Today's post is the first in a series of articles about drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. In the beginning of the year, we often begin to reflect on the past year and think about ways in which we can live a healthier, more intentional life in the coming year. For many people, goals for the New Year revolve around ways in which one can better attend to their health and well-being. Looking at one's relationship with substances in the coming year inspired this series. Please enjoy Part One of this Four-Part Addiction and Recovery Series...
With all the social drinking (and drug use in certain circles) that goes on, it can be difficult to know how much is too much for oneself. Each person has a unique relationship with substances -- and whether to drink/use, how much and when are very personal decisions that only you can make. The following list of warning signs of addiction is intended to help you examine your own behaviors around alcohol and drugs to determine if you need to reach out for help:
1 | You have tried to stop before
If you've noticed that you're drinking or using more than you think is healthy and you've attempted to stop before unsuccessfully, that can often be the first sign of an addiction. When one has a healthy relationship with substances, it is easy to stop using because they are not dependent on it.
2 | You drink and use alone
Drinking and using (especially during young adulthood) are common social activities that often go along with celebrations and weekend outings. But if you find yourself drinking or using alone frequently, this is a behavior to examine. Using substances alone is not always a red flag, but it's something to consider, especially if in conjunction with some of these other warning signs.
3 | You hide or lie about drinking or using
If you find yourself lying to loved ones about how often or how much you drink or use, that is probably an indication that you're having a problem. Think of it this way -- if you were drinking a reasonable amount, you wouldn't feel any need to lie to about it. Another example of this would be hiding alcohol and drugs from loved ones or refilling alcohol bottles with water to hide drinking.
4 | Your performance is suffering
For many people, when they develop an addiction, they begin to notice that their performance begins to suffer in different arenas of their lives -- whether it be at school, work or athletically. If you become aware that you're calling out sick from work due to hangovers or that your grades are slipping, these can be an indication that something is up.
5 | Relationships become strained
Addiction definitely takes a huge toll on relationships with others. People in your life may begin to notice that they are taking a back seat to your drink or drug of choice. They may become frustrated that you're not the same person as they used to know. If someone close to you tells you they think you have a problem, this can be a strong indicator of addiction.
6 | Your health is declining
Alcohol and drugs, especially when abused, are obviously detrimental to one's health. If you notice yourself become fatigued or ill more often than is expected, or if a doctor brings up an ailment often correlated with alcohol or drug abuse, then it's time to start reflecting on the negative effects the use is having on your health and well-being. Alcohol and drug abuse are associated with a host of health risks among other general safety risks.
7 | You often think about drinking and using
If you find yourself daydreaming at work about going home and drinking/using and looking forward to that more than other enjoyable activities or interactions with people, you may have a problem. In addiction, the drink/drug of choice becomes the primary relationship and is more motivating than anything else in that person's life. When you find yourself thinking about drinking/using while doing unrelated daily activities, it's something to look at.
8 | You binge drink or use
Having a glass of wine at the end of the work day is one thing, but drinking the entire bottle is another! If you find yourself drinking to get drunk, until you black out or until you make yourself sick, you may want to seek some help cutting back or abstaining altogether. Binge drinking and using regularly is a sign that you are probably using substances to deal with difficult emotions or life circumstances. Finding someone you can talk to like a therapist or a support group can help immensely.
9 | You have legal ramifications
Typically people do not get a DUI or a possession charge due to bad luck; it often means that an individual was driving under the influence or in possession of drugs enough times to finally get caught. No shame here! Addiction is a disease that needs to be treated through therapy and support groups. But the first step is recognizing that you have a problem, and dealing with legal ramifications stemming from substance use is a common warning sign that there is a problem.
10 | You experience tolerance and withdrawal
A major sign that one in dealing with addiction is the bodily response cycle of tolerance and withdrawal, which means that over time, with continued use, it takes more and more of the substance to attain the desired result, and that without the substance, one feels sick and "not like themselves." Essentially the person needs the alcohol or drug in higher doses simply to feel normal.
I hope this list was helpful to you. If you are worried about your drinking and/or using, please talk to your doctor, your therapist or seek help as soon as you can. If you disagree with any of these warning signs, or have more that you would add to the group, please comment below. This is Part One in a series of posts about addiction, so stay tuned for future posts. We’ll be featuring inspirational stories of recovery, resources for people looking to seek help for an addiction and lastly, a post about fun activities for young adults to do who choose not to drink. Thanks for reading!
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.