Letting Go of Toxic People

When I was younger, I was notorious for allowing people to stay in my life "past their expiration date," as my very wise mother would say. It can be quite complicated when you care about someone but do not agree with their actions or behaviors. It is not only okay, but necessary to place boundaries on people- be they lovers, friends, relatives, or co-workers when their choices do not align with your core values. I recently had to cut ties with someone I have known for many years due to their complete lack of good judgment. The final straw in our relationship was when she decided to use drugs in the same space my five-year-old son was in. It was perhaps the most egregious thing anyone has ever done around my children and a complete violation of trust. I didn't think I would ever need to spell out for anyone I was associated with that A) drugs are bad and B) illicit drugs are never okay to have around children; this seems painfully obvious to me, but I had to actually say this to another adult who routinely is around children and even babysits other peoples children. This is an issue that I don't believe in second chances, and this is the ultimate breach in a relationship to me. This person is not a parent and cannot understand my job in life which is protecting my children at all costs, it means being willing to die to save any one of my sons, and it certainly means protecting them from people like her. It is not only okay to cut ties with people like this, but absolutely vital. When people trounce upon your boundaries or do things that you are morally opposed to, going along to be "kind" or not calling them out because you are afraid of being mean serves no one. People must be held accountable for their actions, and we must hold ourselves to high standards. To some people, I was overreacting in my haste to oust her from my life, but in all honesty, unloading a friend like this is like losing ten pounds, letting go of people who are toxic is incredibly freeing. No longer having to endure the actions of someone who makes you uncomfortable or does things that you must apologize for is a great relief. Anyone who has experience dealing with alcoholics, addicts or people who generally push boundaries knows that there will always be excuses for their bad behavior or "lapse in judgment," but at some point, we have to demand more of these people and hold them culpable for their actions. In this particular case, my only option was to remove a toxic individual from my life and never look back. When we deal with people who drink too much, lie to us, abuse drugs, are verbally or physically abusive, I do not subscribe to the idea of using kid gloves, I believe that being blunt and honest is the best approach. When we are silent, and we do not hold people accountable for their actions, we are showing them that their behavior is okay and that we are okay with it. I look at the scenario we were in and I think about what if she or her friend who brought the drugs had dropped their little baggy and my son had found it? He is only five, and he has no reference for little plastic bags with dice or whatever crappy little picture is printed on it, he would have no way of knowing how dangerous something like that is. There was a story in the news a few years ago about a three-year-old who found a bag with cocaine in it at a playground and ate it thinking it was sugar, his family thought he was sleeping after a long day outside, but he was, in fact, dying of a drug overdose. Both of which are heartbreaking and entirely preventable if people would realize their actions can have long-reaching consequences. Here is a thought, don't use drugs and don't be shitty enough to bring drugs around children. Anyone who claims to be your friend would never knowingly and willingly put you in a situation that could harm you, harm your children or end with either of you being arrested. It is such a simple concept that I can't actually believe I had to spell this out for another adult, but obviously, there are lots of people in this world who completely lack common sense. Live and let live is a flawed concept, because what happens when someone else's idea of fun violates your trust or sense of being? This friend also lamented that "old Sarah, fun Sarah" was gone and that I apparently was a lot more fun when I had a substance abuse problem. Talk about a slap in the face. I drank because I was in a string of abusive relationships and because I could not deal with being sexually assaulted a few years prior, so to have someone say I was more fun back then was a cut too deep. I allowed boyfriends to walk on me for many years and I finally stood up for myself one day and left abusive men in my past, but it took years to do that finally. So many painful years. One thing to remember is that happy people are not alcoholics and happy people do not use drugs. If they tell you they are fine and happy, then they are lying to themselves and you. We do a huge disservice to these people when we stick around and allow them to be a part of our lives. You co-sign their behavior when you do not hold them liable for it, and many people will also believe you are guilty by association, as they say, birds of a feather flock together. We must all remember that the world does not revolve around us, and the decisions we make daily can have ramifications and impacts that reach far beyond us. Everyone who rolls the dice and drives drunk, high, stoned, etc. can you live with yourself if you hit a pedestrian? How about a mother and her children? My goal is always to be a positive force for my family, and the first way I do that is by ensuring that the other adults in my children's lives are all living up to the same standards that my husband and I hold ourselves to. One of the hardest lessons of growing up is realizing that all of the people who are your friends now or have been your friends for years won't always be. Author Evelyn Ryan says this best, "Cutting ties with toxic people does not mean we no longer care for [them]. We cannot and should not turn off our feelings like a faucet. It does mean, however, that we have chosen to take a stand and put our self-worth, welfare, emotional health and honor ahead of others who do not and cannot have our best interests at heart." People should grow and change, and I encourage everyone to take a good look at their circle of friends and think long a hard about the role they play in your life. If you are frequently having to make excuses for one of them or covering for their poor behavior, then I encourage you to look deeper and find out for yourself if they are a toxic individual.