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How the Harrisburg Community Can Help Its Addicts

Written by Savannah Marie, Community Blogger | Jul 6, 2016 12:01 PM

When you think about heroin addiction, Pennsylvania isn't the first place that comes to mind. However, the opioid epidemic that's been sweeping across the nation hasn't skipped any states. Harrisburg is no exception to the drug influx. The heroin that's available has been getting cheaper and purer than it used to be, which only makes addiction problems worse.

This kind of addiction comes with many horrifying effects, but one of the least discussed is isolation. Drugs and alcohol often cause people to hurt those they care about, and can leave them suffering and alone, even when getting sober. The isolation can be significantly damaging, and it can contribute to relapses and overdoses.

Working toward recovery is best done with the help of others. Close friends and family of recovering addicts aren't always ready to become involved. For an addict looking for a way out, finding their tribe within the Harrisburg community could be vital to their long-term recovery and success in life.  

Foster Good Relationships

Addicts acquire their most important asset on the road to recovery through creating a solid foundation with other people. Nurturing relationships with people willing to accept them -- regardless of the baggage they bring -- provides a mental boost and an increase in self-worth. The key here is acceptance, which is not the same thing as supporting or enabling the habit.

New relationships can open a door to heal older relationships damaged by addiction. Community housing is one option. Recovering addicts who live in collaborative housing have a better chance at full recovery than those who don't.

For some addicts, living with other recovering addicts isn't an option. For them, recovery clinics are where they can find healthy relationships. Making yourself available or volunteering at a recovery clinic can open the door for starting this kind of relationship. Listening with an open mind and no preconceived notions can be a huge boon for many recovering addicts.

Harrisburg offers some community services like the drug and alcohol services ran by Dauphin County. Programs like this, which provide services to those who need it, foster community and give others the opportunity to grow beyond and past addiction.

Open Up Communications

Open, respectful communication is the best way to allow someone to ask for help. Community housing and county or other local agencies begin the groundwork for this step in recovery and prevention.

Asking is the first and most repeated step of the recovery process, so it's vital that addicts feel safe doing so. No one wants to admit to being close to a relapse, only to have it held against them if they do give-in to the temptation. Again, creating a safe, non-judgmental relationship with people is the first step to give them this opportunity to communicate.

For many people, being honest is much easier to do with someone who you aren't as familiar with. Sometimes it's painful to be honest with family and loved ones suffering from addiction. An outside observer from the community offers a degree of separation from complex family ties and emotions.

Following through and doing what you say you'll do is usually enough to create a solid, trustworthy relationship. Be involved, stay involved, and promote involvement on the community level.

Create Support

A solid support group is an important part of any lifestyle change, and recovering from addiction is no exception. Connecting people who are trying to recover with their community creates support networks that wouldn't have existed otherwise. Connect your loved one or neighbor with one of the county's outpatient or in-patient treatment agencies.

Addicts can connect with others who have things to offer that may not have been available to them before. Options like job opportunities, advice on furthering their education -- and even basics, like how to draw up a budget and work on improving credit -- can all make a huge difference in their lives. In addition to support for daily practicalities, these steps could connect them to a yoga or mediation class. The combination of support is a well-rounded approach for recovery.

The Mid-Atlantic, including Harrisburg, reported a 65% availability of heroin in 2015 -- this statistic makes it more likely that someone in recovery will be tempted and relapse. Children as young as 10 to 14 years old have died from heroin. Drugs don't discriminate by age or any other demographic.

Community support acts as a barrier to relapse, strengthens the community as a whole and prevents the beginning of the cycle of addiction itself.

Reintroduce to Sober Society

Recovering addicts must go through the process of relearning how to lead a sober life. They need to find sober friends who won't surprise them with drugs at a party, or ask them for a ride to the liquor store. They need to surround themselves with safe, sober people and activities so they can relearn how to function without drugs.

If a person achieves sobriety and is then dropped back into the same environment that encouraged their drug use, a relapse isn't only likely -- it's probable. Recovering addicts need to make solid, long-lasting changes in order to fully recover. With help from the community, maintaining sobriety is more achievable.  

As Harrisburg continues to grow economically, we can't ignore the worsening drug crisis and those who are affected by it. If you haven't personally been affected by heroin, you probably know someone who has -- or is.

No one is immune to the effects of drug addiction. Strengthening your community as a whole will lead to better support for recovering addicts.  

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