Preventing Heroin Abuse Relapse, Creating Long-Term Recovery

It is difficult to understand why relapse happens. Learning to prevent relapse and how to get back on track is crucial to long-term recovery. Timberline Knolls provides the necessary resources and support to give our clients the best chance of finding lasting success.

Heroin Relapse and Recovery

Heroin is an extremely dangerous drug that can wreak havoc on the lives of those who become ensnared in its grip. When an individual takes the steps necessary for overcoming an addiction to heroin, it is a tremendous accomplishment. By participating in treatment for heroin addiction, individuals can learn how to overcome their cravings, resist temptations, and make the lifestyle changes necessary for remaining sober. However, even once these coping tools have been learned, individuals must make a conscious effort to stick to them. Unfortunately, the nature of addiction causes individuals to have to consistently work to maintain their sobriety. As such, individuals must be committed to their recovery and work daily not to fall back into using.

One of the most beneficial ways of remaining strong in one’s recovery journey is to participate in aftercare services once one’s initial time in treatment has come to an end. By engaging in support groups or follow-up care programs, individuals have the best chance of maintaining their sobriety and remaining successful in their recoveries. If an individual chooses not to take advantage of aftercare services, she may be susceptible to relapsing back into heroin use.

A relapse occurs when a person has successfully ceased her use of heroin, but then falls back into using after having been sober for a period of time. Addiction is not something that can be cured, so it is not uncommon for individuals in recovery to experience relapses. Relapsing does not mean that a person has failed or that she is weak or flawed in some way. It is simply a challenge that all people in recovery are forced to face. The good news, however, is that even if a relapse occurs, sobriety can still be achieved once again.

Reasons Why People Relapse

Relapses into heroin use can happen for a variety of reasons. Even when a person has participated in treatment, she may still experience cravings and temptations to use. The goal of treatment is to help these individuals learn how to avoid those temptations and not allow their cravings to overpower them. However, some of life’s circumstances may make it difficult to do so. Examples of some factors that can lead a person to relapse can include the following:

  • Believing that one can use heroin just “one more time”
  • Associating with other individuals who are using heroin
  • Experiencing doubts as to whether or not being sober truly matters
  • Feeling as though life was more manageable while using heroin
  • Boredom
  • Experiencing a trauma
  • Experiencing significant stress that one does not feel capable of managing

This, however, is by no means an exclusionary list. There can be any number of things that cause a person to give into the temptation to use heroin again, and that use can rapidly lead one back into the devastating cycle of addiction.

Even for those individuals who do not experience a relapse, it is an unfortunate fact that they will forever be faced with temptation. This is why it is imperative for those in recovery to remain committed to their sobriety and take active measures to stay sober.

How to Prevent Heroin Relapse

While the temptation to use any substance can be seemingly everywhere, it is important to recognize that there are things that an individual can do in order to help prevent herself from relapsing. And, should a relapse occur, individuals should be encouraged by the fact that there are things that can be done to prevent them from relapsing again in the future.

When individuals take part in comprehensive programming to overcome an addiction to heroin, the professionals at the treatment center where they are engaged should work with them to create and outline a thorough discharge plan. Most treatment centers will begin devising an aftercare plan from the moment a person enters their care. In doing so, individuals can feel secure in the knowledge that, once their structured care has come to an end, they still have options for support.

The following list outlines a number of ways in which individuals can work to prevent a relapse from occurring:

  • Join a support group within your community.
  • Attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings.
  • Work closely with your treatment provider to ensure that you have a set plan for continuing care services once your time in treatment has come to an end.
  • Avoid being in places where heroin use is likely to take place.
  • Refrain from surrounding yourself with other individuals who use heroin.
  • Locate a sponsor and remain in active communication with him or her.
  • Actively practice the coping skills that you learned while in treatment.
  • Discuss the ways in which you plan on maintaining your sobriety with friends or family members who you can trust, and who you feel can encourage you and help you remain committed to that plan.
  • Adhere to whatever continuing care plans your treatment provider helped to put in place.

If you do experience a relapse, do not feel like you have failed. It is a setback, but you can still be successful in your recovery. Seek out support, and re-engage in a treatment program if possible.

If you or a loved one have relapsed into heroin use, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced professionals at Timberline Knolls. We can help you or your loved one get back on track to living a healthy and recovered life.

Reflecting back, I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since my first stay at TK. I walked in unsure, frightened and hopeless. 12 weeks later, I walked away carrying hope that the staff and fellow patients instilled in me. The hope started to dwindle and this process repeated itself 3 more times. However, each time I discharged I walked away with news skills (thanks DBT), more sass and grew as a person with each stay.

I discharged from TK for the last time in April of 2017. I wasn’t fixed, frankly some days I didn’t even feel “better” but I was alive. I owed that to TK, especially the staff on Maple. I was truly blessed to be supported and loved by the staff. Our conversations were filled with sass and support, what more could I want?!

Okay, the part we’ve been waiting for. I’m currently 9 months into solid recovery. I can truly say I’m not just surviving, I’m thriving. In March I started TMS treatment at an outpatient level and have had incredible, life changing results. This treatment, mixed with the skills and support of TK I’m back in school finishing my bachelors in psychology and moving on to get my masters of social work.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I cannot express my gratitude enough for the staff who never gave up on me. I was hardy easy to deal with but was ALWAYS treated with respect and love. You guys are life changers and role models. My life is better because of the advice y’all have given me.

With much love,

– Kaitlyn
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