Repairing Friendships & Relationships
Part of our Real Chemistry series – connection, wellbeing and chemsex recovery.
This page introduces information about taking the first steps to repairing friendships & relationships that may have been impacted by your chemsex engagement. After you have read through the information, and reflected on the themes that resonate with you, there are some exercises for you to work through. You may find it helpful to have a notebook to use as you work through the exercises, or you could use the function on a phone or tablet.
Quote about Chem Use and its Impact on Friendships & Relationships
“Problematic substance use is to healthy relationships what cancer is to the body, since it’s something that can spread, weaken and destroy the relationship — and if it’s not caught and treated, it will eventually kill the relationship”
Take some time to reflect on this quote and think about how your chemsex experiences relate to it.
Impact of Chem use on Friendships & Relationships
We understand that you would have never decided to intentionally impact your friends and family directly by your chem use, or engagement in chemsex, however friends & family can often feel helpless, and powerless to support the ones they love when chems are involved. If your chem use has resulted in feelings of rejection or abandonment for you, it may be useful to reflect on who really left the relationship first, as difficult as this reflection may be.
Some questions to reflect on, to help process your past experiences with friends & family may be: How did your chem use impact those around you? What issues arose? What did you personally experience in your friendships & relationships? Do you have any left over shame or guilt about these experiences? If so, then what steps may you need to take in order to resolve these negative feelings?
Myth-busting Irrational Thoughts that may Arise with Chem Use
Often, when in the midst of chem use, our thinking can become irrational and we can often hold on to narratives that are not in fact true and rational. Some examples that may be helpful to think about are:
Irrational: “It’s only me I’m hurting when I use”.
Reality: The use of chems impacts and causes hurt to all of those who care for us, leading to changes and strains in relationship dynamics with friends & family.
Irrational: “Other people are to blame for my use of chems”.
Reality: Sometimes it is easier to blame others for our use, since it can be too painful to accept personal responsibility for our choices and actions.
Take a moment to reflect on these examples, or maybe you can think of some of your own irrational thoughts you had about your relationships with friends & family, write them down, and then change them into something more rational and accepting.
Does Chem Use = Loss of Friendships & Relationship?
Even when someone loves you and wants to support you with the issues you face from problematic chem use, unfortunately continuing chemsex engagement can bring up lots of concerns for your safety and mental health by those around you, and friends and family can often feel helpless and some may need to distance themselves in order to support their own mental health & wellbeing.
In fact some of the behaviours that you may have engaged in during problematic chem use, may in fact have resulted in those around you feeling abandoned and rejected.
Think about the following behaviours, and ask yourself: Was that part of my chem use experience?
Engaging in isolating behaviours, and not returning calls or responding to messages. Avoiding family and friends who have tried to support you because you have not taken steps to support yourself. Lying about your chem use or hiding it from friends & family. Not ‘showing up’ for social events & dates, and constantly letting others down.
Changes to Relationship Dynamics
Chem use can change the entire dynamics of a relationship, putting family members or friends in the role of caregiver, or even in the role of ‘rescuer’ for someone they care about. And hey, while this type of support and love is commendable, it’s not always healthy and can impact on the mental health and well being of everyone involved.
How do these Relationships Repair Themselves?
FACT: When you start to make changes to your life, and cease problematic chem use, your relationships with friends & family will also start to change & heal.
Generally those closest to you will just want you to be well & safe, and will want to do what they can in order to support you in supporting yourself, therefore any co-dependency should end and more healthy dynamics will return to your relationships.
Yes, there may be some difficult conversations to be had, as well as listening to some home truths about the impact of your past use that may be difficult to hear - but although these conversations are well needed in order for relationships to move forward, it's probably wise to wait until you feel robust enough to engage in them.
What steps have you already taken to heal your relationships with friends & family? What interventions were successful & why do you think this is?
What relationships needed more, or little work, and why do you think this was the case?
Are there some relationships that still feel damaged by your chem use? If so then what small steps or actions could you take in an attempt to repair them?
If you have yet to take these first steps to healing your relationships with friends & family, and don’t know where to start, then what support may your benefit from to start you on your way.