Factors Facilitating Recovery: Gaining a Positive Identity

People with serious substance use problems lose a lot of the roles or personal characteristics that help define their normal identity (e.g. loving son, athlete, generosity, intelligence) as their dependence on their substance(s) increases, relationships wither and isolation increases. Eventually, their identity as viewed by others may become ‘a useless, dirty addict’. They will also have personal views of what they have become and these views can lead to lowered self-esteem or even intense hatred of oneself.

On the basis of qualitative research with over 100 heroin addicts who had recovered from their addiction without professional treatment, Patrick Biernacki argued that: ‘To change their lives successfully, addicts must fashion new identities, perspectives and social world involvements wherein the addict identity is excluded or dramatically depreciated.’ [1]

Read More ➔

Pathways from Heroin Addiction: Recovery Without Treatment, Part 3

I continue my series of blog posts on Patrick Biernacki’s research from the mid-1980s focused on natural recovery from heroin addiction.

People who have been addicted to heroin report experiencing cravings for the drug long after they have given up using. Many people who have relapsed and gone back to using the drug after a period of abstinence attribute their relapse to their cravings for the drug.

A craving for heroin is used to describe a strong desire or need to take the drug.  Craving is often brought about by the appearance of a cue that is associated with the past drug use. These may be cues associated with the withdrawal from heroin, or with the pleasurable effects of the drug.

Read More ➔

Pathways from Heroin Addiction: Recovery Without Treatment, Part 2

In my last blog post, I started to look at the research of Patrick Biernacki, conducted in the US in the mid-1980s, which involved interviews with 101 people who had recovered from heroin addiction without treatment.

This research indicated that once people who have become dependent on heroin decide to stop using the drug, they are often unsure about what they should do with their lives instead. They may know what they do not want to do, but they are less certain about what they do want and how they can go about getting there.

This problem is greater for those who have immersed themselves in the world of addiction. They may have no money, no place to live, and no friends (other than other heroin users) and family to help them get out of their situation.

Read More ➔

Pathways from Heroin Addiction: Recovery Without Treatment, Part 1

Many people believe that if you try heroin, then you are on the path to ruin. They consider that addiction to heroin is inevitable, and the route to being drug-free again is extremely difficult, if not impossible. In fact, the vast majority of people who try heroin do not become addicted to the drug [1].

Many people, including treatment professionals, believe that it is essential that a person who becomes addicted to heroin has treatment to recover. However, research by Patrick Biernacki, conducted in the US in the mid-1980s, and others has revealed that many people recover from heroin addiction without treatment. In this and the following three blog posts, I describe Biernacki’s research and consider the characteristics of this recovery process. We need to learn from this research to help other people overcome heroin addiction.

Read More ➔

Most Viewed Content on Recovery Stories: The Top Five

And so here we are, the top five viewed content!

rsz_pic00016_35. Mark Williams on Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (blog from August 28th). Professor Mark Williams of the University of Oxford talks about mindfulness meditation as an alternative treatment for depression. Mindfulness is also a powerful tool to help someone recovering from addiction.

4. The challenges of recovering from heroin addiction is a short article I wrote summarising the research of Patrick Biernacki, who interviewed 100 people who had overcome heroin addiction without treatment. You can also read a longer article about the research on this website.

Read More ➔

The challenges of recovering from heroin addiction

DSCF2083When you ask people what difficulties a person faces when trying to overcome heroin addiction, most will focus on the early withdrawal symptoms, which comprise both physical and psychological elements.

There are far greater challenges that lie ahead in a journey to recovery from heroin addiction. It is important that people know this (users, family members, family members, etc), although it is also important that people with a heroin problem are not put off by these challenges. Many people have overcome heroin addiction.

Read More ➔