Ep #93: Toxic People

By: Dr. Sherry Price

Drink Less Lifestyle with Dr. Sherry Price | Toxic People

I had an experience recently that I can only describe as toxic. However, after processing this toxic situation, I came up with some principles that will be helpful to any of you listening as you think about the toxic things in your life.

After we’ve been through a toxic event in our lives or find ourselves managing a toxic relationship, it feels easy to turn to wine in an effort to soothe that discomfort. However, it’s time to break that cycle.

So, tune in this week to discover my three-step process for disentangling the toxicity going on around you, without turning to alcohol to cope.


The doors to the Women’s Empowerment Retreat are now open! Learn how to live empowered around alcohol or food and get the life you want. Click here for all the details.

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What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • Why toxic people, thoughts, and relationships feel awful to our central nervous system.
  • How to define what toxic means for you.
  • 3 steps to build emotional resilience and address toxic situations in your life.

Featured on the Show:

Download my free guide How to Effectively Break the Overdrinking Habit.

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Full Episode Transcript:



You are listening to the Drink Less Lifestyle Podcast with Dr. Sherry Price, episode number 93.

Welcome to Drink Less Lifestyle, a podcast for successful women who want to change their relationship with alcohol. If you want to drink less, feel healthier and start loving life again you’re in the right place. Please remember that the information in this podcast does not constitute medical advice. Now, here’s your host, Dr. Sherry Price.

Well, hello my beautiful friends. How are you today? For me I’d say that I have or in the process of recovering. I’m almost fully recovered. And I want to share with you something that happened to me a few days ago because I think it would benefit so many of us. I had an event happened not too long ago where I’ll just call it toxic. And it was a situation that happened where there’s just so much judgment in my mind of the event, things that were difficult within the event. It was a toxic situation.

And after processing it through I came up with some principles that I think would be really helpful for others as they think about the toxic things in their life. So, I could do with three separate podcasts on toxic people, toxic environments and toxic thoughts. But what I’ve decided to do is just lump it all together in one podcast. And we’re just going to be focusing on what is toxic for us. So, as I’m defining toxic, I am mentioning it from a place of where it just feels awful to your central nervous system.

It has you on high edge and you find yourself in a really bad mood or massively disturbed, or you’re doing damaging things to your health and wellbeing because of it. You find it super jarring, it just doesn’t feel good, it might even feel offensive to you. And I want to bring this up because when I had these type of events in my life in the past, I oftentimes would go to wine to soothe that emotion. So, in my programs we talk about our emotions a lot. And we look at how they are helping us, or hurting us, or how we can overcome certain emotions that we seem to be revved up towards or sensitive to.

And I really want to do a whole podcast on that episode in the future. But here I’m talking about really when we feel we’re picking up on the toxicity of something else, whether it’s a situation, whether it’s a person and it’s flooding our nervous system to the point we’re almost paralyzed or overconsumed by it. And it almost feels like it’s taking over our body where we have nothing else to do. And so, for me, my response to that was either to lash out in anger or drown my anger with alcohol.

Now, in dealing with toxic people of my past I know that was a significant driver to my overdrinking. I know it would make me just want to take the edge off and have a glass of wine and it lead to another, and yet another, and yet another. And then before you know it the whole bottle’s gone and I’m still feeling a bit raged. So toxic people, I would identify as somebody who’s highly sensitive, a bit overemotional, maybe people would identify as an mPath where they pick up other people’s emotions.

And I could see how maybe I have some characteristics of that. But since doing this work I’m not always about labels because specifically if I find that they don’t serve me and they keep me locked into thinking one way. But I will say that I think being highly sensitive or highly in tune to your emotions is actually a superpower because you really get a lot more information and your connections to others can be really deep and actually very transformative.

And when you’re that in touch with your emotions and I get so in touch with my members’ emotions and the women that I’m helping that I can see exactly how they’re feeling and that makes me a better coach. So, I really think there’s a superpower to being highly sensitive or empathic or if you want to define it as those. I think it’s really just understanding your emotions and then taking it to the next level, like how do I use this emotion even when it feels bad in my body?

So, in the past I’ve had toxic relationships and I did not know how to manage those at all. I really thought I wasn’t contributing to it. It just really was coming from that outside person. And sometimes it is but it was me that was using it as a reason for self-sabotage and overdrinking. So toxic people could be however you define that. For me it’s, they’re negative, they’re always glasses half empty. They’re complaining all the time.

I find I get really angry or I feel somebody’s toxic if they’re dehumanizing another human. That could be in terms of biases they have against skin color, or race, or misogynistic, or when they feel that their needs are above other people’s needs. They’re inconsiderate. They want it all for themselves and they don’t care how it affects everybody else. I think that’s how I would group toxic people for me. You might have a slightly different definition of that.

I know over time if I feel a relationship is one-sided, one person’s getting all the benefit while one person has to do all the work. That could feel like somebody is taking advantage of me. And of course, if I’m doing all the work I am actually letting them take advantage of me or somehow giving them permission that this is okay. And so that could feel like a toxic relationship over time because I’m wanting something, it to be more of a two way street or they’re to provide me some comfort in my bad times of distress, or that.

And when I don’t receive that I can see, okay, I could see how this relationship is more one sided. And therefore, I might over time put that into the toxic relationship category. Toxic relationships, somebody that really doesn’t trust you or they’re always second guessing your motive. I feel that could be a toxic relationship. They’ve known you for years but yet they’re still questioning the motive behind everything. So there seems to be a lack of trust in the relationship. And when that happens there’s a lack of honesty.

Somebody seems to be hiding something. This often happens around people, they’ll be closet drinkers and that really means that they go to the closet to get the alcohol. Or they’re hiding it from their partner because there is a lack of trust. And that could build into a toxic relationship. Now, I had a toxic relationship with myself. I talked about on previous podcasts how I would even hide alcohol from myself.

We have two refrigerators and I’d put one bottle in the one refrigerator and then I’d hide it in the garage refrigerator, my second bottle thinking yes, I’ll just hide it from myself. I won’t be aware it’s out there therefore I won’t want it and that just never was the case. And so, learning to stop hiding, that’s just one way we can start to peel back some of the guilt, some of the shame, some of the other emotions that are kind of clouding why we are hiding it and really overdrinking.

Now, I also define some toxic relationships that we can have with our kids. If we don’t set strong boundaries about where they’re allowed to be in our life and not allowed to be in our life. I know some moms feels like they can’t shower without the kids coming in and disturbing them, or they can’t go to the bathroom, or they can’t just have some privacy and alone time. Or that all their needs, their exercise, or their upkeep of their wellness, or taking care of their bodies just doesn’t rank high enough and they think their kids rank higher and the kids’ needs rank higher.

And then this can lead to bitterness, resentment, feeling like I can’t get any space, or time away. And I don’t even know who I am and so that doesn’t bring out the best relationship that we want to be cultivating with our children. That’s assuming we have over-responsibility for all their cares, all their wants, all their emotions. And we’re creating an environment where they become codependent on us.

Now, I’m not saying not to be there for them but there is a balance and there are boundaries to be put into place even when the kids are young so they can grow up with a secure healthy attachment and not an overattachment. So, as I talk about toxic relationships, toxic people, toxic scenarios, I just want to put out there none of us want these relationships. And I know I have had them and that’s not to say I’m a bad person. It’s just that I didn’t know better at the time. So, this is not a podcast about shaming.

If you find yourself in any of these examples, it’s not to say, “Oh my gosh, you’re doing life wrong.” It’s just I know you’re doing the best you can until you know better. And when you know better it’s when you’re able to switch to get a better life, to get a better quality life and to feel better about yourself and your life. because oftentimes we just don’t have the knowledge. And so, once we get the knowledge and we start implementing it into our lives then we can feel so much better.

So, I’m not going to go into the details of the toxic scenario that happened for me over the weekend. I talked about it actually with the members in my group and what went down and how I was able to transition out of it. But what I do want to share on this podcast is my three step process that helps me disentangle the toxic nature going on in the relationship or with the person. And this is so important because once you disentangle the emotional part of it you can see what is actually toxic about it.

And when you learn what is toxic about it that’s when the solutions become evident. And so, as I thought what transpired this past weekend and I thought about the toxic relationships in my past, it really boiled down to these three core steps that I want to talk to you about today. So just for context, in the past I would say one of my toxic relationships was with my daughter. I thought she just needed to change, she was throwing tantrums all the time, it would get me so angry.

I remember my husband at the time was traveling for work and he’d say to me before leaving, “I’m afraid to leave because the two of you are like oil and water. I just know you’re going to fight every night and you’re going to want to call me to vent. And I just know you get so overwhelmed taking care of her.” And I remember the visceral reaction I had when he described us as oil and water. I was like, ah. At this point in time our daughter was five. And I remember thinking if we have an oil and water type of relationship now, what the heck are teenage years going to be like?

I was actually scared. I was thinking if we’re yelling at each other this much and having power struggles there is no way I’m going to be effective at guiding her through her teen years when the consequences are much more severe. And I’m so glad he used that phrase because sometimes you hear words and they just wake you up. They kind of are like, that’s how you perceive it. I knew it was bad but I didn’t realize that you thought it was bad. And that just that metaphor, it was kind of like oh my gosh.

And I had that flash to light years ahead of time where I’m like, “This can’t go on. I’m going to lose my daughter. I’m going to lose how I can influence her into a wonderful human being. What am I doing? How am I not able to do this right?” I’m a pretty smart educated woman and I can’t get this. It was so frustrating. So of course, you do what everybody does and you go to Google. I start thinking, okay, how can I work with autistic kids, spectrum kids? Where can I take her to the most educated doctors?

And I’ve talked about this, how I relied on everybody else and I didn’t see my own power. And I’m like, okay, nobody’s going to teach me how to stop yelling, how to end this disrespect going on between us, the doors slamming, the power struggles. I really want to figure this out. I really did because it really made me nauseous to think of the alternative. I just really wanted to vomit. Another toxic relationship I had was when I ended my last company and was selling my half of the company to my business partner.

And I talked about this on my email list actually where it became so difficult near the end because we were just in a power struggle. And we couldn’t see eye to eye on things. And so, coming to an agreement felt like it was going to be impossible. And I remember thinking, I’m saying all these words but I’m just not feeling heard and I’m not feeling validated. And I’m feeling steamrolled. And so those are other descriptors I would use in terms of defining what a toxic relationship looks like.

So, here’s the three part process I want to get into now is how to break down this to really find the path forward. And let me just throw in a caveat right here because I’m not saying and I’m not advocating for staying in toxic relationships. If there is a toxic relationship that is actually harming you and causing you trauma, obviously get out of it. Nobody should be subjected to neglect or abuse, whether that be physical, or emotional, or verbal. Those kind of relationships I believe should end.

I know many people stay in them for safety, or security, that’s what they believe is safe and secure but it’s actually not real safety and security, or they stay for financial reasons. But if you can get out of those toxic relationships, you must get out of those toxic relationships because your wellbeing is at stake. But what I want to get more towards is if there are relationships that are toxic only sometimes, or the relationship is we call it toxic but it’s really more annoying, or maybe we can’t get rid of that person quite yet.

Or in the case of my daughter, I didn’t want to get rid of her, I just wanted to solve the toxic part of our relationship and mend it and grow a healthy one. So, as we go through this three step process I want to talk about step number one. And there are really two parts to step number one.

Step number one is asking yourself the question, what is the toxic part? And the sub questions underneath that question are, is it how you are being and showing up? So sometimes I find that I get mad at myself for how I’m acting, how I’m feeling, how I’m showing up. This was true for me in my relationship with my daughter. I was just not happy with how much I yelled, and the power struggle. I knew I was getting involved in it. I knew I was stepping into that boxing ring.

And I’d get so mad at myself and then you know what I’d do? I’d subtly blame my actions and this overdrinking, it’s all because of our toxic relationship and thinking she made me do it. And I talked about this in a previous podcast called Defiant Drinking. Where I was being like, “You make me so mad, I’m just going to drink.” Because I was drinking to get back at her. And that’s just really ludicrous. I was drinking this poison and she doesn’t feel a thing. So, I know many women do this.

They come to me saying, “I’m defiantly drinking. I heard that podcast, that’s so true. I’m trying to take out my anger on somebody else and here I’m only hurting myself in the process. And I’m engaging in the self-sabotaging behavior and I hate it. And I hate myself even more. I know exactly where you’ve been because I’ve been there too.” It really is pure nonsense. It’s so illogical and that’s what even gets us more crazed about it. So, what is the toxic part? And the sub question to that as I mentioned is it, how you are being and showing up?

Because if it’s that version of answering that question that leads to a different solution. Or is it the second part of the question which is, is it something that they are doing that you find super offensive or abhorrent? And if so, what is it? What exactly is so offensive or so abhorrent, what is it? You’ve got to know. You know what I find extremely offensive and abhorrent is when somebody is misogynistic. And dealing with them is quite painful to me as a women. I feel degraded. I feed dehumanized.

And I feel misunderstood if I’m really good at a certain area where people think, women can’t be good in that area. Or I know some people say, “Gosh, just working with this person, they are just so self-absorbed and just so inconsiderate and it really goes against my value system because I believe in fairness and I believe in taking care of anyone. And I believe in a solution that works best for everyone and this is what really ticks me off.”

Now, it’s not to say you can’t answer yes to both of these sub questions, you can. But breaking it down in this nature will help you understand what’s really toxic about it. And it’s good to know because it starts to inform us of the decision, of the solution on how to move forward. And this is what I help women unravel. And as a coach I know it’s just so easy to get caught up in the emotions of it all that we can’t see straight. And so having that objective third party who’s trained to see cause and effect, or as I prefer to say, problem, and then solution so we can actually resolve it.

Because what feels terrible is staying in the confusion and staying in the, I don’t know how to solve this portion. And I call that staying in the problem. We don’t want to stay in the problem. We want resolution. So, by answering these questions you’re going to have more clarity on the situation. And if you can’t do that, having that third party objective walk you through this in a safe environment where you are free to express how you actually feel and the actual details of the event will really help you get to see what the solution will be.

And as I said before, it may be that you have to limit your exposure to this person because your nervous system finds it so traumatizing. And you feel like you’re in constant flight or fight around this person or around this scenario. And what you can do is learn ways to calm your nervous system, learn ways so that you can honor yourself and then deescalate quickly when you’re around this person or you engage in this type of situation in the future. That way you’re not leaning on drinking, or eating, or escaping in some other way and you’re not doing those self-sabotaging behaviors.

So, I mentioned excessive drinking, or excessive eating, or excessive snacking can be a way we self-sabotage. I also want to mention that if you excessively vent on the same problem with your girlfriends, your mom, or some confidantes. That can also be a self-sabotaging behavior especially if you’re venting for days and weeks. You’re just talking about the problem, talking about the problem, talking about the problem, and there’s no solution. That is going to keep your cortisol level up. That is going to keep you in flight or fight.

And you’re going to get exhausted and emotionally drained from this. Your body is not supposed to be activated that many days and that long of a period before it just crashes and feels like you have no energy. What’s way more effective is actually using tools to calm your nervous system. And the way you do that is by activating your vagus nerve instead. And there are a multitude of ways that you could calm your nervous system down.

And by utilizing these tools, it’s self-soothing, learning to calm yourself rather than going to food, or drink, or venting and talking, talking, talking, talking about it over, and over, and over again with no resolution. So, you still have the original problem and yet a drinking problem on top of it. Or the original problem and an eating problem on top of it. And then you’re overweight, and you’re gaining weight, and then your clothes don’t fit. And it just keeps escalating. That’s what we want to avoid. That’s what we want to change.

Alright, so step two is to ask yourself the question, what need is not being met? Because there’s a need or a want that you have that’s not being met when you’re engaging in this situation, or with this person, or in this relationship. Now, in my past when I had toxic relationships happen I was just stewing in that agony of why is this so painful? Why does this keep happening? Why does this keep occurring? Notice that those aren’t helpful questions to me. And notice I was coming at it from a state of being a victim, why does this keep happening to me?

Why does my daughter keep acting this way? But by stepping into my power and taking ownership of this, what part am I contributing? And knowing what need of mine isn’t being met and the need to be respected as a mom, the need to feel heard and validated. I felt every time I spoke I wasn’t heard so therefore I’d have to escalate my voice. And so, if I feel I have to constantly escalate my voice to be heard, what does that turn me into? Somebody who yells all the time.

That is not who I wanted to be. I do not enjoy yelling. The reason I did it was because it was the only thing that I knew to be effective. Now, a lot of people will say they know narcissistic people or have dealt with narcissistic people. And what bothers them is that they don’t feel heard or validated. And they feel steamrolled because it’s that person’s way of doing things and that’s all that’s considered. It’s just one way, their way. And they shut down to any other alternatives.

And for some people it’s all about winning or being right in a conversation. And they keep at it until they prove their point or they keep at it until they’re right. And then the other person just gets exhausted. So, learning what need is not being met, super helpful because then you can start to say, “What are ways I can meet that need, either with that person or without that person?” Now, if we want to work with that person, oftentimes my clients want to work with that person, in the case of my daughter of course I wanted to work with her.

Then what I do is help them come to a solution which I call a meeting of the minds. And I think I picked up this term from my lawyer who was helping me sell my shares to my business partner. I think it was him that kept saying, “We’re going to come to a meeting of the minds.” And I remember thinking, is that a compromise? Because I’m not looking for a compromise. I think a lot of us may tolerate a compromise. But a compromise sometimes doesn’t feel exactly what we want.

And he assured me, he said, “No, it’s not that. It’s a meeting of the minds where you both get what you want.” Because that’s super delightful for both parties. And nobody wants to tie up their money in litigation. You want an end result pretty quickly. You want a solution. That’s why you hire a lawyer. So, I will tell you that when I use this strategy, what I helped my clients do is really cut through the emotional part of it. So, we don’t ignore the emotions but we cut through the emotional part to cultivate this meeting of the minds where both people can get what they want.

So, we’re not lessening the win for the other party involved. We’re not lessening the win for you. We’re restructuring it in a way that both parties needs are satisfied. And so, this is why I love the question, what need is not being met? Because once we get to the need then that information can be gleaned and put into the solution. And this was so effective because I was willing to compromise in that negotiation with my business partner.

And he says, “No, we’re not compromising, otherwise we keep delaying it because we keep throwing in things, and throwing in things, and throwing in things and this can go on longer.” So, a meeting of the minds was a much more effective strategy.

And then lastly, step three which is this question, what is the goal? This is my favorite question of all because now we cut through all the BS, and all the drama, and all the background noise, and all the past hurts, and all the past angers. Oftentimes when I’m talking with my clients they are just so clouded by their emotions of the past, and what happened in the past, and reliving the past, and last week, and last month, and last year, and then this happened, and this happened. And let me go back and tell you some more.

And what they’re trying to do is show me that this power dynamic has existed for a long time. But then that get us stuck in the past and that gets us stuck living and reliving that same power dynamic which is not going to lead us to the solution. It’s just going to create more conflict. So, I love this question because I find this the great reset. It allows us just to cut right through to what we want, and it allows us to let those bygones be bygones just for the moment and just for this one scenario.

Now, that’s not to say we excuse the person for the past, we forget about the past, it’s not saying that none of that matters. What we are saying is, “Wait, what is the best outcome? What’s the outcome you want now regardless of what happened in the past?” And I think of this as like taking a sharp knife and just cutting through layers and layers of all the emotions that have built up over the years so you can get to the most delicious part in the middle because you leave all the rest behind and all the rest doesn’t matter.

And as I mentioned, I did this when I was selling the shares of my last company, because there were years and years’ worth of negative emotions, hurtful comments. Showing up in ways that I didn’t like, not living true to my values sometimes and it was painful. Now, there were many glorious parts and there was so much joy to that position. But as it neared the end it became more negative. And all this negative turmoil kept stirring in me, and stirring in me that it was like an emotional weight of an elephant that was just so uncomfortable and so unnerving to me.

Then I remember thinking, what is the goal? And having that vision of the goal it informed all my actions that I was to take because I was going after this one goal and it was like a knife cutting through all those years of emotions and all that negative baggage I was carrying for that ultra-sweet part.

Now, I just applied these three steps to what had happened, and transpired just a few days ago and I tell you. It just cut through it all so quickly that now when I hit these toxic moments, or these toxic periods in my life where my central nervous system just gets so tired and so emotionally clouded, that I could come out of it much quicker. And by sharing these tips with you, I hope you get a better picture of how you can live more empowered and truer to the life that you want to live, that you’re not burdened down with this emotional weight for months and years.

Now, again, I want to say, you don’t need to hang around with toxic people, if they’re truly toxic or put yourself into toxic environments. But I do want to give you a formula to follow if you find yourself in those environments because when you gain more clarity it ultimately helps you make better decisions, non-emotional based decisions. Because when we are high in our emotions and high in flight or fight, we’re going to make rash decisions. We’re going to say things we don’t mean. And ultimately we regret them.

So, following this process highlights the nature of the real problem so the best solution can be determined and executed. And that you don’t find yourself excessively drinking to buffer this away because when you’re excessively drinking you’re drinking your life away. And excessively drinking leads to giving up your power and giving up the life that you really want. And it’s a terrible way to live. Using this three step process will help you build your emotional resilience.

So, if you find that you are in a toxic situation or around toxic people and you want my help I invite you to join Epic You. It’s a safe place to explore the root of this problem so we can find the best solution for you. You can join Epic You at drinklesslifestyle.com/epic-you. That’s drinklesslifestyle.com/epic-you. Once inside I’ll help you execute these three steps so you can live more empowered and get healthier, more amazing relationships in your life. Alright, my friends, I’m sending you lots of love and I will see you next week.

Thanks for listening to the Drink Less Lifestyle. If you’re ready to change your relationship with alcohol, check out my free guide, How to Effectively Break the Overdrinking Habit at sherryprice.com/startnow. That’s sherryprice.com/startnow. I’ll see you next week.

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