My Toxic Family Is Too Lazy To Wreck My Life

Here’s how they taught me to self-sabotage instead.

frustrated man Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock

If hurt people hurt people, then wallowing people drag others down into the swamp of their own making.

As abusive and neglectful as my family acted during my formative years, nothing harmed my prospects quite as much as their education in how to ruin a life.

They labeled their terrible teachings as doses of “the real world.” From an early age, my older family members explained that other people’s understanding of how life works proved untrustworthy.


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If I sought counsel from teachers or other adults outside the family, I was seen as a traitor who thought I was “too good” to take the advice of my blood.

I would say that these folks were simply misguided, uninformed individuals doing their best to pass valuable, if ineffective, wisdom on to the next generation.

However, judging by their blatantly bad advice such as “rent is expensive, so you should live at home and get on disability to contribute to the household forever” and “if you get a job, tell your boss you can only work very specific hours because family time is important,” I have my doubts.


Seek out the negative in every good opportunity and then promptly turn it down

Growing up, my family saw my good fortune as a chance to flex their pessimism muscles.

You got invited to a party? Well, we don’t like someone who is attending it and you probably wouldn’t have fun anyway, so you might as well not go.

Your teacher suggested you enter a writing competition? Well, writing competitions are pointless and you probably wouldn’t win, so don’t bother entering.

You won that writing competition? You challenged our authority so you didn’t deserve the win and $50 isn’t a lot of money, just look at how few groceries it buys now that you forked it over to us.


You’re moving out? That apartment you looked at is a dump and there are bad people out there, so you shouldn’t live alone. Rent is really expensive so you better stay at home until you can buy a house.

Houses are expensive so you might as well live with your folks until they die and pass on their house to you. If you’re living at home, you should pay your folks’ bills. It’s cheaper than living on your own, which is bad and expensive.

You get the gist.

Surround yourself with toxic people at all times

Healthy, kind, well-adjusted people are uppity snobs in my toxic family’s book. They think they’re better than everyone else because they act differently.


At least, that’s how my unhealthy kin interprets it.

They could be living their best lives without thinking of how functioning in a healthy manner makes unhealthy people look, but what do I know?

Pull yourself and your kin up by your bootstraps — or die trying

Turning your own fortune around wasn’t enough; personal success in toxic, poor circles disintegrating in their own learned helplessness is considered a selfish smite to your failures of a family.

Many of my relatives never got the hang of caring for themselves or providing, so they turn to their adult children to pick up the slack. It’s not uncommon in my lineage for parents to hold their kids hostage once they turn 18/get a job under the guise of “free rent” while expecting the child’s fast food paychecks to foot all the bills.


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The entitled parents then proceed to blow what meager provisions they can scrounge up on useless crap. After all, they raised a kid for 18 years — barely — so in their eyes, they earned a break. It’s payback for all the inconvenient costs such as diapers and clothes and food that the child just had to have grown up. Only fair, right?

The only problem with this arrangement is that as the adult child pays for the neglect and abuse, they also pay for their parents’ financial irresponsibility until they either run away and cut ties or die a burnt-out, unfulfilled soul who never got a chance to taste sweet independence.

Develop an addiction, any addiction

Shopping, food, gambling, drinking, drugs, cosmetic dental work — pick your poison.


As long as it hijacks your rewards center and prevents you from launching into a balanced adult existence, follow your bliss!

Declare normal human functioning mental illness

Stress yourself out until your mind can’t take it and then call yourself defective.

Work your tail off to be successful. If you achieve less than utter perfection, the peanut gallery will shame you for only getting ten steps ahead of them on the totem pole instead of 20.

In my family, happy people are “bipolar,” sad/mad people are “depressed,” reasonably nervous folks have “anxiety,” and anyone who tells the truth is “crazy.”

Although no one ventured past high school in education, they magically possess armchair psychology degrees.


It couldn’t be that people have feelings and our toxic, intergenerationally traumatized family brings up a lot of intense emotional responses. Or that we overcompensate for our family’s shortcomings by toiling to surpass their unsuccessful lifestyle.

Nope, any mood other than “good” and “fine” counts as an indicator of mental decline.

Put family first and work, education, independence, and other connections second

The most surefire path to self-destruction is prioritizing toxic, narcissistic people over yourself.


When I went to college, my narcissistically inclined kin bargained with me. They “allowed” my grown-ass self to go to college on the condition that I would come home to their triggering, chaotic environment every weekend.

When returning to this hellhole negatively impacted my school work and I attempted to set a boundary of staying at school on busy weekends, they pushed back with verbally abusive text bombs until I relented.

In this season, I recognized that I couldn’t have a healthy, productive life while staying close to my biological relatives. Shortly after this trying time, I left my childhood home and never looked back.

While I’ve had to unlearn some unhelpful patterns and pick up valuable lessons on creating a stable, supportive life, I think I’m doing pretty well for myself at this stage. I’m definitely better than I would have been if I had stayed rotting in the cesspool of my toxic family, that’s for sure.


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Maya Strong is a professional writer who has spent the last six years blogging about relationships, LGBTQIA+, mental health, lifestyle, and cultural commentary online.