When you think you have the answer to fix or cure the family member or loved one who is addicted, you will most surely come to find out eventually, and hopefully sooner than later, that was never possible to begin with.
What you will find out is that you have only complicated the process of their recovering to begin with.
It is imperative to understand that helping the heroin addict does not mean curing or eliminating the heroin users addiction.
This job belongs to the individual who is in the battle of fighting addiction.
The support in helping the heroin addict is just that…support…not the solution or the responsibility of winning the battle.
This assignment solely belongs to the addicted.
It is their journey to recovery and their job to recover…and theirs ALONE!
Doesn’t mean they have to do it alone…simply means the responsibility belongs to one; the individual who is suffering.
Close To Home
Helping the heroin addict is a topic that touches extremely close to home to say the least.
Having endured the wilds of my heroin addiction, which lasted 25+ years, I do believe that I have a thing or two to contribute to the subject.
According to research, an estimated 75% percent of people with a history of heroin addiction experience relapse.
I can honestly say that since that day on June 27th, 2008, I have not found a reason to go back and have been blessed with the Grace of God to persevere by my own footwork.
My footwork has contributed to my 13 years, 5 months of sobriety and I treasure that time!
However, I make no mistake of my reality and know, THAT I KNOW, that I AM NOT exempt and that addiction is the same today as it was over a hundred years ago…cunning, baffling and powerful.
Should I make a decision, I am one fix away from picking up right where I left off over 13 years ago.
Having the knowledge and understanding this is the absolute truth is also close to home.
In The Balance – Clean vs. Dirty Time
Just to refresh, I have gone from heroin addict to Substance Use Disorder Counselor.
In laymen terms, that would be an Alcohol & Drug Counselor if you will.
And just so we are clear, I have more dirty time than clean. I was on heroin for 25+ years.
I have been clean over 13 years and I have been working in recovery almost 10 years.
With that said, I will be speaking more from my experience rather than my education as an Alcohol & Drug Counselor.
The reason is simple. Although I have much to offer in both realms, my experience outweighs my education by almost three times the amount of years invested.
In short, I knew what it took to get dirty and I knew what it took to get clean.
By comparison, both of those things are simple enough to do opposed to the 75% percent of people experiencing a relapse.
Why? Because getting dirty is not the hard part nor is getting clean the hard part of the equation
Staying clean is the hard part of this equation…75% of the people who relapse just missed a good spot to say, “Amen!”
Denial – Reason For The Season
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, factors of the addiction equation is denial. Denial is a powerful tool when used.
Unfortunately, it is also a detrimental tool which becomes powerfully detrimental to the individual using it.
Denial is the reasoning of the unreasonable when the responsibility becomes too big to admit or own up to.
The Progression Of A Progressive Disease
They say that addiction is a progressive disease. When I say ‘they’ I am referring to the medical & scientific experts.
What this means or what is being conveyed is simply this…it is going to get worse before it gets better.
If the addiction is not arrested and treated, it will progress.
If there is one person living who can contest or challenge this, I have not met them nor has my 25+ years experience in my own addiction proved anything different or even remotely different.
It is, indeed, a progressive disease. It only gets worse.
Progression Fueled By Denial
While the progression is taking place, the addicted individual is the last to know.
Everyone around seems to notice the changes; the skittishness, the demeanor, the weight lose, the rationale, the appearance, the declined hygiene…you know, everyone…except the addict.
Why is this? What makes the addict undergo these changes that are so obvious to everyone else but oblivious to the individual?
This is what the face of denial looks like. The person suffering from denial is as bad as the disease of addiction itself.
People that recover from addiction have to get to the place where “they know that they don’t know!”
In other words, they come to realize that they don’t have the answer and, more importantly, realize that they need help.
They are no longer in the denial. They have accepted what is the truth.
On the other hand, people that DO NOT recover (and many die right there in their addiction) have not been able to grasp the truth of the disease.
They buy their own lying thoughts like, “I’ll quit tomorrow” or “I’ll go to rehab next week!” or “I’m not that bad yet!”
In other words, “they don’t know that they don’t know!” They are in, once again, denial.
How Can I Help? vs. Enabling
When someone you love, care about or close to, such as family member, close friend or even spouse or partner, is consumed in their addiction, it is important to understand one thing: Enabling is not helping; enabling is hindering.
Looking back on my own experience, I am able see that the people that loved me were caught up in enabling me.
Enabling me was not the intention; the intentions were to help me, but not knowing the difference made the difference.
I remember many times while in the streets, I would call family or friends and tell them I needed a hotel room for the night because I was in the streets.
What I really needed was money for my next fix. I had a million stories I could tell (or lies I could spin).
Even after the results of my actions in my addiction, which led to criminal prosecution many times and several prison terms, I would look to be enabled during that time.
I would paint a picture of how messed up it was inside these walls and that I have no money or anyone to send me a package.
I would tell this same story to everyone to achieve having multiple people put money on my books and send multiple packages to me for the duration of prison sentence(s).
Feeling sorry for me in both cases of these examples conclude to the same conclusion: good people thought they were helping me.
The intention, I have no doubt, was to help me. But the truth is…is that it did not help me at all.
It only enabled me. It enabled me to continue to repeat the same defective behavior and get away with it.
If there is one thing about a heroin user, they can become very creative, conniving and manipulative to feed their addiction.
Let’s Talk Real Talk, Can We?
If you are reading this right now, you probably have been affected by the disease of addiction.
Rather, you are the mother of, the sister of, the brother of, the wife of, the son or daughter of…even the best friend or grandparent of someone who is suffering from heroin addiction.
…and just for the record it could be any addiction, not just heroin.
And if so you have spent countless days, nights, weeks, months and years trying to help your loved one who is suffering from this awful disease.
You have not only invested your time but also your resources.
You have spent money bailing someone out of jail. Maybe even gone as far as to put the house up for collateral, only to have them jump bail and put you in financial burden.
How about the time you paid their rent so they would not get evicted or the electricity bill so the lights and electricity could stay on.
You paid the rent while they paid the connection their paycheck. And you don’t even live there?
What about the 15 episodes of treatment or rehabs that they never seem to complete but you are still paying the bill?
This is a common one: “I need to borrow a few dollars to get groceries and gas until I get paid!”
Other resources that you have invested such as your home to live in have been abused and manipulated.
You open your doors to help them so they can get on their feet and believe they will. Of course, you want to help.
Sadly, that ended with you discovering that almost everything you had in your home that was worth something, like your jewelry, is now missing.
I could go on and on. These are just a few examples and everyone should be able to at least identify with one of them, if not all of them.
The reason is that none of these are unique situations.
They happen every day, all day long, in the life of an addict and a person who is enabling them.
So How Can I Help?
To really help someone who is in denial is complicated. It doesn’t matter what or how many resources you supply to a person who is in denial about their addiction.
Until the denial is faced, unfortunately there is not much you or anyone else can do.
If you really want to help your loved one you cannot participate in assisting them to stay in the place of denial.
You cannot help someone who really doesn’t want to be helped.
So the advice I will give you is advice that worked for me. It is very simple and precise.
The way you can help is to let your loved one know that you will not assist them in staying stuck in their addiction.
You have to let them know that you will not support or fund their self-destruction, lies and manipulation.
You let them know that until that denial turns into acceptance of their truth and with that acceptance they are ready to make a change, that you will no longer be a part of the life that they have chosen nor will you allow them any longer into yours.
You have to present ultimatums and conditions for your relationship moving forward.
That presentation would resemble something like this:
“When you are ready to live, I will support that; not financially but morally and ethically.”
“When you make the decision that you realize you don’t want to just exist, but live, I will provide support for options to explore, to help you find the answers and results you need to get well.”
“When you make the decision that you are tired of being a slave to a substance and need help, I will drive you to rehab to get that help. I will help you when you want to live. I will not enable you to commit suicide, nor will I jump off that bridge with you!”
As you can imagine, or already know from experience, helping the heroin addict can not only present a challenge but a heartbreaking experience.
Come what may, a change will only come when the individual is ready.
You may be able to assist in helping them face the reality that denial is what is holding them back from getting well.
It was this approach by my loved ones that truly made me open my eyes.
After the years of heartbreak and disappointments one after another, my family and friends that really cared where able to convey a message to me that was the one thing that really HELPED ME.
That message was this…” I cannot possibly want to save your life more than you do! And until you do, I can no longer be a part of your life!”