Relationships are an emotional adventure of passion, pain, happiness, and heartache. But these relationships are not always with other people. Sometimes, we establish relationships with drugs, which can seemingly simulate those same highs and lows of being in love.

When people mix the intoxicating effects of romance with mind-altering substances, the outcomes can differ drastically. We spoke to several people who have combined intimacy with anything from MDMA, to cocaine, to ayahuasca, in order to expose the ways that drugs can enhance, complicate, or completely destroy relationships.

Reilly, 38
Length of relationship: a year
Drugs: alcohol, ayahuasca

Alcohol would always blow my relationships up.

When I was drunk, I would pick fights with random men at parties, and obviously, my girlfriends wouldn’t like that. To provoke a guy to fight me, I’d kiss his girlfriend in front of him. I’d pull my dick out and swing it at him. I liked punching and getting punched. I was so stifled emotionally that I needed to feel pain in a concrete way.

I bottled up everything, but when I was drinking, it was a release of all of the tension that I felt inside. I could take the lid off, be loud, be animalistic. I could talk to girls, I could talk to my friends, be big, mean and tough. But I couldn’t get to work a lot, so I screwed up a couple jobs. I went to jail a couple times.

In the last relationship that was ruined by alcohol, I’d show up wasted when I was supposed to be hanging out with her friends. First thing in the morning after she left for work, I’d chug two PBR tall boys and half a bottle of wine. I’d get super fucked up by 11 in the morning so that I could be relatively sober by the time she got home at 5 or 6. Sometimes I’d make myself puke to sober myself up faster, but she’d still catch me.

[My ex] actually wanted to marry me before she realized I was too much of a shitshow.

One time I was blackout drunk when I came to pick her up on a motorcycle. I hadn’t tied my shoelaces before I started driving, so they got caught in the chain. We were on a busy road and I started swerving, and we almost got hit by a couple cars. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back in our relationship.

She said she'd take me back if I did 15 hours of therapy. I figured I’d just sit there for 15 hours, stay quiet, use up the clock, and get her back. But by the fourth session, I was coming to terms with some big problems and crying like a bitch.

That was the last relationship that was ruined by alcohol before I found ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca had this magical ability to make me not want alcohol. After about eight times, it eliminated the craving. Plus, it’s so much more interesting of a drug that it makes alcohol seem boring. Once you've flown past the sun toward the source of all light and realized that source was in your own brain, having a few drinks at a ballgame just doesn’t compare.

I’m in a new serious relationship now, and it’s been so much better. She knows what ayahuasca helped me get through.

I’ll still drink ayahuasca about four times a year. I’ll drink it and think about my current girlfriend and… it gives me answers to my questions, if that makes sense. It helped me realize that I wanted to ask her to marry me.

Vince, 31
Length of relationship: 3 years
Drugs involved: Heroin and cocaine (intravenous)

I’m definitely what you’d consider a drug addict. I started experimenting with drugs in college, and I’ve been doing it on and off for 9 years.

Intravenous cocaine is my choice of drug above all. But when you’re injecting large amounts of cocaine so frequently, it becomes such a disgustingly intense high that you often need something to calm down. So I’d do heroin to come back down. And with heroin comes the physical dependency. That means you have to have that chemical in your body not even to get high, but just to feel normal.

When I first met my girlfriend 3 years ago, I was sober. We were both sober. She’s an alcoholic, but we were both in recovery when we began dating, and everything was great.

About a year ago, I had a great job, a nice car, a beautiful girlfriend. I looked successful in the eyes of society. But while it all looked great on the outside, I was becoming a miserable person on the inside. So I ended up picking up cocaine again.

I ran across someone who offered it to me, and took them up on their offer. I bought coke and needles and went to town for a day. When I was done, I went back to my girlfriend and acted like nothing happened. And I got away with it. So that got me thinking that I can get away with it again. Within a month, I had a full blown addiction to heroin and coke.

I was spending at least $500 a day on drugs. At the time, I had access to lots of money. But with an expensive habit like that, it doesn’t matter how much money you have — you’re always going to need more.

My girlfriend happens to come from a well-off family and she’s very financially secure. So I manipulated her into lending me money for “bills.” Then I proceeded to steal money from her. For months, she wasn’t checking her bank account.  So I’d go to the ATM with her debit card and take out $200 here, $600 there. I didn’t care. The only thing I cared about was getting my fix. I stole around $5,000 from her, one hundred percent for drugs.

Eventually, she started noticing that money was missing. She confronted me, asking if I borrowed any money, and I lied about it. She noticed I’d been losing weight. She asked “are you getting high again?” and I’d lie and lie and lie. When you’re an addict, you have to cope with the paranoia of losing that person that you truly care about.

But she ended up catching me red-handed, with drugs, with drug paraphernalia, with track marks. So she left me. She changed her debit cards, packed all her shit, and walked out. She was mostly hurt that I’d lied to her and  betrayed her trust. It’s a recurring theme with addiction — the manipulation, the lying, the stealing. You’re talking about having a future with this person. Getting married, having kids. But when you lose their trust, it’s hard to forgive and forget and move on.

She left because she feared that she’d end up doing the same thing herself [relapsing]. Being around me would have put her in a situation where she’s at risk of drinking again.

For month after she left, I continued using and living in misery until I was just tired of it. I made a decision that I needed to be locked away — physically removed from my situation — where I can clear my head and get the drugs out of my body. I went to rehab, I got clean and sober, and my girlfriend and I got back together.

But even to this day, she’s not 100 percent trusting of me. She trusts me while I’m communicating, but if I’m not, her anxiety creeps up. For example, if she calls me in the middle of the day and I don’t answer or get back to her in an hour, she worries that I’m getting high again. But now she knows what I look like and what I sound like when I’m sober and when I’m using.

Now, she brings a level of accountability. But by no means is she the sole reason I’m clean. Because you can’t stay sober for somebody else. You have to want to stop. I’ve been clean for almost a year now. She’s been clean for three and a half years. We’re taking it one day at a time.

James, 25
Length of relationship: 9 years
Drugs involved: MDMA

My wife and I were high school sweethearts. We got married, and 3 or 4 months later, I was deployed to Afghanistan to serve as an Army combat medic.

In Afghanistan, you see a lot of things that are hard to take in. To survive, you have to separate between your head and your heart. You become really numb.

When I returned home, that numbness permeated every part of my life. I knew I loved my wife with all my heart, but I couldn’t feel it.

Loud noises started giving me reactions. Fireworks would bring images of mangled bodies. And I would get really angry. Like the flick of a switch, I’d go from being perfectly fine to being furious. I would never physically abuse my wife, but I would destroy things around me. I was a scary guy to be around, and that affected our relationship a lot. We couldn’t be intimate with one another anymore.

But she couldn’t help me because I didn’t want to be helped. Every time she tried to console me, I felt disgusted. I would push her away. We tried couples therapy, and it helped a little while we were in it, but ultimately things went back to normal. It was a year and a half of no intimacy, no real feelings, and her walking on eggshells.

Then, I ended up qualifying for clinical trials of MDMA therapy. I had three sessions, and each one played an instrumental role in my recovery. The first one identified the problems. The second one helped me determine how to resolve them. By the third session, it was like I was finally able to feel again.

At the time, my wife was pregnant, and she was really afraid that I wouldn’t have any emotional connection toward my son. I did my last MDMA session just days before my son was born. Then, I feel like we fell in love again.

I won’t say that MDMA cured me. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I still get angry. But I think it saved my marriage. It illuminated what these problems are and allowed me to more easily see how to deal with them. The truth was hurtful at times, but MDMA helped me accept that.

I think I could benefit from another MDMA therapy session or two. I know there are underground sessions, but I’d prefer to do it in a clinical setting. If I could do it with my wife, she could benefit, too. She probably could use therapy to deal with the issues that I put her through.

Jessica*, 26
Length of relationship: 6 months
Drugs: Oxycodone, ketamine, heroin

At first, he seemed fun, attractive, and sweet. He would buy me things all the time (or so I’d thought), and after his lease ended, he stayed over one night… and never left. He basically just started living at my house.

I’d met him shortly after he’d gotten a knee surgery. At first, he was getting prescribed oxycontin, but I don’t think his supply lasted very long. I saw him do a decent amount of those pain pills. I saw him snort a bunch of ketamine. I also knew he’d done some harder drugs once or twice in the past. He told me a story about how he’d tried to inject pain pills, but the skin got infected and it had to get cut out. He’d said it was years ago, but it was probably far more recent than that.

I don’t really know what to believe anymore. Eventually I realized that he was just doing anything possible to get someone who would take care of him. He was extremely manipulative. He’d steal things and say that he bought them for me. He’d get really sick, and claim it was food poisoning. Except the next time we talked about it, his story would change.

Things started to really go downhill after his friend got out of prison. I knew the friend was a junkie. So when they started hanging out a lot, I knew things were not okay. One day, I was hanging out with a mutual friend of ours and he told me that [my ex] sold heroin. Oh also, [my ex] had recently spent the night with his ex-fiance.

I was so furious. I went home and started throwing his shit all over the yard. I opened up bags and backpacks and scattered his clothes everywhere. I wanted to make it as inconvenient for him as possible. He showed up while I was doing it, and started begging, “Please don’t babe!”

But I finished getting rid of everything he owned, locked all the doors, and left for a vacation to Costa Rica. While I was there, he ended up getting arrested. He had a warrant out for his arrest, and the police found him passed out under a bridge.

Months later, I was looking through a backpack I’d once let him borrow, and I found a needle. I’d seen drugs before… but never a needle like that. I was in shock and scared and disgusted and I immediately went to get tested.

I heard he checked into rehab for alcohol, but that’s the least of his problems. He had a fucked up past and he needed to cope in one way or another. His destructive version of coping meant rarely having a sober moment.

I didn’t see that because it was all fun and games in the beginning. Or maybe he was always losing it and I’m just blind… Alcohol and partying might have introduced us to our relationship, but it ultimately ruined that relationship, too.

[cover photo Katerina_Knizakova via Pixabay // originally published June 22, 2017]