Addiction is a complex disease that doesn’t discriminate who it affects. Because of the way chemical dependency can affect the brain, the mind begins to work and function on a level that can lead to a life-threatening condition. Due to the gripping nature of addiction, it’s important to acknowledge the not-so-obvious ways it can become apparent in people who may be living in denial of just how badly they need treatment.
Participating in risky behavior
The ability to distinguish between right and wrong is the first instinct to go out the window when getting buzzed or high, usually leading to dangerous and irreversibly bad decision-making. When you’re faced with feeding your addiction, waking up in strange places and finding yourself stranded in shady locations with unfamiliar people can be the norm. This can also involve driving while intoxicated, which seems harmless when you’re in the process of chasing your next high or searching for more drugs. If you find yourself wiping your brow with relief that you’ve avoided a DWI it’s time to reevaluate how often you are putting yourself and others at risk.
Alienation from friends and family
When looking to relax and unwind, you’ve taken to canceling plans with your regular group of friends or loved ones because they just don’t party as hard as you do these days. Your old hobbies and hangouts have become boring and you’d rather hang out with your new friends who use because you can no longer have fun unless you’re getting high. The people who care about you won’t hold it against you at first, but flaking out on plans time after time is just another way addiction has snuck its way into your daily interactions. It’s common for people who are struggling to maintain their addiction to hide away from those who know them best in attempts to mask just how bad things have gotten.
Prioritizing using above basic needs
Addiction can be more demanding than the most intense fulltime job in the world. Your body is working overtime daily just to recover from the damage it suffers every time you get high. With so much energy being put towards this demanding force requiring you to focus on your substance dependency, you may ignore simple basic human needs in order to fulfill your addiction. The refrigerator looks more like a condiment station these days, you can’t remember your last sit-down meal and you don’t spend as much time on your appearance. When you’re high, you may feel like everything is back on track for a short time, but once you sober up, you’re forced to spend your energy longing for your next high rather than facing the reality of your current situation.
Concealment of degrading health
Since addiction can affect people from all walks of life, not everyone may appear to be struggling. It’s possible that you go to great lengths to hide physical evidence of drug use by appearing to be a mentally healthy, functional person while maintaining a career, family and seemingly normal life. Underneath the elaborate appearance, you are, in reality, ignoring numerous, potentially fatal, health conditions directly related to your drug usage. You seem to always be under the weather with a cold or vague illness as you fight off daily withdrawal and hide unusual sleeping and eating habits by isolating yourself. Like most people with substance use disorder, you have a lot of ways to hide skin discoloration, marks on your body and other telltale signs your drug habit has taken a toll on you in order to prove that you have things under control.
After spending some time feeding your addiction, your body has adapted to your usual dosage. What you used to consider your ideal high has now merely become enough to help you not feel sick. While you struggle to avoid withdrawal, you’re being pushed harder and harder to the limit to achieve anything other than feeling normal while using. This is not only extremely dangerous, but it can lead to an overdose. The recent epidemic of harder, more potent drugs showing up on the streets has posed a major risk to drug users who are on the constant hunt for the strongest high. The sick brain sees this as a person struggling with a drug problem “graduating” to a high dose, even at the risk of potential death. This never-ending game of chase is at the very core of addictive behavior.
Financial goals based on feeding addiction
Not only can addiction a fulltime job, it’s also a very expensive pattern of behavior. You are probably making both conscious and subconscious financial decisions daily that directly feed the addiction that is now, effectively, your boss. You are at your addiction’s mercy and your bank account is proof of that. It’s possible that you’ve taken an extra job to exclusively feed your substance use disorder. Perhaps you’ve even tapped into a savings account you swore you’d never touch other than in case of an emergency. The mind of someone suffering from addiction has its “eye on the prize” and you will go to great lengths to make sure you can fund your drug disorder, even if it means taking risky and unwise loans with possibly dangerous consequences.
Rationalization of self-sabotaging behaviors
While addiction is a disease, it most certainly does not have one surefire cure. Since it affects everyone differently, it makes successful recovery very difficult to attain because of the way the brain of someone who is affected by addiction can ruin sobriety efforts. The cliché, “I can stop anytime I want”, exists for a reason. The fear of painful detox is usually the first thing that comes to mind when contemplating getting help. Justifying to yourself that you can wean yourself off on your own by tapering your usage is an endless cycle of attempts, binges, and failures (and potential overdose). You’re always waiting for the right time to end your addiction. Realistically, you will never believe that there is a right time. The brain affected by addiction will convince you of any way to sabotage your attempts at controlling your addiction because, at the end of the day, you have no control. The addiction controls you.
If you recognize that one or more of these characteristics apply to your life, you may be living under the illusion that your drug use is recreational and under control. If you’re tired of fighting your addiction day in and day out, and you feel like you are struggling to keep your head above water, it’s time to consider outpatient therapy that includes medical and therapeutic care. Seeking treatment is a big step, but it’s one that will ultimately save your life.