Anyone suffering from addiction knows just how hard it is to stop using heroin, opiates or other drugs. In the beginning, heroin is appealing because it promises to send your mind, body and soul to a place of peace with an experience of euphoria. At first, heroin feels great but after awhile the feelings of elation are gone and the only reason people continue using it is to prevent themselves from getting ultra sick and experiencing horrible heroin withdrawal symptoms. Meanwhile, heroin has been working hard to rob you of everything you hold dear to your heart – your relationships, your hard earned cash, your family, your home, your health and last but not least, your life. At this point, escaping the bonds of addiction becomes desirable but fear of withdrawal coupled with strong urges to continue using are overbearing. So why is it so hard to break the chains of heroin addiction?
Note: The first photo is Thelma Pickard with her daughter Amy who has been in a heroin induced coma for 8 long years. This is what heroin can do to people and it’s devastating.
Understanding Your Disease of Addiction
Upon the onset of addiction, which occurs after just one use of heroin, the brain literally changes in several ways. The brain changes chemically and structurally and creates a literal connection and compulsion to keep using heroin without end. Breaking this connection is a lot like telling someone who’s bad for you but you’re madly in love with or infatuated with that you can’t see them anymore. Deep down inside you may know she or he isn’t good for you, but the strong urge to see, spend time with and make love to them keeps you going back. Similarly, we may know deep down that heroin is destroying our lives and could kill us at any moment, but some indescribable force keeps us coming back for more. Read “Proof that Addiction is a Disease: How Addiction Affects the Brain” for more information.
Is Addiction a Choice?
In this world, people are both victims and agents. An agent is in control and makes choices while a victim has no control over their circumstances. People often like to play the victim role when something goes wrong. It absolves them of any responsibility and people often feel bad for them. Now there are legitimate cases of victimization and there are genuine reasons to feel sorry for them. However, people tend to put their victimization in the spotlight when they don’t want to take responsibility or be accountable for anything that happened. On the other hand, when something good happens or something gets accomplished where recognition and praise are deserved, people tend to focus on their agentism. They want the credit so they’ll take responsibility and focus on being an agent of praise. So where does addiction fit it?
Nobody chooses to be an addict. That makes those who suffer from addiction victims. But irresponsible choices and risky behaviors led to the onset of addiction. Those that continue to use drugs or the object of addiction are agents. So even in the midst of addiction, people are both agents and victims. They may have no control over (or be victims of) their disease, but they do have a choice as to (or become an agent over) whether or not to continue using drugs and feeding it. So to answer the question: is addiction a choice? No, it’s not. But you do have a choice whether to feed it or not and if you don’t feed it by continually using heroin or the object of your addiction, you can acquire control over it. Do you want to be a victim or an agent of your addiction? In other words, do you want addiction to control you or do you want to control it?
Making the Bold Choice of Recovery: Becoming an Agent of Your Addiction
There is no cure for addiction, but as described above, we get to choose whether or not addiction controls our lives. The only way for addiction to survive is by feeding it. We feed it by indulging or engaging in the object and/or activity of addiction. If heroin is the object of addiction, by simply removing heroin from our lives, addiction weakens and eventually goes dormant. Eliminating heroin or the object of addiction from our lives isn’t easy. Even though it may not feel like it, whether or not we use heroin is a choice.
First Steps in Recovery: Getting Through the First Week of Withdrawal Symptoms
The first step is to get involved in some kind of program or choose a treatment option that can provide you with the necessary skills and tools to not only conquer addiction, but to start a new life. Recovery gives you a chance to reinvent yourself and become the man or woman you’ve always wanted to be. Detox centers can help you get past the first week of painful withdrawal. Or if you prefer, you can surround yourself with family and friends who will take care of you for a week or so as you go through withdrawal. The most important part is to stay comfortable, drink plenty of fluids and wait it out. Learn more about opiate and heroin withdrawal symptoms and what to expect.
The Role of Medicine Assisted Treatment (MAT) in Recovery
Those who are desperately afraid of withdrawal symptoms or need some additional help beating heroin addiction may choose medicine assisted treatment options such as Methadone or Suboxone. These medications (not to be used in conjunction with one another) can not only significantly reduce withdrawal symptoms but can reduce urges and cravings as well.
Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) is another popular medicine assisted treatment and the best part is, it doesn’t contain dependency properties (often referred to as non-addictive) and is not a narcotic.
These programs require a commitment, especially Methadone but if done right, can be a valuable asset in helping heroin and opiate dependents conquer their addiction. In fact, the success rate sits around 60%, far higher than some other programs.
Finding a Drug Rehab Addiction Treatment Center
Nothing beats the skill, experience and compassion of dedicated and caring staff at state of the art inpatient drug rehab addiction treatment center facilities. Inpatient care (30 days and up) provides heroin, opiate and drug addicts with real-time one on one and group therapy and a healthy, comfortable environment to focus on building life-skills, developing healthy habits and routines and becoming the man or woman you’ve always wanted to become. Outpatient therapy, IOPs (Intensive Outpatient Programs), group therapy and individual counseling are great, but inpatient facilities give addicts 24/7 treatment without a chance to relapse or feed into temptation. Sure there will be downtime at inpatient facilities, but relapse is not an option while you are there, making it easier to avoid temptations and triggers by the time you are discharged. View our list of recommended addiction treatment centers. Read also “Tips for Finding an Outstanding Drug Rehab“.
Outpatient Therapy, IOP (Intensive Outpatient Programs), Counseling and More
If you have insurance, we highly recommend considering inpatient treatment at a reputable and licensed drug rehab addiction treatment center facility. After you are discharged, we recommend getting involved in outpatient therapy. Many drug rehabs offer outpatient therapy as well, so if you’ve been discharged from inpatient care and had a good experience, you may want to seriously consider getting involved in their outpatient programs. Alternatively, there are outpatient specialists that focus strictly on outpatient therapy and provide IOP, individual counseling, group therapy and more. You are strongly encouraged to get involved in one of these programs
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and the 12 Step Program
Probably one of the oldest and still highly successful form of ongoing treatment is the 12 Step Program. The 12 steps are used in many treatment models, including inpatient and outpatient therapy. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are well established organizations (very similar but created by different people) that provide encouragement, hope and rewards for long term recovery. Meetings are free and they are funded strictly on donations. Meetings are led by individuals who’ve been through all the 12 steps and have vast knowledge of the program and how to successfully recover. You can also obtain a sponsor, an individual who has been through the 12 step program and dedicated to helping you work the steps and aiding you through treatment.
Note that those who lead meetings and sponsors are not licensed counselors nor are they medical professionals. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t help you.
Addiction Replacement Therapy: Benign Obsessions and Maintaining Healthy Living:
The above treatment programs and modalities are great. But what are you supposed to do with yourself in between meetings or counseling sessions? Some addicts have been using heroin, opiates and drugs for so long that they don’t know what to do with themselves when there’s downtime. The above mentioned programs can help assist recovering addicts acquire the necessary tools and skills for healthy living and developing a routine. But here are some tips as well.
Developing Healthy Daily Routines
In the old days of addiction, the first thing you may have and/or probably did was use heroin or strategize on how to get it so you can then use it. In recovery, it’s important to develop healthy routines that keep your mind off of using drugs. People are creatures of habits so developing healthy habits and routines the first month or two of recovery is vital. This could include showering, brushing your teeth, taking a walk (especially if you have a dog, walking your dog is a good way to start your morning), making coffee and/or breakfast or getting it at Wawa or a local convenience store, etc. If you don’t have a job, you are strongly encouraged to start looking for one…even if it’s part time to start.
Downtime: Avoiding Triggers and Addiction Replacement Therapy
Even the busiest of people have downtime, which can be extremely dangerous for recovering addicts. But when downtime occurs, it’s crucial to have developed strategies on avoiding temptation, triggers and engaging in healthy activities. Addiction is sleeping inside every recovering addict and is waiting for an opportunity to awaken and take control. But by replacing drug use with something else that’s healthy, we will be less inclined to think about and engage in drug use. Addiction Replacement Therapy is simply engaging or indulging in healthy activities or hobbies instead of feeding our addiction by using heroin and/or drugs. I like to refer to this as finding benign obsessions.
Finding benign obsessions, activities or hobbies we can engage in can promote health and wellness in comparison to those that physically, mentally or emotionally harm the mind, body and soul. Examples of some benign obsessions can be nutrition and fitness, painting, cooking, hiking, getting involved in community outreach programs, etc. Learn more about “Addiction Replacement Therapy: Trading Addiction for Benign Obsessions”
Written and Published By,
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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