If you have a loved one who’s struggling with heroin abuse, you may be feeling a range of emotions. This is not an easy thing to go through, and you are not alone.
Whether it’s a spouse, child, significant other, or another loved one, loving a heroin addict* often takes purposeful steps to maintain a healthy relationship during a loved one’s addiction.
*Important note: We try to avoid stigmatic language such as ‘addict’ as much as possible. However, we will use this language in this article to inform and equip those struggling with drug use and their loved ones.
Loving A Heroin Addict: Steps To Take
There are a few key steps to take when loving a heroin addict. Depending on your relationship with this person, these steps may look a little different for you.
For example, you may have more intense boundaries and involvement if you’re living with a heroin addict versus living separately from them.
Take these tips and adapt them to best fit your relationship with a loved one struggling with heroin abuse.
Create Boundaries With A Heroin Addict
One of the first steps to creating a healthier relationship with a heroin addict is to establish boundaries.
This is often one of the most difficult things to do because these boundaries are usually new and can feel threatening or harsh. But boundaries are an essential step toward a better relationship.
Boundaries are the rules set in place to protect you and your loved one. These guidelines protect you from getting taken advantage of and from enabling your addicted loved one.
Here are a few boundaries you might consider with your loved one:
- Establish that using around you will not be tolerated.
- Do not allow other heroin-using friends or family members to enter your home.
- Take away any heroin paraphernalia you find in your home or shared space.
- Do not cover their financial liabilities, such as paying off debts, covering legal fees, bailing them out of jail, or covering rent.
Again, some of these may feel harsh if they’ve never been established. But it’s important to remember that your safety and emotional wellbeing are just as important as theirs.
Do your best to follow through with consequences and stick to your word. This way, your loved one will know that your boundaries are serious.
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Offer Support For A Heroin Addict
When you’re loving a heroin addict, one of the most important aspects of this relationship is offering support and guidance when they need it.
Support does not have to mean paying off their debts, housing them even when they’re using, or other things that cross your boundaries.
This may look like finding counseling programs, addiction treatment centers, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings nearby, and other aspects of addiction support.
Be a source of encouragement and guidance, offering to talk them through the difficulties they’ve been having with heroin addiction, and pointing them toward recovery.
Know The Impact Of Codependency
Codependency often happens as a result of poor boundaries. It’s usually a one-sided relationship in which the non-addicted person feels responsible for their addicted loved one.
Many family members, spouses, and other loved ones will experience codependency when a substance like heroin has been the center of the relationship for an extended period.
Codependent people might:
- have low self-esteem
- feel they have control over a loved one’s addiction
- find it difficult to define themselves outside the context of a loved one’s addiction
- develop compulsive behaviors
- feel defeated when their loved one relapses
- have difficulty adapting to change
- often feel frustrated, angry, or resentful
Avoiding the negative impacts of codependency involves setting stricter boundaries with an addicted loved one and focusing on developing one’s individuality.
Avoid Enabling Your Loved One
If you love someone with a heroin addiction, you’ve likely experienced many instances of enabling. It’s common and can be one of the most difficult things to overcome as a loved one.
Enabling is any action or behavior that prolongs or supports a loved one’s addiction. This often comes from a good place, because we want to help our addicted loved ones.
However, supporting a heroin addict too much can enable them to continue their addiction consequence-free.
Examples of enabling behaviors include:
- denying their addiction
- ignoring heroin use or signs of relapse
- lying to protect them
- giving them money
- minimizing the addiction or abuse
Take Care Of Yourself
When you’re loving a heroin addict, sometimes you can lose sight of yourself. You may be so focused on their recovery and harmful behaviors that you forget to take care of yourself.
If you have a relationship with a heroin addict, take time to focus on your needs.
A few ways you might care for yourself while loving an addict include:
- seeking therapy
- attending support groups for loved ones of addicts
- spending time alone
- pursuing your passions and hobbies
- finding things that give you meaning and purpose
- distancing yourself from your addicted loved one when necessary
- reflecting on your personal needs, goals, and desires
- eating well and exercising
Getting Treatment For A Heroin Addict
It can be challenging to take the next step in recovery when you’re loving a heroin addict. If they’re open to it, discuss treatment options with them.
We have a staff of trained specialists who are prepared to take your call any time. We’ll walk you and your loved one through your options for heroin addiction treatment.
Call our helpline today to learn more about the addiction recovery centers available now.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Mental Health America—Co-Dependency
- The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center—How to care for yourself while loving someone with addiction
- University of Pennsylvania Health System—Enabling Behaviors