When you first discover that a loved one is using, has snorted heroin or is addicted to heroin, the feelings of confusion, fear, and powerlessness can be overwhelming:
- How did this happen?
- What can I do to help?
- Can a person ever overcome heroin addiction?
The answers to these questions are not easy. Much like other disease or illness, proper treatment is not always the same for every person. Although the road to recovery can be long and treacherous with many detours, recovery is possible, and you can help in the process.
The first (and often hardest step) in helping a heroin addict
1. Get past your anger. Being angry doesn’t lead to recovery, and can possibly make things worse. As family members or friends, we feel that we are doing the right thing when we point out all of the addict‘s faults. We want them to see the hurt they’re causing. We want to open their eyes to the reality of their disease. However, once we identify heroin addict, the more guilt and shame we place on the addict, the more likely he or she will keep using drugs in order to cover up those feelings.
So how do you work past the anger?
2. Get educated. It’s difficult to help another person when you don’t understand the problem. Addiction can affect anyone. You don’t have to have a genetic predisposition, you don’t have to come from a dysfunctional childhood, and you don’t have to lack moral standards in order to fall under the spell of addiction. In fact, there is no general description for what heroin addicts look like. It’s important for family and friends to break past the myths, misunderstandings, and stigma that surround addiction and learn the truth.
Through Al-Anon, the internet, and the library, you have endless resources to gain the knowledge needed to understand your loved one’s challenge ahead. I have found, through my own experience with a loved one’s addiction, through understanding comes forgiveness. That is when the healing can begin.
3. Get yourself help. You can’t control the addict in your life — but you can control your own behavior. The best thing you can do if you want to help a loved one struggling with addiction is get to an Al-Anon meeting. The people there can give you the best specific advice on how to handle your unique situation. Through Al-Anon you will also learn the tools to set healthy boundaries.
Helping a loved one with addiction is very different from helping a loved one with any other illness. Anything you do in order to ease their pain will only extend the disease, making it stronger. As long as you are going to be there to hold the addict’s hand, bail him or her out of jail, fix their mistakes, and make life easier, your loved one will never see the need to fight their disease. This is one of the hardest concepts for family and friends to accept.
4. Get advice from experts. Withdraw from heroin can cause extreme symptoms including restlessness, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, kicking movements, muscle and/or bone pain. In some cases, sudden withdrawal can be fatal. If your loved one agrees to stop using heroin, it would be wise to seek help from a treatment center or doctor.
The longer a person has been using heroin, the more difficult sustained recovery can be. Contrary to popular belief — an addict does not have to hit rock bottom before getting treatment. One effective way you can help break the cycle is through an intervention. A good treatment program can help you with that process.
While recovery can be difficult, and relapse is often a part of the disease, sustained recovery is achievable. If you can get past the anger, get educated, get yourself help, and get advice from experts, you can be on the road to helping your loved one stop the cycle of heroin abuse.