Loving a Heroin Addict Isn’t For The Faint-Hearted
Loving a person who is in active addiction or in recovery from heroin isn’t easy. Heroin is a drug that takes over the user’s mind, body, and spirit, leaving the rest of the people who love them wondering grieving them, even while they are still here. And it kills. It kills fast, unexpectedly, brutally, and sadly. A heroin addict in recovery is the best kind of heroin addict if there is one. But even after they have been treated, the questions still remain, nagging your friendship about relapse, trustworthiness, and it can be difficult to ever return to the relationship you once had.
A Story of Heroin Addiction and Love
When Brittany and her boyfriend met, they were both in recovery. Her for alcohol, him for heroin. Having never taken heroin or been exposed to people who used it, Brittany had complete trust with him and was completely naive to how bad things could turn.
Her boyfriend had a strange week. Out-of-the-ordinary behavior and periods of time unaccounted for. She didn’t want to believe there was a problem, after all, a relationship does demand a certain level of trust. At the end of the week, Brittany’s boyfriend overdosed. She was lost, confused and terrified. Her boyfriend survived, but a million questions remained.
How could he do this to her?
Was he trying to kill himself?
Would he do it again?
No one can answer those questions, not even he could. Heroin simply takes over and makes the user’s choices so much more difficult. It takes a person’s intention and soul and does with it what it wants. Brittany and her boyfriend stayed together after the OD. Even a year after it happened, her heart would drop when he didn’t answer texts or calls, reminding her exactly how it happened when he OD’d. She questioned his every move, which was unpleasant for both of them. It undoubtedly put a huge strain on their relationship. It’s rare, but together they continue to work on things. The relapse was a stressor on their relationship that will slowly relent over time, but many relationships cannot work through.
When Living With an Active Heroin Addict, Tough Love is Crucial
Unlike Brittany, many parents face the challenge of having a son or daughter living in their house who is addicted to heroin. These cases are tough because a parent will first be very resistant to admitting there is a problem, then when it can no longer be denied, they will naturally want to shield and protect their child from harm. However, when they do so, they might actually be supporting their addiction without knowing it.
Don’t Allow a Codependent Relationship to Form
These kinds of relationships are called codependent relationships, where one person is enabling the other. A codependent relationship can be one in which both people are addicted, however, most are a relationship where an addict is abusing the relationship of a loved one. A parent may refuse to cut their child off from money or having a place to live, but by continuing to provide them a haven when they are scraping rock-bottom they are enforcing the idea that using heroin is acceptable and can continue to go on.
Families of heroin addicts – parents, siblings, children, friends, and partners – all have to deal with the potential that an active heroin addict may steal from them in order to get the money for their next fix. Lying is also a central part of heroin addiction, and loved ones can never fully trust an addict’s words are truthful. The damage that was done in active addiction echo on through recovery, unsure how much to trust.
Get Treatment When it is Needed
Heroin is an extremely difficult drug to get off of, but it can be done with professional treatment. Getting a loved one to see they have a problem is hard, and it requires a level of toughness to convince them to see things your way. Things like ultimatums and taking away a place to live and money might be just what they need to convince them of how bad things are.
Loving a Heroin Addict in Recovery Requires Patience
When a heroin addict completes residential or outpatient treatment and is back in the real world, they are still intensely vulnerable to falling under the drug’s spell. And it is an incredibly powerful, alluring spell. Heroin addicts in this stage require a lot of support and a positive environment. When things go awry, it is easy for them to think the best place to turn is back to heroin. It doesn’t help that heroin is so often cheap and readily available. It is partially their loved one’s responsibility to show them that it doesn’t need to be the case.
Patience is key as recovering heroin addicts are re-learning how to live without drugs in their life. Before, drugs were their first priority, and now everything is new. A certain level of trust is necessary because fretting over a relapse 24 hours a day will make both you and them insane. Imagine getting out of a relationship with your live-in partner. There are suddenly large gaps in your life where you are unoccupied, and that used to be filled with strong emotional and physical feelings. These vacancies can be difficult to sort out and fill with healthy new endeavors. If you are in a position to support someone recovering from heroin addiction, they will likely need a lot of guidance through this period.
Loving a Heroin Addict In Recovery Requires Vigilance
That being said, vigilance is important too. If they start acting out of character or falling into old behavior patterns, talk to them about it. Watch for signs that heroin is back in their lives, and take action. This can help to prevent a relapse or overdose, and perhaps even save their life. Calling out suspicious behavior is difficult and you may reason those unfounded accusations may cause them undue stress. This is why it is important to lay out ground rules of interacting with them beforehand. The insidious part of the disease of addiction will deny, deny, deny. Though someone who has relapse likely cannot appreciate how transparent their denials are when they are in active use.
Finally, when you have a heroin addict, active or in recovery, in your life – take care of yourself. If you allow yourself to get completely consumed with their activities, both of you will fall back into the hole you’ve been trying so hard to get out of. Treat yourself well and do the things you love to do, with or without the addict. By doing this you will end up so much stronger and able to face any situation that comes your way.