How To Cut Ties With Harmful Or Negative People After Rehab

The people and places you surround yourself with in everyday life play a significant role in most all aspects of your life, especially the success of your recovery from addiction. Oftentimes, one of the hardest parts of recovery is understanding when to cut ties with people that are enabling or harmful to your recovery efforts. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for cutting ties with toxic individuals. The best approach to take can vary from person-to-person, and what may work for one person may not be the best for another.

It’s a good idea to speak with a counselor or addiction professional before speaking to those close to you, especially if you believe doing so could be harmful to your relationship. These professionals can help guide you through the right language and approach when talking with loved ones.

While each approach is different, there are some general guidelines that can be used for most people in your life.

Plan out your conversation

Going into a conversation blind is never a good idea, particularly if that conversation involves separating or creating distance. It’s always a good practice to plan out what you’ll say before having the discussion. This is best done by explaining that your recovery needs to come first, and that in creating this space you can not only work on yourself, but it may also give the loved one time to reflect on their role in your recovery. Writing a letter can also be a great way to ensure you stay on topic and remember the important things you want to highlight.

Establish boundaries

One of the first things you should do when cutting ties with a toxic friend or loved one is to establish boundaries. Are you planning to cut this person out completely? Will you still interact with them due to mutual friends or family? Set clear boundaries you can stick to, such as blocking them on social media or ignoring their phone calls if they do not respect your need for space.

Be honest

As with any conversation, it’s important to be honest when talking with friends or loved ones. Lying about why you need to create space between you and them is never the answer, and will often do more harm than good. Some people may not get the hint if you’re not direct, and may continue to push the subject. Being direct, and sometimes even blunt, is the best way to ensure your point gets across and that you’ll only need to have this conversation once.

Evaluating Your Relationships

Chances are, you’re aware of the people and places that can have a negative impact on your recovery. Some are more obvious, like those that may still be dealing with an addiction; however, others may not be so clear. These relationships can also become hard to spot if you’ve been in them for many years, as you might not realize what a healthy relationship looks like.

One of the first steps you should take when assessing whether or not to cut ties with people or places is to evaluate them and identify which ones could harm your recovery efforts. Some examples of unhealthy relationships include:

Friends That Still Abuse Drugs Or Alcohol

Unfortunately, many people who enter recovery find that some of, if not all, of their close friends are absent once they’ve become sober. Without drugs or alcohol, many people realize that they have little in common with these individuals, and that their friendship revolved solely around substance abuse.

However, it’s possible that some may still be present in your life; and it’s these individuals that pose the biggest threat to your recovery. If they aren’t willing or ready to get help, separating yourself from them is the safest option. Find new circles to spend time with, especially ones that share similar goals like local alcoholics anonymous (AA) groups or other sober organizations.


Often referred to by addiction experts as “enablers,” these are individuals whose behaviors allow a person to continue using drugs and alcohol with no consequences. Many family members can be overly protective during the recovery process; and while this can be a helpful resource to have, it can often devolve into enabling behavior.

Family members who may not want to admit that their loved one is slipping up in their recovery process can often make excuses for them or cover up their actions as a way to protect them. They may also avoid conflict altogether to avoid hurting your feelings.

If you have a loved one that is enabling your substance abuse, it may be time to love them from a distance. While distancing yourself from a loved one can be a difficult choice to make, falling back into an addiction is never the answer.

For those that may find it hard to do so, family therapy can be a great option to help set boundaries within a professional, safe environment.

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Coping With Guilt After Cutting Ties

After cutting ties with someone, especially those closest to you, it’s understandable that you may have feelings of guilt. It’s possible that many of the people you need to create space from could have been there for you in times of hardship, happiness, or other strong emotional situations. It can feel wrong to turn your back on someone who once provided you with a place to sleep or money for food, especially now that you’re sober.

However, it’s important to remember that cutting ties with someone doesn’t have to be forever, nor does it mean that you can’t have limited contact with them. What’s important to keep in the forefront of your mind is that your sobriety needs to come first, not your friendships. True friends will support your recovery no matter what – even if that means separating themselves from you.

If these friends or loved ones are also struggling with an addiction, this separation may be the push they need to get themselves help. Oftentimes, people will reach out for help after seeing someone they are close with do the same.

As with any complex emotion, dealing with guilt can be hard. Therapy can be a great, effective way to learn about dealing with guilt and finding healthy coping mechanisms that don’t interfere with your recovery efforts.

Building New Relationships

Once you’ve cut ties and processed guilt, finding new social connections is the next hurdle to jump. Early recovery can often feel like a lonely place, as you’ve just recently separated yourself from old friends, family members that may have been enablers, and others in your life.

During the treatment process, many centers give you access to build relationships with other people in recovery. This is often done through group therapy sessions, where mental health professionals help you develop social skills and work through emotions that may hinder your relationship-building efforts.

12-step groups like AA or narcotics anonymous (NA) can also be a helpful outlet to build new, sober relationships. You can also look to local volunteer options, sports teams or outdoor activity clubs, or skill-building classes offered at local colleges or community centers to help keep you busy while also connecting with other people.

Find Support Today

Cutting ties with people or places can be hard, especially if you’re new to recovery. However, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that you have to do it alone.

If you need help creating space between people or places that are harming your recovery efforts, getting in touch with a therapist can be a helpful first step. To do so, view our online therapy options to find the right therapy service for you. Cutting ties may feel like the end, but just the beginning of a new, healthy life free of drugs and alcohol.

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Zachary Pottle

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  • Zachary Pottle earned his B.A. in Professional Writing from Saint Leo University and has over three years of journalistic experience. His passion for writing has led him to a career in journalism, where he specializes in writing about stories in the pain management and healthcare industry. His main goal as a writer is to bring readers accurate, trustworthy content that serve as useful resources for bettering their lives or the lives of those around them.

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