What are the five signs that you may have an addiction?
I’ve met a few people in recovery who honestly had no idea that they had an addiction problem. My best friend, who I met in the rooms of AA, woke up one morning, bleary-eyed from a five-day bender to find her bags packed for a 30-day stint in inpatient rehab and a room full of her loved ones, insisting, intervention style, that she get help. She’s an intelligent woman with multiple advanced degrees hanging, in expensive frames, on the wall, but she still never managed to arrive at “diagnosis: alcoholic,” even with a dossier full of clues– a DUI, bills piling up, poor hygiene, health problems, extended blackouts, and missed days of work. Her life was falling apart, but she was unable to identify the common denominator.
Often, we know a problem exists before we are willing to examine its root cause. At Avenues Recovery Center, a premier Oklahoma drug rehab facility, our esteemed team of clinicians and medical professionals will help you discover the true nature of your malady. Like my friend, the issues that are causing you pain may circle back to addiction instead of all the stories you tell yourself to justify your drinking or drug use.
So, what are five signs that you may have an addiction?
- You consistently drink or use more than you had intended, or drink/use when you don’t want to. People who don’t have a propensity for addiction have no problem declining the offer of a drink or drug or stopping after a respectable number of drinks have been consumed. These are the people who can leave a half glass of wine on the dinner table because they’re had enough. There’s a phenomenon of craving that develops in the brains of addicts once that first drink or drug hits the bloodstream that compels them, beyond all reason, to automatically seek out the next one. If you’ve ever told yourself that you’re not going to drink or cop tonight, and then in some out of body experience discover you’re holding a drink or bag in your hand or declared “I’m only having one!” just to discover the receipt for a sizeable bar tab in your pocket with no recollection of how you got home last night, then you may have an addiction.
- You hide your alcohol or drug use. Mood altering substances are a billion-dollar business. There are drinking establishments on nearly every corner in every major city of the world, legalized marijuana joints are popping up next to coffee shops, and the procurement of illicit drugs is as easy as knowing a guy who knows a guy. While illegal drug use is mostly a private affair, alcohol consumption is glorified in the media and socially acceptable throughout most walks of life. It’s a common, everyday occurrence to see a group of friends gathered around a platter of half-price appetizers at happy hour, responsibly enjoying an adult beverage or two. When your drinking pushes the boundaries of conformity and you feel compelled to pre-game so you can consume more than your peers, you’ve crossed a line. If you “liquor store or doctor shop” (rotating where you buy alcohol or drugs so you don’t stand out), hide bottles, carry alcohol or drugs with you, and/or lie about your consumption, then you may have an addiction.
- You’ve begun having trouble doing normal, routine things. At some point in every addict’s progression, he or she stops planning drinking and drug use around the important things in his or her life and starts planning life around the drink or drug. When otherwise normal, fun, or necessary daily activities take a back seat to partying; when assignments are missed, meals are burned or skipped altogether, kids are forgotten at the bus stop; when health and hygiene are neglected; In a nutshell, when your drinking or drug use begins to interfere with any standard expectation of living like a human being, then you may have an addiction.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of the drink or drug. Our bodies are biological miracles capable of adapting to misuse. When we repeatedly assail them with booze and chemicals, the hormones in the pleasure center of the brain skyrocket, creating an artificial sense of euphoria. The emergency response system is activated, and the brain shuts down production of our naturally occurring dopamine and serotonin, prompting the deep dive of withdrawal, or a hangover. We wake from what began as a good time feeling, on the mild side, lethargic and thirsty; and on the more severe side, trembling, vomitous, and brain-dead (click here for a deeper dive into the science of addiction). Withdrawal symptoms, even the mild ones, are a sign that you may have an addiction.
- You continue to use despite negative consequences. This phrase conjures up images of the more catastrophic consequences of drug and alcohol use – car accidents, liver failure, homelessness, and incarceration. Addiction, however, can be a subtle foe, and its fallout is varied and progressive. It often begins with a nearly imperceptible feeling of apathy – a few canceled appointments, an abbreviated bedtime story for the little ones, or a missed shower. These seemingly inconsequential variances fling the door wide open to all the things we swear we’d never do – driving under the influence, miss work, neglect our children, spend recklessly, lie, cheat, and steal. In time, unchecked addiction leads to “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 30). When you experience a negative consequence as a result of drinking or using and you fail to modify your behavior, that is a sign that you might have an addiction.
People are under the impression that they need to experience the utter devastation of hitting a rock bottom before considering the impact that drugs or alcohol have had their current situation. The truth is, however, that your unique bottom is wherever you stop digging. If you can identify with any of these signs of addiction, the time to get help is now.
Avenues Recovery Centers operates drug and alcohol rehab centers in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Central Jersey, New England, Oklahoma City, and the Greater DC area. Please visit our website at www.avenuesrecovery.com for more information.