In 12 Step programs like Narcotics Anonymous, drug users learn that "addiction" is a permanent disease, and the only way to resist its influence is to lean on a "higher power", group meetings, and a personal sponsor instead. If users still have a desire to use drugs rather than seek drug treatment -- or if that desire occasionally feels greater than their desire to stay sober -- they're warned about the consequences of "relapse" and reminded that these desires will control them for the rest of their lives.
For heroin users, this narrative is particularly believable. After all, regular heroin use conditions their bodies to require it, until they can't quit without dealing withdrawal symptoms and drug detox. However, "once an addict, always an addict" is a mantra without much room for hope, growth, or personal choice. It forces a permanent label onto anyone who struggles to stop using, and it promises that heroin will always be stronger than the individuals who use them.
Fortunately, it's false. For all of the following reasons (and more), heroin use will never, ever define you.
No one can predict the future. If you use heroin today, it doesn't mean you'll use -- or even want to use -- it for the rest of your life. Sobriety might not be easy, but you're not doomed to repeat an infinite cycle of uncontrollable urges, cravings, relapse, and recovery. As you explore alternative ways to deal with your problems and develop more productive habits, heroin will no longer look like your only option or desire.
Heroin may cause physical dependencies over time so that you may need to detox. However, it doesn't make your decisions for you. After you go through detox, the only factor that can directly cause your heroin use is your own decision to use it again.
Heroin use might be a habit that's hard to break, but it's still just a repeated behavior. Behaviors alone don't change your brain permanently, and they don't set lifelong cycles of self-destruction in motion. Physical heroin dependencies can be medically treated through detox. Psychological heroin cravings are handled with changing your thinking and moving forward past substance use. There's no amount of heroin use that's capable of "infecting" you with a chronic condition called "addiction".
When 12 Step participants use drugs again, they supposedly re-set the clock and must start all over again with their progress toward sobriety. Even if they were clean for two decades, they're in the same boat as people who just entered an AA meeting or 12 Step program for the first time, because they've rendered their previous progress meaningless.
At Freedom Model Retreats, we realize you and your journey are unique. Our goal is simply to help you achieve your own goals, become more self-aware, and learn how to identify patterns of thoughts and behaviors that no longer serve you so that you can then choose to change what doesn't work for you, as you are moving forward. You write the program plan that makes sense for you with the goals and dreams you wish to achieve laid out in black and white. No matter what, the progress you make with us is a positive thing, and you should be proud of your commitment to improving your life.