If someone who you care about (partner, friend, relative, flatmate) is struggling with Chemsex, supporting them can be something very challenging, especially if you are not familiar with this reality. The impact that Chemsex has in someone’s life might affect all the areas in their world: physical health, sexual health, mental health, finances, social life, professional life, self esteem, legal implications, goals, etc. This obviously will involve the relationship that you have with them.
Sometimes you are aware of this situation and you can feel that they are losing control, in these situations you didn't have to go through the shock of finding out that the person who you care about is using chems. But if you didn't know, finding out that your loved one is involved in Chems can be terribly traumatic. You might have seen changes and different behaviours with no explanation, or perhaps you could see that there are lots of lies, arguments and a mess around them that wasn’t there a short while ago, and maybe one day you find a bag with something inside that is clearly a drug, or something that looks like a crystal pipe. If this is the case, first of all, there is something that you need to understand: panicking doesn’t help. Try to keep calm, as much as you can. If your loved one is involved in the Chemsex world, that doesn’t mean that they are chaotic and their life is falling apart. Some people can keep control over it, they use Chems very occasionally, and maybe they are one of these people. Sometimes you can see that this is having a very heavy impact on their life, including of course the relationship that you have with them, but they disagree with that and think that you don’t understand.These are the most difficult cases, and communication between the two of you is clearly going to be very challenging. Other times, they are the one that claims that they are having a problem, and maybe they are asking you for help. As you see, there are very different scenarios and what you can do depends on the situation where your loved one is.
IN BOTH SCENARIOS there is something that is essential to take into account: nobody can be helped if they don’t want to be helped. It’s frustrating to admit that you can’t rescue them, but it’s a reality: you can’t, no matter how much you want to. Because of this reason, looking after yourself has to be a priority, because nobody will do it for you. This doesn’t mean that you don’t love them or that you are selfish; this means that aware of the situation, if you really want to make a difference and to have some perspective, you will need to put in some boundaries to keep some distance to protect yourself.
- Don’t forget that keeping the communication open is essential. Make them feel you are by their side, not their enemy, because trust is going to be very important. Listening to them and also spending time without having to talk about this situation will make them feel comfortable around you, without feeling lectured and under pressure.
- Try to avoid arguments and direct confrontations: They only lead to the point when they build a wall; they will feel that anything you say is coming from somebody who doesn’t understand, so they won’t listen to you no matter what you say. Communication will be broken.
- Threatening them with terrible consequences doesn’t work. Chemsex can be the fastest solution to unbearable emotions such as loneliness, self esteem issues, traumas, boredom, etc, and the priority of someone struggling with Chemsex is about 'the right now', not about tomorrow; they believe that they will deal 'tomorrow' and the consequences, but right now maybe the problem is loneliness, and this is the priority over that. Therefore, threatening with terrible disasters is not a solution.
- Try not to judge them. Remember that they are the first one to judge themselves, and it’s likely that anything you could tell them is something that they are constantly saying to themselves: the pain that they are causing to those who are around, their appearance, the impact on their work, etc. They are not stupid; they probably agree with everything that you could say, but that is not what they need to hear from you.
IF THEY WANT TO GET HELP, you can be their best support - you can find some tips here:
- You need to understand their situation; it’s not always easy to make changes to take control back, and that is where they are now. Things probably are not going to be very easy, and that is the reason why it’s so important that you look after yourself and you get support to attend your needs as well, because it will be very hard for you too, and it would be very helpful if you had a safe space where you can talk about your feelings and emotions during this challenging time.
- Be aware that, despite what you might think, not everybody thinks that stopping is their ultimate goal, sometimes they just want to cut down or to learn how to keep some limits (e.g., to avoid unplanned sessions, or not to use chems so regularly).
- Motivation is your tool, they may have to deal with cravings, or perhaps they are not very good at identifying triggers, so when this happens, they will find it very hard to say no. All this can be terribly frustrating for them and for you, so you need to be ready.
- They will appreciate very much if you can express care and love. They can be perfect and working hard to get over this situation for 6 days a week, 23 hours and 59 minutes, but they will only need seconds to make a wrong choice. Of course it’s difficult, but you will need to be there when things are going well, but also if at some point they make mistakes.
- When someone wants to take control back after Chemsex, there will be some areas that they might need to review and perhaps to change: how they experience intimacy and sex, how they experience joy, their relationship with themselves and with others. Maybe they will have to deal with very profound changes, and this won’t be easy. These are the kind of things that are very easy to recommend but very difficult to do; it’s important to remember this, because if they were easy, they would have done them long time ago. Patience is necessary, because these things take time.
IF THEY DON’T WANT TO GET HELP - maybe they disagree with the idea that they are experiencing problems, or perhaps sometimes they agree with that. Try to review all the tips that this page brings, and check which ones could work for you both, and in the meantime:
- Try to keep communication open between the two of you. Sometimes people need time to realise how big the impact that Chemsex is having on their lives, or maybe one day they might want one thing, and the following day something completely different. This is called ambivalence, and it can be part of the process.
- Unfortunately in these scenarios your situation can be very painful and frustrating. It’s really difficult to see a loved one making decisions that are affecting their life very deeply without having any power to change this reality. You can find lots of tips in this website to keep them safer if their intention is to carry on with this lifestyle. This is called HARM REDUCTION (click HERE if you want to know more), and it’s a very important kind of information available in order to minimise risks when someone is determined to continue. It can be helpful to tell them that you have no choice apart from respecting their decision, but you are concerned, and tell him about this information.
- Remember that they are not your enemy and that they are not doing this to hurt you. Don’t forget that one of the biggest consequences of chemsex is isolation, so they might disappear for a while. They won’t be in the mood for being around people whilst recovering, and they probably won’tkeep giving you details about what they are doing. Don’t push them and don’t threaten them, this won’t change anything.
- Set your boundaries, and look after yourself. You are not responsible for their decisions, but you are responsible for your wellbeing.