels burdensome

And there might be a host of other reasons why a relationship or friendship could be toxic. Relationships that don’t support your sobriety might become a danger at some point. And if you’re aiming for a life change, this might also mean changing the people you spend time with. It might mean making new choices about the communities you hang out with.

Certainly, community is essential in recovery. You’re not only spending time with people who are also in recovery; but you’re also spending time with those who have been in recovery for some time. In other words, you’re spending time with people who are a few steps ahead of you so that they can help guide your way. It’s important to know those who have made it through the first few months of recovery, those who have struggled with the challenges of creating an entirely new lifestyle, and those who have been to the bottom and now have reached high points of happiness.  Having a community of people around you who are thinking wellness and sobriety undeniably supports your own wellness and sobriety.

Furthermore, if you’re feeling as though turning away from toxic relationships is arrogant, rude, or selfish, remember the advice that is often given on airplanes:

Be sure to put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others near you.

By meeting your own needs first, you can be available for yourself as well as for others.

You’re going to want to have friendships that are rewarding, fulfilling, and meaningful. Positive relationships are often equally mutual with a give and take, a kind of sharing that fills the hearts of both people. If a relationship isn’t this, you might consider putting an end to it, especially if it’s harmful. Although doing this might be hard, keep in mind that if you’re sobriety is at risk, then in a way so is your life. Turning away from toxic relationships in recovery could be the one of the most essential steps you take for your own well being.

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