Navigating Relationships in Recovery
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Navigating Relationships in Recovery

Navigating Relationships in Recovery

Active addiction can negatively impact your relationship within families, marriages, and friends. Likewise, a substance use disorder can also have you connecting with people that harm your mental and physical health. After years of putting your body through substance use and deteriorating your relationships, seeking recovery aims to rebuild and find healthier relationships to sustain lasting recovery. Without a strong support system, finding health, balance, and happiness in recovery will be challenging. A strong support system helps you avoid toxic relationships that put your recovery at risk.

However, navigating relationships can be complicated, so let's take a closer look at the kinds of relationships that hurt your recovery and the types of relationships that help your recovery.


While relationships are an integral part of recovery, you need to remember that your recovery is yours and no one else's. Therefore, it is your responsibility to decide what relationships are healthy for you. Part of this process will take developing and knowing who you are in your recovery and the person you see yourself being. You can begin by looking at your habits and patterns to determine where you are inspired, influenced, and distracted.

Using mindfulness or meditation will aid you in learning about yourself. Taking time to do this will help you attain better judgment, set boundaries, and take more accountability and responsibility for your recovery relationships. When you can achieve a clear idea about who you are and who you want to be, you put yourself in a better place to choose the kinds of people you want in your support network.


After taking the time to discover more about yourself and your needs, you might still find it challenging to know who to trust. It is okay and even expected in early recovery to overlook or misinterpret a person's negative impact on your recovery. However, you can break down specific personality traits within a person to gauge their intentions and whether they will positively or negatively impact your recovery goals.

Examples of unhealthy people include the critic, the enabler, and the reminiscer.


A critic is a person that you have likely met at some point in your life. They are usually a person who finds subtle, or not so subtle ways to let you know that none of what you do is good enough. Such an attitude can be both damaging and manipulative in that you will always feel as if you need their approval or to prove them wrong. Despite what you do, this person will always focus on your faults.

When assessing your relationships, try to discover if anybody in your network possesses these traits. If, so it is time to talk with them about this behavior or separate from them entirely. Negative people only breed negative perspectives.


The enabler is sometimes more difficult to spot because enablers often think that they have your best interest at heart. They can be close family members such as parents, siblings, grandparents, or even close friends. However, their responses to your needs are counterproductive and keep you from attaining the self-confidence and self-empowerment you require. An enabler makes things easier for you. For example, they might allow you to live with them rent-free, they might run errands for you, or they might cut you a lot of slack when it comes to finding work.

A relationship made with someone who enables you does not teach you how to be self-sufficient, nor does it teach you how to sustain recovery. Often, you can correct the bad habits in this relationship by setting boundaries with this person. Boundaries might include a timeline for when you expect to find work, move out, and ultimately become independent. Sometimes an enabler thinks they are helping. Therefore it is essential to recognize the enabler's signs and have a conversation to help resolve their behavior.


The reminiscer is the kind of person that constantly reminds you of and keeps you living in the past. They often bring up times when you both used or made mistakes due to your drug use. They tend to focus on your addiction and the shameful things that happened when you were under your addiction's control. They can't seem to move beyond painful topics because, in a way, it helps them gain strength and confidence in themselves.

Behavior like this is unhealthy for both in this relationship. You do not deserve a relationship where your friend or family member feels better about themselves when you feel worse about yourself. You chose to overcome addiction; therefore, you deserve healthier company.


Nobody is perfect. Many people might be trying to work through some of the character traits listed above. It is also unfair to believe that you will avoid anyone with negative characteristics that mobilize to manipulate others or make them feel bad about themselves. However, you must understand that you are not who you once were when using. You have become a different person regardless of your past behaviors and choices. Therefore, it is not only fair but deserved that you build relationships with people with healthy traits and habits. For example, safe characteristics include:

  • Those who demonstrate respect for you consistently.
  • Those who are open to learning.
  • Those who listen and communicate with you respectfully, openly, and honestly.
  • Those who engage in mutually beneficial relationships that support you and also expect the same respect and support.

It is okay to disengage from relationships that cause unnecessary stress. If you are not firmly grounded in your recovery, take the time you need to work through any issues. If you are still not seeing the change you want, it is time to reach out for help. At START UP RECOVERY, we will work with you to learn about how to develop healthy relationships. We believe that boundaries are the key to establish healthy relationships. Between our professionals and your peers here at START UP RECOVERY, you will practice and understand how to set healthy boundaries with others. We will also help you follow through with the challenges when boundaries become broken. Remember, no relationship is worth your recovery or your success. Your recovery story is yours to tell. To find out more about how to build better relationships, reach out to START UP RECOVERY today. Call us at 310-773-3809.

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