I am a recovering addict. And I wouldn’t be here today if i hadn’t gone down the rabbit hole of hardcore drug addiction. Here are 5 surprising things I learned from being a heroin addict.
#1. Physical dependence and addiction are two different things
When I finally decided to go into treatment for my heroin addiction, I thought that being physically dependent and being “addicted” were two different words that meant the same thing. In fact, I thought I was addicted to heroin because, after all, it is itself an addictive substance. But these are two different things. Yes, heroin is physically addictive meaning that, after a while of using it, when you stop, you with experience withdrawals.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you are a true-blue addict. Many “normal” people have experienced withdrawals from heroin or opiate painkillers and decided, “f*ck that, I’m never doing that again.” And get this: they don’t. As you will read in numbers 3, 4, and 5, addiction is much more than physical dependence.
#2. You can’t really predict an overdose
Even if you stay at the same dose as you’re used to using – amount, bag-wise – you’re never guaranteed a ‘safe’ high when it comes to heroin. You might already know that each batch differs in potency and there’s no way to tell what exactly you’re getting. But, even within the same batch, and within the same bag, you could potentially over-do it. Heroin addicts in the know call these “hot spots”- they are pockets of powder that contain a higher concentration of the drug. And you can’t tell just by looking at the stuff.
#3. Methadone is wayyy worse than heroin
Oh-my-god-way-worse. I began a methadone program at one point in my active addiction because I thought it would be the solution to my “heroin problem.” Little did I know that it is just as physically addicting and even harder to kick. I did methadone for 8 months before I suddenly decided one day that I was sick and tired of having to go to the clinic every (early) morning and spend lots of money on the government-regulated dope. Also, my life still wasn’t too great. Being on methadone, I still wasn’t myself and every day at noon/one-ish o’clock, I had to take a nap. Oh, so back to suddenly quitting methadone…I don’t recommend it. I was “sick” for about 2 months – I couldn’t work or manage to do much else than lay on the couch. Saying it was hell-on-earth is an understatement.
#4. Abstinence ≠ Recovery
Imagine it like this: you’re on a rollercoaster with no bar keeping you secured in your seat. You’re gripping on for dear life, white-knuckling it, as they say. This is abstinence.
After kicking methadone cold turkey, I thought: “I will never do that again.” Ha! Soon enough, I was back on the horse (as in heroin). I truly believed that after enduring so much pain and discomfort, that I had ‘learned my lesson’ so to speak. But, I wasn’t familiar with recovery at that time. I thought merely not using (abstaining) meant that I was OK and that I could go back to using from time to time.
I also learned that withdrawals get worse over time, meaning that, once you experience withdrawals – especially a particular bad episode – such as kicking methadone cold – that each subsequent time that you’re dope sick, it’s so much more intense. This phenomenon is well-understood when it comes to alcohol withdrawals and is known as the kindling effect.
Recovery, then, is working a program, learning and using certain, healthy tools and coping methods, and having sober supports in your life. Recovering actually means healing (in this case, from active addiction). It’s being proactive in building the life you want and not merely being in resistance of using.
#5. Being a heroin addict didn’t mean that I was only addicted to heroin
I was a poly-substance abuser: I did it all. And it wasn’t just drugs. It was sex, relationships, jobs, places to live, and so on and so forth. Being an addict means that you are constantly in search of something external – something “out there,” to fill the inner void. It took me becoming addicted to heroin to learn that I was, across-the-board, an addict. I am grateful for the experience because I would never have realized that I was an addict and that I needed help.
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