Getting Support from Heroin Anonymous: HA Meetings
The 12-step model has been an important part of the addiction recovery landscape since the inception of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935.1 Since that time, a number of different self-help organizations, inspired by the work of AA, have been created to help individuals overcome addiction, be it to gambling, overeating, sex, or drugs.1
In 2004, one of these offshoot programs was created to help individuals in recovery from heroin addiction.2 Heroin Anonymous (HA) is dedicated to helping recovering individuals overcome addiction through regular meetings, sponsorship, and on-going support.2
Just like many other prominent self-help groups for substance abuse treatment, Heroin Anonymous is modeled after the 12-step model.2
What Is Heroin Anonymous?
Heroin Anonymous is a non-profit organization that welcomes recovering men and women from all walks of life who meet regularly to support each other in their sobriety.2
The guiding principle of HA is complete abstinence from all drugs and alcohol and the group’s primary purpose is to maintain sobriety and help newcomers achieve the same. There is only one requirement for membership: the person needs to possess the desire to stop using heroin.2
HA is intended to support recovery but does not provide any form of professional counseling, psychological treatment, or medical care.2
Anonymity is important. It is one of the group’s 12 traditions.3
The group is fully self-supporting: it only takes voluntary contributions from its members, but does not accept outside contributions.2
Finally, HA neither endorses nor opposes any causes and is not affiliated with any other self-help group, organization, institution, denomination, politics, sects, or other religious groups.2
History of Heroin Anonymous
Heroin Anonymous was founded after Paul F., an individual recovering from heroin addiction in Alcoholics Anonymous, received a call in 2004 from Mike S. who was struggling with the same problem. Mike asked Paul why there wasn’t a specialized 12-step program for persons looking to overcome heroin addiction. They decided to start Heroin Anonymous so that persons recovering from heroin addiction would have their own place to gather with people who understood their experience and who could provide peer support and encouragement to each other.2
They held the first meeting in a halfway house in Phoenix, Arizona on August 12, 2004. Since then, the organization has grown and meetings are now held in multiple countries.2
The 12 Steps of Heroin Anonymous
Heroin Anonymous uses a set of 12 recovery steps similar to that used by AA and other 12-step fellowships.4
The 12 steps are:6
- We admitted we were powerless over heroin – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to heroin addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Members complete each step one at a time, with help from their sponsor, and often provide help to others who are also working the steps.7 The steps reference God and a higher power. But the person can use any higher power they’re comfortable with, such as nature or the group itself.7
More Facts About Heroin Anonymous Programs
For anyone wishing to attend a Heroin Anonymous meeting, it is important to know there is no official membership fee for Heroin Anonymous. Instead, individuals are asked to make small donations at each meeting for expenses.2
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Purpose of Self-Help Groups?
Self-help groups that follow the 12-step model such as Heroin Anonymous can complement and extend the effects of professional treatment.4
Self-help groups do not constitute treatment nor a substitute for treatment, but they can provide ongoing support and encouragement to recovering individuals.5
Most substance addiction treatment programs encourage patients to take active part in self-help groups such as Heroin Anonymous both during and after completing formal treatment. They can facilitate recovery and help recovering individuals make progress.5
However, for persons undergoing medication-assisted opioid addiction treatment which helps manage withdrawal symptoms and suppress cravings, it is important to carefully choose a self-help group to join. Some groups may actively discourage participants from taking medications and may therefore interfere with treatment progress.5
There are also support groups for friends and family of individuals with addiction, which can also be helpful.5
What Is the Role of Heroin Anonymous in Addiction Treatment?
Heroin Anonymous can be a source of support and encouragement for individuals struggling with dependence and addiction to heroin, some of which may also suffer from polydrug dependence or cross-addiction to alcohol.1
Heroin addiction treatment programs often encourage patients to take part in self-help group therapy such as Heroin Anonymous in addition to undergoing formal treatment, as well as long after they have completed formal treatment.4
The role of Heroin Anonymous is to aid a person’s recovery by adding a layer of community-level social support. This helps users achieve and maintain abstinence and lasting recovery, as well as supports other healthy lifestyle choices and behaviors over the course of a lifetime.4
Is Heroin Anonymous Better than Narcotics Anonymous?
Many individuals may relate to Heroin Anonymous and find it to better meet their specific needs. Unlike Narcotics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous focuses strictly on heroin addiction, the issue of quitting heroin, and supporting recovering individuals in their effort to achieve lasting recovery.7
The organization maintains a “singleness of purpose,” which means that while they do not exclude individuals struggling with other forms of addiction, they recognize that they are limited in who they can help and are best equipped to help fellow participants.7
Complete abstinence being one of its general principles, Narcotics Anonymous does not approve the use of Suboxone or other forms of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. However, these are often an essential aspect of heroin addiction treatment and an effective way to manage withdrawal and reduce cravings.8
What Is the Duration of Heroin Anonymous?
There is no predefined, required, or recommended duration of Heroin Anonymous attendance, although regular attendance is encouraged.7 Most heroin addiction treatment programs encourage participants to attend Heroin Anonymous both during and after formal treatment.3
How Do Heroin Anonymous Meetings Help Recovering Users?
Whether an individual has recently completed the detox stage and is currently in heroin addiction treatment or completed a rehab program years ago, Heroin Anonymous helps participants maintain recovery focus. It also provides the chance to get support from other recovering individuals who share similar experiences.2
At regular meetings, held at different locations throughout the country, recovering individuals come together and share stories about their addiction, how far they have come, and the challenges they still face every day.2
Meetings can vary. The main types of meetings found at HA are:9
- Big Book study meetings.
- Speaker meetings.
- Participation meetings.
- Step discussions.
Most HA meetings contain similar elements, however, including welcoming new guests, reaching out to people who have a desire to use, helping people find sponsors, handing out keychains or other tokens to recognize people who have achieved stretches of sobriety, and opening and closing with a prayer.9
Can Heroin Anonymous Really Help Me Quit Heroin?
Heroin Anonymous functions as a support group and does not provide treatment for heroin addiction.2
However, regular attendance of Heroin Anonymous meetings for heroin addiction can be a source of ongoing peer support which can facilitate recovery during formal treatment and maintain sobriety afterward.2
Recovering or treatment-seeking individuals in need of support during or after completion of a heroin rehab program may want to consider attending an HA meeting or two to see if it helps them achieve their goals.
What Is the Role of a Sponsor in Heroin Anonymous?
Sponsorship plays a key role in HA meetings. All members are encouraged to reach out to another HA member and ask them to be their sponsor. A sponsor is a fellow recovering user, someone who is living a sober life and worked the 12 steps.7
The sponsor supports the person anytime they need it, including moments when relapse seems inevitable. During these stressful times, the sponsor is only a phone call away and ready to help the person stay the course of recovery.7
Sponsors also help newcomers work toward completing their own 12 steps.7
How to Join Heroin Anonymous?
Heroin anonymous provides free help and support to all persons struggling with heroin addiction and meetings are open to anyone who wishes to quit using heroin, and members are only asked to make small donations.2 Any newcomers who wish to join a homegroup, which means to become committed to regularly attending and providing service to the group when needed, can easily do so.7
Where Can I Attend a Heroin Anonymous Meeting Near Me?
Heroin Anonymous is a fellowship that spans multiple countries and meetings are held nationwide, which helps thousands of individuals in their effort to find sobriety.2
HA meetings are easily accessible, as they take place in almost every major or mid-size city in the United States, or online, depending on the circumstances.10
What to Prepare Before Going for Heroin Anonymous?
Heroin Anonymous encourages newcomers to become available for and committed to regular attendance of group meetings. Members of the group are expected to be dedicated to complete abstinence from all drugs and alcohol.2
Newcomers to HA may often experience confusion, fear, and doubt as to their ability to stay sober. However, senior members in their group can relate to these experiences and provide them with guidance, support, and direction.7
It is noteworthy that Heroin Anonymous and its philosophy of giving one’s self up to a “higher power” is not for everyone. Some people may be uncomfortable with the more spiritual elements of the group.7
Where Can I Get Help for Heroin Addiction?
If you require assistance with finding a treatment program, contact a heroin addiction treatment hotline to discuss options with an admissions navigator.
We can verify your coverage for treatment at an American Addiction Centers location. Your information is always confidential.
- A. B. Laudet. (2008). The Impact of Alcoholics Anonymous on other substance abuse related Twelve Step programs.
- Heroin Anonymous. (2016). About.
- Heroin Anonymous. (2016). Twelve Traditions of Heroin Anonymous.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Where do 12-step or self-help programs fit into drug addiction treatment?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Support Groups.
- Heroin Anonymous. (2016). Twelve Steps of Heroin Addiction.
- Heroin Anonymous. (2016). Literature.
- Narcotics Anonymous World Services. (2016). NA & Persons Receiving Medication-Assisted Treatment.
- Heroin Anonymous. (2016). Resources.
- Heroin Anonymous. (2016). Meetings.
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