Why People Relapse into Heroin Abuse
As heroin use has been on the rise in recent years, countless individuals, families, and communities have struggled to thrive under the strain of this harmful drug. Heroin’s devastating effects destroy physical and mental wellbeing, and hinder one’s ability to function to his or her highest potential, both professionally and interpersonally. If left untreated, an addiction to this highly addictive opioid can have fatal consequences. And for those men and women to truly want to rid their lives of the toxic symptoms of a heroin abuse problem, they may be unable to heal without the help of a reputable treatment program.
When one takes the first courageous step toward recovery by enrolling in a treatment center to begin the process of removing heroin from his or her body and mind, many challenges lie ahead. The detox process, even when supervised, can be exhausting. Then, as one begins engaging with his or her plan of care, difficult intrapersonal and interpersonal work ensues. Finally, as one is faced with the final days of treatment, he or she must ready him or herself to face life without heroin and without the structure of the treatment center environment. Those individuals who progress through the recovery process to this point must be congratulated and acknowledged for their efforts because true and lasting change requires an iron will and fearlessness in the face of the unknown.
And while these achievements should not be minimized, care must also be taken to plan for one’s transition from treatment back to the home environment. It is during this time that many in the recovery community have reported feeling anxious about their ability to remain sober without the support they were afforded while in treatment.
After achieving sobriety for a given period of time, some men and women fall victim to temptation and resume using their drug of choice once again. These individuals are said to have experienced a relapse, a common setback in the recovery process. Not to be misconstrued as the result of weakness or a lack of resolve, relapse happens because substances of abuse are highly addictive. Even individuals with the best intentions experience relapse from time to time, but this does not mean that sustained sobriety is beyond their reach.
The circumstances surrounding relapse cannot always be predicted. However, there are some common scenarios that have resulted in relapse for many individuals. A few of these scenarios are briefly described in the following:
- Failure to follow through on the aftercare plan provided by the treatment facility at which one was enrolled
- Unexpected stress at work or school
- Grief, loss, or trauma
- Untreated symptoms of a co-occurring mental health concern
- Pressure from peers who are still using heroin
- Exposure to places and/or situations that may elicit a temptation to use
- Feeling alone, hopeless, or isolated in one’s commitment to sobriety
- A false belief that one can use heroin casually without succumbing to habitual use
- Boredom or a lack of daily structure
- A difficult transition such as a career change, long-distance move, or the end of a relationship
While no one of the above factors will automatically result in a relapse, care should be taken to safeguard against these risks if possible. Fortunately, effective treatment centers will make discharge planning a key factor in their programming so that individuals who are exiting their care are armed with tools that will help prevent them from relapsing.
How to Prevent Relapse into Heroin Addiction
If you have ever heard the phrase “recovery process,” you know that recovery is not a destination that one arrives at after a single stay in treatment. Rather, it is a lifelong journey, comprised of daily recommitments to one’s decision to live a life free from heroin and other drugs.
So how does one maintain the sobriety he or she worked so hard to achieve in treatment? The very best means of achieving long-term healing and avoiding relapse is a comprehensive aftercare plan that reflects the unique strengths and challenges of a person who is exiting residential care. Aftercare plans consist of a variety of recommended supports, a few of which are described in the following:
- Make suggestions throughout the discharge process so that your aftercare plan reflects the supports that you know will help you as you return home.
- Join a support group in your community.
- Surround yourself with a group of friends or family who support your goals for recovery.
- Acquire a sponsor and connect with that person during times when temptation is taking hold.
- Structure your days to allow for very minimal idle time.
- Make sure to practice your coping skills each day, and take time to self-sooth.
- Focus attention on your physical health and emotional wellbeing.
- Avoid people, places, and situations that you know may tempt you to resume using heroin.
- If you were not given an aftercare plan upon exiting treatment, do your own research to learn about the supports available to you within your community.
To learn about the many ways that Wilmington Treatment Center can assist you or a loved one in healing from the devastating effects of an addiction to heroin, and to hear more about the details of our comprehensive aftercare planning process, please contact us today.