“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” – J.K. Rowling
Addiction is a disease, thankfully, it has been declared a disease by most members of society. Recovery is a life long action, some days being harder than others, but it is the long term solution to addiction. Add the word heroin before either addiction or recovery and the entire playing field is changed. Everyone is an expert on either of these two subjects, but nobody is producing a palpable solution for either one.
In my recent months of sobriety, I have actually paid closer attention as to why heroin addiction is a lot harder to not only rise above, but to find help for. In my mind, it is because of the way a heroin addict is viewed by society in general. It also has a lot to do with the lack of resources available for heroin addicts who want help.
Difficulties in Finding Help for Heroin Addiction – Especially with Children
While I was still an active addict, I kicked my addiction three times while on the streets. Those three times, I figured out or found the means to do it myself. These three times happened earlier in my addiction as well. As my addiction progressed, there was a handful of times that I actually sought help from outside means or my family. That was a nightmare.
When you’re an addict and you have children, especially young children, kicking without assistance just is not possible. You cannot be dope sick and still take care of your children in the manner that is required. You need help. When I reached out for help to my family members, I was basically told that I had made my decision to be an addict so now I needed to figure out how to fix my decision.
Lack of Support from Family
Aside from the immediate hurt I felt, I was also appalled at the fact that my family could actually say this to me. The words how dare they danced through my mind as rage built onto the already burning embers of anger that I harbored in my soul from starting to feel ill. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to lash out. I also would feel myself falling deeper and deeper in despair because I was beginning to be ill, I was hurt by what my family had said, but I also was feeling as if I would be an addict my entire life.
Damaged Family Relationships and Getting Past Deep Hurt
Now in my sobriety, I look back at the events surrounding asking my family for help, as well as their attitudes towards me since my sobriety. They were, and still are, very angry. My family felt as if I had turned my back on them, choosing my addiction. I lied to them constantly in order to achieve exactly what it was I needed to progress my addiction. I treated them really poorly when I didn’t get my way. I was no longer the same person they knew before my addiction started. To them, I was just asking for another way to get what I wanted, heroin.
To this day, I still cannot ask my family for anything without a fight. The times I call my mother and ask for help have fallen into the rarely category because I just mentally cannot fight with her any longer. She lashes out at me constantly because she is still bitter and angry over the events from when I was an active addict. There are times I feed into her anger and the fight escalates very quickly. The past is always brought up. I am constantly reminded of everything that occurred between us while I was an active addict.
Leave the Past in the Past
This hurts because I cannot fix what has been done. It just isn’t possible. I cannot go back and change anything that has happened, even though if I could I would in a heartbeat. I have apologized more times than I can count. I have tried really hard to show her that I am no longer anywhere near the person I was as an active addict, nor am I the person I was before I was an addict. Both of those versions of me are long gone. I will never be the Sarah I was before I was an addict because that Sarah had a flaw. Whatever flaw that was, it was what enabled my thought process the ability to choose the idea that being an addict was going to fix my problems. When I put myself back together again, I had to rearrange the pieces in order to keep that notion from creeping back into my head again.
How My Heroin Addiction Affects the Extended Family Unit
As for the rest of my family, that is an entirely different issue. My grandmother keeps me at an arm’s distance. Actually, I am kept further than that. I am no longer allowed at her house and honestly I think I am completely persona non grata in the township that she lives in because of the things that happened while I was an addict. She is terrified that I am still that person, just hiding in sheep’s clothing like I did as an addict. My mother of course does not help with that ideal, they live together. Anytime my mother and I argue, she goes back and feeds story after story to my grandmother of how much of a monster I am. Never once accounting for her own actions, and systematically blowing mine up on a larger scale. I cannot do anything about this either, I just have to allow it to roll off my back.
My father, well he has declared that I am dead to him. I do still try and reach out to him, to see how he is doing and such. I never get a response back. I would even take something negative versus nothing at all.
I have never been close to the rest of biological family because we are all so spread out. The family that I have chosen in my friends has also dissolved. That hurts worse than the actions of my blood family because of the things that we have all been through together.
A lack of balance in the Family Dynamics and Friendships
There has been so many times over the past twenty plus years that I have been right there next to my “brothers” and “sisters”, supporting them in any way I possibly could. I have housed them when they needed somewhere to sleep because they had been kicked out, or had gotten into a fight with their significant other. I have given them my last dollar because they claimed they needed it. Some honestly did need it and others just said they needed it but chose to party with it or blow it on a drug. I’ve stayed on the phone with people for hours when they needed someone to talk to. Basically I’ve been that girl who has always been there for my friends, regardless of the issue, regardless of how I feel, and never judged them for it. When the tables turned, well, so did their thoughts on me.
Lack of Help and Support Drove Me Back to My Heroin Addiction
Once I realized that my “family” wasn’t going to be around to help, I figured I could find via counseling or a rehab facility. That proved to be even more trouble than actually talking to my family.
One day, I recall spending a couple hours on the phone with a handful of addiction treatment centers and drug rehabs, trying to seek help. By the time I finished, my head throbbed with frustration and my heart sank with hopelessness. The earliest I could get just one of us (me and my husband) into a treatment center was in a month and a half. In order to get us both into a clinic, it would be over two months. Even then, we had to have about ninety six dollars, up front, and be able to sit in the clinic for up to eight hours for the first week. I asked about daycare, and I was told I had to provide that myself. That was not an option because my family wouldn’t even watch my youngest for us to get clean.
The rest of the drug rehab facilities were just as large of a joke. The more I called, the higher the hurdle it seemed. So, I dove back into my heroin addiction and didn’t turn back.
Heroin Addicts Have it Harder than Other Addicts?
That is the reason, right there, that I think heroin addiction is one of the harder addictions to seek help for. Tolerance for a heroin addict is really not there. People have been hurt by the heroin addict so much and so horribly that they lash out. So, reaching out to family becomes more and more difficult. Friends just cut ties because they owe the addict nothing.
When deciding to go medically, that becomes a new ballgame. The wait list is crazy. The ability to afford it is even harder. So many things factor into it, being an addict you just give up. It is easier to score dope and stay high than it is to find help.
Spreading Awareness and Cultivating Understanding
All in all, education needs to be increased on this issue. Understanding that when an addict truly reaches out for help to a loved one, they are likely truly done. Yes, you may be upset that they had not done it on your terms, but addiction is never about everyone else’s terms. It is about the addict and how they feel. You cannot force an addict to get help. You cannot force an addict to stay clean. So if they reach out, jump on it while you can. There will be plenty of time to be angry once things get back to good, but until then, the mindset of a heroin addict is so fragile and manic, at times, the anger and indifference is usually what sends them back.
More Affordable Resources Needed for Heroin Addicts
Along with increasing education, additional resources are highly needed, especially affordable ones. Not all addicts can get sober the same way. I have gotten clean one hundred percent on my own. I have not used medication, this time. I have not attended meetings. I have not achieved my sobriety, thus far, in any conventional method. I have simply taken it moment by moment and followed my instincts. That method probably won’t work for everyone, but I accept that. Society really needs to accept that as well.
Stop the Stigma
I feel if society could just stop criminalizing the addict, we could begin to aid this growing problem. Stop attaching a stigma to the heroin addict. Stop saying once a heroin addict always a heroin addict. Stop treating us like we are less than human. None of us want to be an addict, but none of us want to be judged for something we have risen above either.
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