Letting Go of Negative Relationships to Enhance Sobriety

No matter how much you want them to work, some relationships present roadblocks when it comes to getting – and staying – sober. A relationship filled with a great deal of negativity, or one that triggers you in some way, may be one you need to let go of to become successfully sober. It’s difficult to “break-up” with a friend or family member, but if a relationship impedes your personal progress, it’s important to let go and give yourself an opportunity to focus your attention on more positive associations.

Ending non-romantic relationships isn’t something we often have to think about; it often happens almost imperceptibly – two people simply drifting slowly apart as their lives change. But when you find yourself in a relationship with a friend or loved one that has you asking yourself, “Is this person getting in the way of my sobriety?” you have a choice: keep struggling with the relationship (sometimes at the risk of your sobriety), or let the relationship go.


There’s nothing easy about letting go of a relationship – especially if it’s with a family member or close friend who “should” be a positive part of your journey toward sobriety. However, getting rid of negative or triggering influences is vital for creating a sober life. Here are some tips for letting go, even when it’s difficult to do so.


When you know a relationship needs to come to an end in order to make your sobriety a priority, it’s good to start slow by giving yourself some space. You don’t have to make a grand statement about needing space (as that’s likely to cause more drama); you just need to slowly start taking steps away from those who influence you negatively. Try not to initiate any new plans, and politely decline invitations offered. If you happen to encounter the person, be friendly and kind, but do what you can to keep an emotional distance. This will not be easy, but in doing so, you’ll open yourself up to cultivating a stronger, more solid foundation on which you can remain sober.


Try, if possible, to be honest with the other person about why you can no longer spend time together. Explain that, in order to succeed in your sobriety, you must keep your distance from situations and people that trigger you. The goal of such honesty isn’t to place blame on the other person, but to clearly state why distancing yourself from the relationship is necessary for you at this point in your life. Note: before you have a conversation, consider how the other person might react. If you think they might act violently, or if you think repercussions of the conversation might negatively impact others, skip the talk and focus on keeping your distance.


Being around positive people is likely to keep you focused on all of the reasons you’ve chosen to stay sober, and positive influencers can make it easier to let go of negative ones. Distracting yourself with positive people may also help to heal the pain that comes with the end of a relationship. It can be incredibly difficult to let go of friend or family member (no matter how negative his or her influence), and having a strong, positive support system can help you cope with the loss in a positive way.


Though you will be dealing with loss – the end of a relationship hurts – do what you can to turn your attention to all you have to offer the world and all the activities and interactions you have on your own. In particular, celebrate the activities you spend time doing sober and remind yourself how valuable your sobriety is to who you have become as a person. The more love, care, and respect you direct at yourself, the easier it will be to cope with the letting go of someone who no longer fits in with your sober lifestyle.

Dani DiPirro

Dani DiPirro is the author of Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present and the upcoming book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. She is also the founder of PositivelyPresent.com, a site dedicated to helping people live positively in the present moment.
Dani DiPirro

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