Syringes to Sobriety

Stories and Advice from a Real Heroin Addict
how-to-help-an-addict

How to Help an Addict: “You did this to yourself!”

Note: Helping a Loved One Recover

Looking for information on how to help an addict? You are in the right place! Read this article before handing out advice to anyone struggling with substance abuse disorder. The information is guaranteed to save you some heartache, helping you to make level-headed, informed decisions.

Note: Help Yourself Recover

This article will also be helpful if you are seeking help with your own substance abuse issue. Maybe you have been in and out of jail or prison but fail to stay clean for long each time you are released. Maybe you have never made it past day 3 of detox. Whatever your story, there is still hope for your recovery.

Below, I explain why the threat of returning to prison may not be enough to keep you clean for long. In conclusion, I give you, the struggling drug user, permission to get creative and make a unique recovery plan, specific to your own needs.

Introduction: The Opioid Epidemic

If society wants to gain even a semblance of victory in the battle against the opioid epidemic, changes must be made. Common beliefs about recovery are outdated and frequently ineffective for maintaining recovery.

We must replace these beliefs with facts.

Facts about what WORKS for users to maintain recovery.

We will only discover these facts by listening to users in recovery, and sometimes, more importantly, learning from users who have failed to recover.

The Justice Department’s Role

If our goal is to fight to stop the opioid epidemic, we need the justice system to join our ranks. However, the antiquated ways the courts deal with substance abuse today must change.

A great starting place would be following up with substance users who have been sentenced to jail or prison with a promise to receive recovery services during their stay. Judges and other court personnel may be shocked to hear how few services the defendants actually received.

Judges and prosecutors handing out jail and prison sentences have little knowledge of recovery programs available to inmates. The judges order defendants to complete recovery programs in jail, but few programs are actually available.

Many times, inmates do not qualify for these programs, especially if not sentenced on a drug charge. (It does not matter that the defendant would not have committed the charge had they not been on drugs at the time.)

The user is essentially passed on as a problem for jail staff to deal with. Jail staff, however, has even less knowledge of recovery coaching, so the situation worsens.

how-to-help-an-addict

In my experience doing time at Maricopa County Jail, it was blatantly obvious that medical staff was not trained to deal with inmates (like myself) detoxing in their jail.  There are thousands of other stories supporting how inadequate, frequently dangerous, medical care is for those incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons.

I will discuss common scenarios happening hundreds of times of day in our jails. Some are so outrageous, you will be shocked no one has intervened and put an end to these practices. Many changes need to be made in our jail system; Too many to address in one article, but we must start somewhere.

 I have identified what works to encourage recovery and what simply does not.  I will propose a new method of helping an addict that does not involve interventions, screaming at each other, cutting a person off, or calling the police.  In some instances, the addict sought out a treatment program for themselves after a loved one used the method discussed below.  In all instances, communication between loved ones and the addict stayed constant and civil through detox, treatment, and recovery.   

how-to-help-an-addict

Reality Check

The opioid epidemic is real. Teenagers are sticking needles in their arms in their parent’s basements and smoking dope off of tin foil in high school bathrooms. It is real, and getting worse. Without revamping the way we approach recovery in this country, nothing changes.

I have lost more friends than I can count on both my hands to this awful epidemic. Hopefully, this article gives hope to users and to the families of users. If you are looking to help a user get clean, this article will help you make informed, rational decisions.

How to Help an Addict: Force Cold-Turkey Detox

Helping a Heroin Addict- Using Tough Love

Everyone has an opinion!

Many have said, “You did this to yourself, so deal with the consequences” or “You need to experience the hell of withdrawal so you will learn not to use again.” 

I am sure the intentions behind these statements are pure. For those of you fortunate to not have a substance abuse issue, these comments probably seem justified…maybe even logical.  After all, if 

how-to-help-an-addict

heroin use = withdrawal

and

withdrawal = real shitty experience

then it seems logical,

a user who suffered through withdrawal once would understand that,

FUTURE HEROIN USE = REAL SHITTY EXPERIENCE

Inversely, 

NO HEROIN USE = AVOIDANCE of REAL SHITTY EXPERIENCE (withdrawal) 

A logical person would conclude, forcing a user to experience the horrors of cold turkey detox should do the trick to prevent further heroin use (relapse). 

A reasonable conclusion, right?

how-to-help-an-addict

Hmm, not so fast.  In a perfect world, this tactic may work, but unfortunately, we are far from perfect and sometimes the simplest solutions are the most ineffective. 

The Case of the Puppy Poop

Let’s look at this another way. Imagine you bring home a brand-new puppy.  Puppy is pooping all over the house, so you implement the most effective training method you know.  When Fido poops in the house, you repeatedly say NO, BAD DOG, in your sternest voice, while rubbing his nose in his own shit.

how-to-help-an-addict

Eventually, the puppy learns to use the outdoor facilities and you consider yourself a modern day B.F. Skinner! (B.F. Skinner is famous for his proposed theory of operant conditioning, which purports behavior is influenced by its consequences.)

If creating fear of consequences works for Fido, it will most certainly work with substance users, right?

Ugh.

No. Never. ABSOLUTELY NOT.

 Just give it a rest already!

But Why Not, ANA?

Good question and thanks for asking! Let me ask YOU this:

how-to-help-an-addict

Would you potty-train a toddler by sticking her nose in her soiled pull-ups, while saying NO repeatedly and pointing to the toilet?

Yeah, doubt it…and if you do, I recommend buying this book before CPS comes knockin’: 

If potty training is too far-fetched an example, here is another:  

Lil’ Willie Suckett Sucks His Thumb

how-to-help-an-addict

 

Would you refuse to buy Willie Dayquil for his cough or Advil for his fever?  Would you refuse antibiotics from the doctor, ensuring maximum symptoms and duration? 

Do you think associating poor hand hygiene and thumb sucking with the painful suffering of pneumonia symptoms will effectively change Willie’s behavior? Will Willie’s horrendous cough, that keeps him up all night crying, be the punishment necessary for Lil Willie to start washing his hands or stop sucking his thumb?

I doubt it.  Let’s be honest, depriving Lil’ Willie of medicine is only going to make the suffering worse for you both. Guaranteed you will be awake all night while Willie coughs, cries, coughs, and then cries some more.

Lil’ Willie continues sucking his thumb until his underlying anxiety issues are resolved or aged out of. Willie may start to wash his hands when you remind him, but you cannot always be with Willie. The memory of being sick will fade and Willie’s habits will persist.

The same is true when helping an addict. Without addressing underlying causes of drug use and implementing intensive cognitive behavioral therapy, the memory of painful withdrawal will fade and the drug habit will persist.

Starting to reconsider the effectiveness of making a user suffer through cold turkey detox to preventing relapse?

I hope so, but, for those not quite convinced, let’s consider another form of tough love commonly used in the U.S.

How to help an Addict: Jail or Prison?

Helping a Heroin Addict- Lock ’em All up

Cold-turkey detox is not the only way to show a user tough love in the hopes they will not use again.   Throwing a user in jail or prison is society’s version of tough love.  Out of sight out of mind. 

Does the punishment of jailing a person to discourage the continuance of an illegal behavior sound familiar?  It should!  It is just another form of operant conditioning. 

It seems so logical but locking a user in jail rarely works to discourage future use.  If this method was even slightly effective, the recidivism rate for drug users would not be as high as it is today.

The Reality of Jail Today

how-to-help-an-addict

Jails are unpleasant, dirty, cold and staffed with a high percentage of unforgiving, power-hungry guards.  (Notice I said high percentage.  There are a HANDFUL of guards that seem to care, seem willing to do more to help inmates.  However, they lack training and resources.   Unfortunately, most guards are cold towards inmates, either by choice or they have been jaded from years of service in the county jail system.)

Detox and Recovery in Jail

Jails have few recovery programs in place and even less medical care during detox.  During my stay in Maricopa County Jail, I was refused all medications while I went through opiate withdrawal.  I was not allowed Imodium, Advil, or even anti-nausea medicine.  When I explained how I was barely able to make it to and from the bathroom to throw up in time, the nurse recommended I drink more water.

how-to-help-an-addict-in-jail

I felt awful that my cellmates had to endure my gagging, tossing and turning, and running back and forth to the bathroom for days on end. When I asked the jail nurse why I was not allowed to take any sort of medication to help with my symptoms she said,

I felt awful that my cellmates had to endure my gagging, tossing and turning, and running back and forth to the bathroom for days on end. When I asked the jail nurse why I was not allowed to take any sort of medication to help with my symptoms she said,

We are not required to give you anything because you cannot die from opiate withdrawal.

Other inmates reported they were told,

I guess you shouldn’t have decided to use drugs.

or

That’s just too bad. You did this to yourself!

The way jail staff handles inmates high on opiates, alcohol, and/or benzodiazepines that are booked into one of their facilities is a disgrace.   Refusing over the counter medications like Imodium and Advil (neither of which have any sort of recreational use) to inmates who will be experiencing opiate withdrawals is just plain cruelty. 

I found out, later in my jail stay, that medication is only given to inmates detoxing from alcohol or benzos because they have a greater risk of having deadly seizures, which could be a huge liability for the jail.  (After being released, I researched the fatality of opiate withdrawals to see whether the jail nurse was correct.  I discovered she was wrong and that it is possible to die from complications associated with opiate withdrawal.)

Jail Does Not Encourage Sobriety

Can you imagine what a user is thinking about when locked in a cell, with strangers, while detoxing, with no medication? (Many times, other inmates have drugs, so you may be forced to watch others get high while being sick.)

how-to-help-an-addict

Let me explain what goes through a user’s head in this situation. HINT: It is not that they never want to use again. 

A user in this horrendous situation is not able to think far enough ahead to see that using again may land them back in jail.

The only thing a user feels is an incredible urge to escape reality. And how do users escape reality?

You guessed it!

We get high!

Naturally, when feeling crummy, a user starts plotting and scheming a way to get high again.

For those of you who have never tried heroin, it will be hard to understand the appeal.  This is the best way I have been able to describe it to nonusers:

What Does Heroin Feel Like?

An orgasm creates a 200% dopamine (happy chemical) release in the brain.

IV heroin creates an 800% dopamine release in the brain. 

(IV methamphetamine creates a 1000% dopamine release in the brain.)

how-to-help-an-addict

That means the feeling a user gets after IV heroin use is 4 times more pleasurable than an orgasm!! This pleasurable experience is the exact opposite of being in jail.

Starting to understand why the user cannot help but think about getting high again?

Check out What is the Cause of Drug Addiction? for a detailed explanation of how a substance use habit becomes deeply embedded in the brain.

My Takeaway From my First Jail Experience

After suffering through cold-turkey withdrawal in jail, I would never allow that to happen again, no matter what. Although I wanted to stay clean to avoid future jail and withdrawal, I felt crummy when released.

I was released in the middle of downtown Phoenix at 2 am with no money and no cell phone. At that time of night, in that part of town, I only felt comfortable contacting my drug dealer to pick me up. Plus, in my mind, she was the only one that could make me feel better.

Had the jail given me information about methadone programs, sober living houses, crisis services, recovery meetings, or even a reference to a drug counselor, I may have stood a chance. Although I wanted to stay clean and avoid jail, I did not have the tools needed to recover. Willpower alone was not going to cut it.

Sure enough, I got high within thirty minutes of being released.  The high was amazing because I had felt so crummy while in jail.

Something is not right with this picture.  Had I been treated humanely (detoxed with dignity), there would not have been as much of a drive to get high and feel better upon release from jail. 

Inevitably, a few months later, the police arrested me for shoplifting. (I was stealing to support my drug habit.) Can you guess what I told to admitting nurse?

With the most conviction I could muster, I said, “I consume a pint of vodka, a handful of benzos and a six-pack of beer to wash the pills down, just to get out of bed in the morning! I drink to stop the tremors and I finish my Xanax script in three days every month!” (Remember I only used opiates)

All of these lies to get a damn Imodium!

Guess what?

It worked.

Consider the Human Brain

 Jailing a user is a bit like crate training a puppy.  If you are potty training your puppy, you may punish accidents with crate time, aka puppy jail. 

how-to-help-an-addict

This may work well for Fido, but humans do not respond well to this kind of ‘training.’ In fact, locking a user in a cage during withdrawal, when a user feels like ending it all, may not have the effect you hope it would the opposite outcome you would hope for.  Human brains are complex, and, as a result, many factors contribute to influencing our behaviors.

I was in an out of jail a few more times than I am proud to admit. I began to think something was wrong with me and that I would never be able to stay clean.

Why was jail not enough of a consequence for me to stop getting high? I hated the place, just like everyone else.

Finally, I found a program that suited MY recovery, staffed with people that knew how to help a user recover. This gave me the confidence I needed to get clean and start changing my life.

how-to-help-an-addict

The reason I kept going back and the reason the recidivism rate for drug users is so high is the complete lack of treatment available in jail.  We must start implementing better programs for users in lieu of a jail or prison sentence if we are truly serious about saving lives and avoiding heartbreak.

The recovery options are out there, but the justice system has not been creative enough with sentencing to truly help substance users. A jail sentence is not the answer.

how-to-help-an-addict

Operant conditioning methods are best reserved for effecting behavior change in animals, like a new puppy or circus lion.  Humans do not respond well to this kind of training, especially during withdrawal, when a user feels like ending it all.  Human brains are complex, and, as a result, many factors contribute to influencing our behaviors.

How to Help an Addict: Variety of Treatment Options

Curing Addiction- Comas to Beaches

If operant conditioning methods like forcing cold-turkey withdrawal or jailing substance users had proven effective, we would not be in the mess we are today.  Most notably, the detox/recovery industry would be nonexistent. 

One time through withdrawal or a few days in jail would effectively cure a user of all future urges to use.  We simply would not need to research or develop new forms of treatment if avoiding withdrawal was enough of a deterrent to prevent relapse. 

Instead, we have thousands of rehab centers, all over the world, specializing in all sorts of treatments, each claiming their methods are the most effective. 

how-to-help-an-addict

For example, the Nazaraliev Medical Center of Central Asia claims 80% of their patients stay off heroin for at least a year after receiving their ‘coma treatments’. Patients are injected with a substance that puts them into a coma-like state for several hours, ‘curing’ them of addiction.

Thailand’s Thamkrabok Monastery requires patients to swallow an herb, inducing weeks of vomiting, to ‘purge’ the user’s body of addictive substances.

From Passages, Malibu, specializing in luxury, comfort, and a holistic approach to recovery, to Ayahuasca Healing Centers, using hallucinogens to treat substance abuse disorder, the treatment options seem endless. 

Obviously, the detox/recovery industry is alive and well, more profitable than ever, as millions of users and their families spend billions in a desperate search for solutions.

How to Help an Addict: Using Compassion

A Little Compassion Never Killed Anyone

When broaching the topic of detox with a user, actively listen to concerns, fears, apprehensions, what has not worked in the past, what the user is most willing to try, and so on. Be genuine and show compassion!

Many people are apprehensive to involve the user in the detox decision-making process and, when the time comes to enter the program, the user bolts, leaving family frustrated and scared.  Ditching detox at the last minute is common, but much more so if the user has no idea what they are getting themselves into.  

Knowledge of the detox center’s procedures and expectations help the user feel more in control, and less like they are making an awful, extremely painful decision.  Letting a user participate in making the final decision on which detox to attend, sparks confidence in his ability to complete a program he knows is best suited to his recovery. 

how-to-help-an-addict-practice kindness

Remember, no two users are alike. Therefore, for the best chance of success, recovery programs must be as unique as we are individual.

This is a foundational principle at Syringes to Sobriety and shows up, in some form or another, in almost all the material posted to the site.  The same principle should be applied to detox.  There are tons of detox programs out there, including methadone, suboxone, rapid detox, etc., so choose wisely.  For better odds of success, choose a detox program offering solutions best matching the users’ individual needs. 

If the user seeks a program that will ease suffering during withdrawal, you should support him.  Detox does not need to feel like a punishment for the user.  In fact, for a user to feel encouraged to continue working a recovery program after detox, it is important to keep him comfortable, even medicated, during his withdrawal and, in some situations, afterward. 

How to Help an Addict: Example One

The Repeat Detox Visitor

If a user has repeatedly tried traditional medical detox centers, but always checks himself out within the first 48 hours, consider a rapid detox program. 

During rapid detox, patients are put under anesthesia and injected with a drug that forces the body into rapid withdrawal.  As a result, the user, while under anesthesia, experiences the first 3 days of withdrawal in 4-6 hours, waking up feeling little to no physical withdrawal symptoms.

Rapid detox would not only be a more comfortable way to detox, but it would also guarantee the user makes it passed the first 48 hours. (Note: Rapid detox is not recommended for IV heroin users who have resorted to muscle shots or skin popping, due to possible delayed of onset of withdrawal symptoms.) 

How to Help an Addict: Example Two

The Jail Bird

If a user has always been forced to detox in jail repeatedly, he may have a sour taste in his mouth when it comes to getting clean.  If you listen to his concerns and this seems to be the case, suggest a program that provides a taper off opiates, such as a methadone clinic or medical detox that uses suboxone tapers.

Help the user understand detox does not have to be unbearable. Once the user trusts you do not wish to see him suffer, he will be much more willing to let you help him develop a recovery plan for after detox.  

Remember treatment options truly are endless, so we have the luxury of getting creative, making unique treatment plans for each users’ individual needs. 

Help an Addict Using the Compassionate Method

So, there you have it.  The Compassionate Method.  In short:

If a user expresses interest in detox or seems receptive when you broach the subject:

  1. Actively listen to the user’s concerns and needs
  2. Involve the user in the decision-making process
  3. Choose a detox program matching the users’ needs
how-to-help-an-addict

The compassionate method is FAR more effective than the seemingly logical method of, “Oh you feel like killing yourself? Why don’t you try to remember this feeling the next time you stick a needle in your arm, you junkie!”

It takes a little more work and a little more love but, if done correctly, it is the single most effective way of encouraging a user to get clean.

If you have any questions or would like to share personal stories, encouragement, or frustrations, please use the comment section below.  Good luck!

xoANA


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Spread the love

26 comments on “How to Help an Addict: “You did this to yourself!”

  1. Hi Ana
    Found this to be very informative, you have posted some great information that is sure to help those who are struggling to find ways to help loved ones who are caught in the cycle of drug addiction.
    Drugs have become more deadly in recent years and finding good ways to help those who are ready to move past their addiction is critical to reversing the deadly trend, unlike years ago when it was just the pot heads and heavier drugs were for the rich!! I have know both and addicts need a lot of support to have the best chances of success with recovery. Thanks for sharing this helpful information. hopefully your message gets out there and helps family or friends of addicts save them from themselves.
    well done

    1. Thank you! It seems society has the mindset that there is one path to recovery, detox followed by inpatient and meetings every day. This is not a path that works for everyone. I am happy to see others accepting that recovery looks different for every drug abuser. Thanks again for the good wishes and for stopping by.

  2. Hello Ana, this post you have written nothing short of true. I have a friend whose elder brother is addicted to heroine. They didn’t find out until a few months ago and honestly, they’ve been hostile to him apart from him taking drugs and going on rehab. I also agree with you that taking an addict to jail is not a good idea to help overcome the addiction. The prison system has always been shitty and so it’s really hard for anyone to recover there. This is a good post and I’m sure my friend needs to read it too

    1. Absolutely! Please pass this information on to anyone who may need it.  I hope your friend finds some support that helps him to recover.  If you want, have him contact me. It helps to have someone to talk to who has been there.  Thank you for reading!

  3. Thank you for this great article. You have a lot of wisdom about recovering from addiction and alcoholism. I don’t know much about how to help someone recover from addiction. It seems so complicated and sometimes no matter how hard I tried the person kept drinking, smoking, whatever it was. I pretty much let go of trying to change other people now. I mean I’m not enlightened or anything but I just feel like people will find their own way sooner or later, or not. But I can’t really save anyone from addiction. 

    I tried a lot of things. Now I just focus on my own life. I have a good workout routine. A good online business in the making. I sleep well. I eat healthy just the right amount. You know a lot of healthy habits. I am workaholic so I guess thats a bit of an addiction. I am hoping for continued recovery from workaholism. 

    Please keep writing these insightful posts. Your words about recovery will help me and others to heal from addictions. Take care. 

    1. Thanks, Charles.  There is definitely a difference between healthy and unhealthy habits (or, as some call them, addictions).  Working a lot is only healthy if it does not cause unhealthy habits in other patts of your life.  Sounds like you get the tright amount of sleep, eat well and exercise.  As long as you are not burning yourself out, you will be okay!  Thank you for bringing up the point that people can become addicted to almost anything.  Most things are okay as long as we practice moderation.  

      Thank you for your input!

  4. This is great information that is sure to help those who are struggling to find ways to help loved ones who are caught in the cycle of drug addiction. Drugs have become more deadly in recent years and finding good ways to help those who are ready to move past their addiction is critical to reversing the deadly trend. Addicts need a lot of support to have the best chances of success with recovery. Thanks for sharing this helpful information. 

  5. This article is mind blowing. Not because I have never thought of some of these things before, which is true. It is mind blowing because someone finally took the time to say what has needed to be said for so long. I love the reasoning on the fact that making an addict suffer withdrawals as a means of negative reinforcement like sticking a pups nose in his poop, as being absolute nonsense! People are not dogs, and should not be treated as such no matter how detestable their choice are to us. Especially seeing as it does not produce the much desired result of sobriety. I also love how there is one source for both addicts and their families. They are not separate. Everyone should read this and I applaud you. Thank you.

    1. Thank you LaKeisha! I really appreciate your taking the time to read this article and thank you for the wonderful feedback. I will continue to speak the truth, no matter who I piss off (excuse my french!) This I can promise you and other readers! Have a wonderful day

  6. Hi XoAna,

    I am so happy to read your post. The reason is one of my close family members had cocaine with his friends when he was in college. I am not sure how many times one has to have the drug to get addicted. Later on his life, de drank alcohol, was in bhang and opioid addiction. With a combined effort of our family to get him out of addiction failed. He had heart disease and he got a heart stroke and was paralyzed. He could not visit the drug places and he was forced to stop. 

    This addiction was really bad. I was thinking of him while reading this website to look for a cure. There seems to have some centers. I would consider as any other severe disease and try treating it. We all have very limited will power as a human. 

    I believe having a positive mind and staying with a close supportive group who understand you will be a big help forward. I completely agree with you, everyone is different and may need different treatment.

    I will look forward to reading your website. It will be learning for the entire world. Thank you for your help.

    1. Anasuya- I am very sorry to hear about your family member’s drug use, the resulting health issues he faced, as well as the difficulties you and the rest of your family have undoubtedly faced worrying, caring, and struggling to help him.  

      There is no right answer for how many highs it takes to get ‘addicted’ to a substance.  It has to do with each individual’s brain chemistry, how quickly that person develops new habits and environment/lifestyle factors. In some situations, it takes as little as 1-3 times using a substance.  In others, it may take a user months to feel the ‘famous’ I can’t live without it feeling prefacing a using spiral.  

      Unfortuntely, there is no cure out there, but with a program tailored specifically for the drug user in your family, the rate of recovery success raises significatnly.  

      You are right, it is extremely difficult to give up using drugs with human willpower alone. Treating addiction as a disease is one of the reasons AA has had so much success.  The disease model allows the user to accept what he cannot change, change the things he can….and I am sure you know the rest!

      AA was not the answer for me, but there are many other ways to recover. In my opinion, substance abuse is closer to a disorder, than an addiction.  For my explanation on this, check out What is the Cause of Drug Addiction?  Understanding this gave me the insight I needed to really begin my recovery journey. 

      Lastly, I also agree, having a supportive, positive recovery community around is a HUGE part of a successful recovery.  This is one of the things that AA does very well.  The fellowship is huge.  A group of people who understand what you are going through is extremely helpful for most drug users in recovery.   

      Thanks so much for reading!

  7. Hi Ana

    Your site here is amazing, this is down to earth, no bull, Reality.

    I salute you for your raw honesty and really appreciate it.

    This must help so many people and their friends and families.

    You can’t go wrong here as you have your own experience to share, so the insight you provide can be totally trusted.  I like that.

    I also love how intelligent you are, you have achieved so much in your life and you continue to do so.

    I would like to congratulate anyone who has recovered from Heroin, that in itself is amazing human strength and will power.

    I watch a lot of documentaries on Heroin as I like to see how strong Humans can be.

    To me, I see a person that looks close to death and after rehab, it is like a butterfly that emerges and there is this beautiful soul that comes out of the addiction and into recovery. 

    Addiction is heartbreaking and I believe it is a disease.

    However, I am no expert, but you are and this site is a great place for anyone to come and understand, get help, vent or just read.

    Congratulations on your recovery Ana.

    Kind Wishes

    Daisy

    1. Daisy, thank you for your kind words.  Recovery is the toughest thing a drug user ever faces, so I also love to see or hear a success story. I also see success in those who recover, relapse, recover, and relapse again and again.  The will to recovery shines through tremendously in people who struggle with constant relapse.  Sadly, this can claim the life of users as well, so society shies away from talking about relapse. 

      My goal with this site is to give people a forum to vent and relate to other user’s stories, as well as provide resources for recovery programs.  Many people think AA is the only program out there that works, but that is GFAR from the truth. For example, I had trouble accepting substance abuse as a disease. I feel it is more of a disorder, as described in What is the Cause of Drug Addiction? 

      I believe it is okay if a user feel AA is not a good fit for him, as long he actively looks for another program better suited for his own individual recovery.  

      Thank you for reading and for the well wishes!

  8. Ana,
    If I had your site handy when I was going through this with my mother, she might be with me now.
    Her addiction was to pharmaceutical opiates, namely oxycodone, but she would take it any way she could get it in a pinch. I worked for years to try to get her clean. She would spend months in the hospital and seek out her drugs as soon as she got out. No matter how many stashes I found and removed, she had more.
    I am glad you are sharing your experience with addiction and recovery. It gives people hope that there is a way out and that it can be done without excessive suffering.
    Your courage is uplifting.

    Thank you.

    Gwendolyn J

    1. Thank you Gwendolyn for commenting and sharing your mother’s story.  I am very sorry to hear about her passing.  I do hope this article reaches those who are suffering today.  Hopefully, it provides help to someone who needs it.   Also, thank you for saying I am courageous.  Many times I felt like I was the complete opposite of that, more coward than anything, a slave to my own habits.  It was not easy. In fact, I still struggle daily.  However, recovery is possible and that is what people need to hear.

      Thanks again!

  9. Ana,
    If I had your site handy when I was going through this with my mother, she might be with me now.
    Her addiction was to pharmaceutical opiates, namely oxycodone, but she would take it any way she could get it in a pinch. I worked for years to try to get her clean. She would spend months in the hospital and seek out her drugs as soon as she got out. No matter how many stashes I found and removed, she had more.
    I am glad you are sharing your experience with addiction and recovery. It gives people hope that there is a way out and that it can be done without excessive suffering.
    Your courage is uplifting.

    Thank you.

    Gwendolyn J

  10. Wow. Powerful stuff. Whilst I agree in essence with most of what you have written since drug abuse is often not treated as an illness, rather a form of self abuse, there has to be an element of will power in each individual as well to kick the habit. Without this, no treatment will work.

    My brother was an alcoholic for 10 years. What made this worse was that he was a cop. When he was found unconscious and non-responsive one day at home by his teenage daughter, he was rushed to hospital for treatment. Though he survived, he was told that if he continued along the path he was on he would be dead inside 5 years. He was 38 at the time. He lost his job and almost his family.

    Many rehab centres have plenty of ex-cons so it was often hard to find an appropriate site for an ex-cop, fear of reprisals were high. He has been off the booze now for 12 years. Though there was no jail (although this was more because of good fortune), his will power and the support of his wife were what enabled him to get where he needed to be.

    My point, will power has to be a core component of the treatment and it sounds like you had it when you decided enough was enough.

    Regards

    Pete

    1. I agree with you tenfold.  If a user is not willing to give it a shot, there is no use in trying.  However, sometimes it takes a user getting clean for a bit to remember what sobriety feels like.  It is always good for the family to encourage cutting down or stopping use.  However, I do not suggest these conversations take place every time you are with the user.  At that point, the user may start to pull away from those he cares about the most and it becomes a lot harder to ask for help.  

      I will be writing an article soon about the challenges we face from society when our drug use is found out about.  

      The most obvious example is when a user has to rebuild his life with a felony on his record.  A job and steady housing are two crucial aspects of recovery and a felony makes it near impossible to secure these things.  In essence, we are hindering people’s ability to recover the way our system is set up today.  

      Your brother’s situation is is a less obvious example, however just as common.  Once his job heard what happened they most likely had to let him go.  This did nothing to help his recovery.  As you stated, his wife and will power were what helped him.  

      If society does not fix the way we treat those is recovery, the percentage of society with dependencies on opioids, alcohol, methamphetamines, cocaine, acid, and/or benzodiazepines will continue to increase and the death toll will skyrocket. 

      I am very happy to hear your brother is doing well.  I bet he would love the program SMART recovery, as it is recovery training for those of us who are more prone to identifying with Cognitive Behavioral type drug treatments.  

      (I had many revelations, those “enough is enough” moments you speak of. However, I experienced them quite a few times, always thinking I was ready. People like to say ‘rock bottom,’ but that never made much sense to me. I am the person who never seems to hit rock bottom because I pick up my shovel and keep on digging! )

      Thank you for visiting and tell your brother to check us out! If he would be interested in writing a guest piece, we would be honored to hear from him!

  11. Wow, while reading your article, I felt like I was watching you tell your story on 60 Minutes. Your descriptions are so good and real. I am sorry you have gone through these addictions yourself, but many people are going to benefit from your old pain. This is a tremendous testimony to the way addicts need to be treated. And no, jail is not the answer. We need to get addicts help that really works so they can once again become contributing members of society.

    You have a gift and I truly hope many people read this. I am going to bookmark it and share it with many people I know.

    1. Curtis- Thank you so much for your time and your compliments.  60 minutes! How did you know that would be a dream come true for me? 🙂

      Also, no need to be sorry for the challenges I have experienced.  I have begun feeling grateful for some of them.  Hopefully all of them someday! I am the author of my life, no one to blame but myself.  

      However, being the author comes with other perks as well.  For example, I decided my story was going to have a different ending.  Plot twist! So here I am today, hoping my story will be used as a resource for others and that the ending will be one I can be proud of.  

      Thank you Curtis and have a wonderful day!

  12. I appreciate this article and someone who lives with a recovering addict. I wasn’t with him when he detoxed, so only know of it from his stories, but I have seen his relapses & had him disappear twice overnight. It can seem so impossible to understand from the outside, so I appreciate this insight. I really didn’t know that rapid detox existed, so thank you for the information.

    1. Relapse can be very scary but it is best to focus on what the user does after the relapse. Many drug users do not come back from relapse. In other words, they may overdose or go back into a drug-using spiral. Fortunately, it sounds like your husband came back safe and sound. Making the right decision the next day after a relapse says a lot about a user’s will to stay clean. Lapses in judgment happen, we are only human.

      Rapid detox is a wonderful thing if someone is really ready to start their recovery journey. Frequently, the only thing holding back a drug user is the fear of painful withdrawals. This does away with that! No more excuses!
      Thank you again for reading.

  13. Very informative…thank you for helping us to understand our loved ones struggle…many of us cannot afford the rapid detox or medicated withdrawal at private facilities. I took my daughter to the only hospital that took her insurance and was turned away because she wasn’t “sick” enough….she was sick enough to be screaming at me to let her out of the car (and I would have lost her to the streets again) I ended up having to borrow money to get her into a private detox center. What should I have done differently to get help at that hospital?

    1. Every situation is going to be different but, as a user myself, the feeling of needing “one last high” is insurmountable on day 2-5(and beyond) of withdrawal. You did the right thing getting your daughter into another program.
      It is pathetic that a facility would turn someone away that has admitted to having a problem and is willing to enter a detox program. Obviously, the drug user would not be there if they did not need help! There should be a no-turn away policy, in my opinion.
      If you had not been able to borrow money and your daughter did go out to get high, she would have certainly been sick enough the next day. However, that high could have been her last, so I do understand the fear behind that. (Hopefully, detox facility personnel read this and get their acts together!)
      Had you and your daughter known she needed to appear sicker, I would have suggested she play up her symptoms. It’s not good to encourage lying but, in a situation like this, the benefits outweigh the means. I look at it this way: We ‘did whatever we had to to get high’. So, sometimes we have to ‘do whatever we need to for our recovery.’

      Note: Recently, methadone clinics(in many states) have begun to do suboxone tapers. Although it is not inpatient, if the user is already off the heroin, a week of suboxone will help immensely. The user will be able to think striaght while deciding on which program (sober living, inpatient, recovery meeting, inndividual counseling) best suit their individual needs. Also, if the suboxone taper is not enough to keep a user form relapsing, methadone is an option.
      Thank you for reading and hope this helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *