Updated on April 22, 2024
5 min read

Heroin Recovery Stories / How Does Heroin Addiction Recovery Happen?

Heroin addiction never happens the same way every time for people who develop a dependence. Different factors lead to it—genetics, your environment, or even any mental health vulnerabilities. We know that it can be challenging and that addiction is incredibly complex—what’s important is that you’re looking to get better.

For Crystal Oertle, her obsession and addiction to opiates started at 20 years old. Someone offered her Vicodin, and it evolved into heroin. She then sought it out wherever she could for years.

“It was every day, trying to find a pill anywhere that I could find. And as my tolerance grew, so did my need for stronger kinds of pain medications. Until one day, there was none. I couldn’t find a pill anywhere, and someone told me they could get me heroin.”

Why Do You Need Rehab When Recovering from Heroin Addiction?

Those who struggle with addiction often make using and taking drugs their priority. Crystal mentioned how heroin affected her life, saying, "It was my drug of choice—my obsession every day was getting heroin."

Additionally, developing a dependence on heroin can cause harmful withdrawal symptoms.

"I knew I was physically addicted to the pain pills. So I was going to be getting sick if I didn't get something, and the withdrawal symptoms are really—they're really awful. There were days where I just would rather have died than feel the pain that that is and that sickness.”

Because of how heroin affects your physical, emotional, and mental health, you’ll often need rehab to recover. Rehab facilities offer medication, monitoring, therapy, and other services for long-term sobriety.

How Heroin Addiction Affects Your Loved Ones

Any type of addiction can strain your relationship with loved ones. For Crystal, she ended up prioritizing getting heroin over her family.

“The things I did to get that drug—my daughter, like I said, was about two at the time I was doing that, and I brought her with me. In my mind, it was safer for her to be with me than to leave her with some random person that was waiting for us to get back with the drugs. We did get pulled over with her in the car with us one time—that wasn't enough to make me quit.”

Right after she talked about how that incident still didn’t scare her enough to make her quit heroin, she moved on to another incident.

“My son was about 13 I think, and he would go to the skate park when I made these trips. I was about 45 minutes away, my mom calls and says he's at the hospital; he'd been bitten by a dog. A complete stranger drove my son to the hospital because I was an hour away in another town scoring heroin. That wasn’t enough to make me quit.”

Crystal continues to say that her son would often be angry with her, and one day found the purse she used to keep her needles and spoon and gave it to her mother, asking his grandmother to make his mother stop. Still, that didn’t get her to quit.

Addiction hurt the people around her, and it took a while before she finally understood what that meant.

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When Should You Go Into Rehab?

Ideally, you should start considering rehab as soon as you or a loved one notices or points out that you’re dependent on heroin or any other substance. You shouldn’t wait until you start experiencing negative consequences, long-term health problems, dependence, and withdrawal—though these can be good signs that you need rehab urgently.

Additionally, understanding how your addiction affects others can be a good sign that you need professional help.

“About seven months ago, [Crystal’s mother] looked at me, and the way she looked at me, she wasn't mad. She wasn't really even sad she just said, ‘You've got to stop.’ She was just so serious about it, and I could tell by the look on her face that I knew I was disrupting my life.”

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Finding Support in Recovery

Having supportive people in your life can drastically affect your recovery journey. They can help support and guide you while holding you accountable for your actions. 

Support can come from anywhere⁠—friends, support groups, or doctors. But for Crystal, it was her family.

"My family has been so supportive through this. They never turned their backs on me. I'm so lucky I feel so lucky and so grateful to have that support.”

Overcoming Stigma

People in recovery often struggle with the stigma associated with addiction. It can be isolating, frustrating, and stressful.

In some cases, the stigma can prevent many people from seeking help in the first place. However, having a strong support system can help you feel validated. As Crystal puts it:

"I can stand here today and not feel shame. I'm not ashamed that I was a heroin addict, and my family was never ashamed. I really think that prevents a lot of people from getting the help that they need because of the stigma."

What to Expect in Rehab?

The duration of your time spent in heroin rehab can vary depending on your needs. However, the length of treatment is generally between 30 to 90 days. Your stay can also be extended depending on the rehab facility’s observations and recommendations.

Rehab also provides various services, including:

It can be challenging, or even daunting, to overcome heroin addiction. However, it’s possible.

Many people have different stories of overcoming addiction, and each can help encourage your recovery journey. The right motivation and treatment can help you. Additionally, having a strong support system can also help you feel validated, safe, and secure during the process.

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Updated on April 22, 2024

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