Former heroin addicts start 12-step meetings in Monroe

Seven former heroin addicts have started Heroin Anonymous meetings at two locations in Monroe County.

They have come together to help current addicts learn to live sober.

“Heroin Anonymous is a place where someone can go so they don’t feel alone,” said Jeremy, one of the organizers, who asked that his last name not be included.

According to Jeremy, the meetings provide a place for addicts to relate to one another, giving them a sense of hope.

When addicts see fellow users overcome the same situation, it gives them hope that they can overcome it also, he said. 

The Heroin Anonymous organizers also host activities outside of the meetings.

This allows the addicts to feel a sense of support and gets them away from being around old friends.

It shows them they do not need their old habits to have a good time, said Nikki, another of the organizers, who are referred to as chairpersons. 

“I need to keep connected,” Nikki said. “Someone reached out to help me so I feel like it’s my responsibility to help someone else; it allows me to give back.”     

Someone can get addicted to substances by simply feeling bad about themselves, Jeremy said.

Having something wrong on the inside leads them to turn to a substance to try to get away from those negative feelings.

“Choosing to use was a bad decision. Getting started was mainly peer pressure, then after that it became a habit and I couldn’t stop,” Ronnie, a former heroin user, said. 

He said he knew he had hit rock bottom when he lost his car and job, and went to jail for six months. 

Ronnie said he realized that he needed help stopping, and he could not do it alone. 

“Jeremy has been the most influential person throughout my journey,” Ronnie said. 

The hardest part of the program for him was writing everything down on paper.

He knew that going back to his old habits would not help anything; he wanted to live a more positive life. 

Heroin Anonymous uses the “Guide to the Twelve Steps” in its meetings.

The goal is to get through the steps as quickly as possible.

“The faster they get through it, the faster they get sober,” Nikki said.

Step one is being able to admit that they have no power over the addiction.

Without admission of defeat, there is little desire to complete the remaining steps. 

According to Jeremy, the addicts must come to believe that there is a higher power.     

Heroin Anonymous is not a spiritual program. However, they must find a power higher than themselves to trust in, Nikki said. 

This power could be called anything they wish, such as God, Buddha, or the Universe. 

“I turned to God to let him tell me how to live my life. I do His will, not my will,” Jeremy said. 

Another step taken in the beginning of the program is to pick a sponsor, so the addict has someone to contact for support immediately. 

“A sponsor is someone who goes through the process with the addict,” Nikki said.

Being a sponsor means providing support through personal contact and phone calls, helping track their process, and meeting their mentees every week.

“An important part of the program is for the addict to reflect on his or her day at the end of the night, “Jeremy said.

They should look back and recall the moments where they may have lied, harmed, or wronged another individual. After doing this, they should begin to amend their mistakes. 

Making amends helps the addicts feel better and helps them become their best self, according to Nikki. 

Steps 10, 11, and 12, are the last steps of the program. 

Former addicts must continue doing these steps to help them stay sober.

These three steps are basically constant reflection of wrongdoings throughout the day, believing in the higher power to work through them, and to help others suffering from the same disease. 

Once a former addict is sober, there are many ways they can continue to stay sober.

“A former addict can become involved in Heroin Anonymous as a chairperson or sponsor,” Nikki said.

There are six sober living houses in Monroe County.

In these houses, heroin users can live with others who are also sober and plan to stay that way.

These homes give the former addicts rules and guidelines to follow, such as a curfew and drug testing, to make sure they are staying sober, Jeremy said. 

Nikki said heroin strikes people from all walks of life.  

“It’s important to know that addiction doesn’t have a face, this disease can affect anyone, even successful people,” she said.

She feels it is important for addicts to seek help on their own.

The Heroin Anonymous meetings are not advertised. If a person wants to fight their  addiction, they will seek out help.

The MCCC Admissions Office does not offer drug counseling. 

If a student is suffering from drug or substance abuse, the counselors refer the student to outside agencies to receive help, according to Mark Hall, director of Admissions and Guidance Services.

The Heroin Anonymous meetings are held at the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, 3250 N. Monroe St., in Monroe, at 7 p.m. Sundays, and at Oaks of Righteousness Christian Church, 1018 E 2nd St, in Monroe, at 4 p.m. Saturdays.