The Nature of Addiction
Addiction is insidious by nature. Any illness of the mind can be especially challenging to overcome because it’s afflicting the very organ we use to think and reason with. If the problem exists within the mind, how can one rely on the mind to solve it? Addiction can take root before you even notice. Chemicals that directly target the ‘pleasure center’ of the brain prey upon our base instincts. To the brain’s reward center, the thing you’ve become addicted to seems as important as the true necessities like food, water, sex that it is designed to drive you towards. The addicted mind will often use denial, irrational justifications, manipulation, and minimalization. All in pursuit of the object of addiction. It can be frustratingly difficult to see around this ‘short-circuiting’ of the mind. What you can do, however, is use a few objective measures to try and determine if you or someone you care about may be addicted.
Here are 5 warning signs of addiction:
Change in Priorities:
Has a drug become one of the most important things in your life? Do you plan your days and weeks around when you can get a substance? Do you cancel plans when your drug of choice isn’t available? Do you shut out people you care about because they may somehow get in the way of your using?
Are you continuing to use or drink in spite of the consequences? Are you in debt or financial distress because of buying drugs, or neglecting to pay bills or both? Have you been arrested due to drugs or behavior while under the influence? Have you continued to use, even when it means people you care about will no longer spend time with you?
Physical Symptoms or Changes:
Do you find yourself needing to use more and more of a substance just to get the same high? (tolerance) Are you at a point where you must use simply to feel “OK”? Do you find yourself getting anxious or even physically sick when you cannot get your drug of choice? (withdrawal) Are you experiencing health problems directly related to drug or alcohol use? Experiencing memory loss or blackouts?
Dangerous or Risky Behavior:
Have you found yourself taking risks that you never would have before? Do you drive under the influence? Have you stolen to support your habit? Are you having unprotected sex regularly with multiple partners?
Denial and Dishonesty:
Do you find yourself repeatedly denying your use or downplaying it to yourself or others? Are you lying to people who care about you to conceal or enable your use somehow? Have you promised yourself or others to cut down or quit, only to fail to do so over and over?
If you identify with one of the categories above, chances are you will find that most of the others apply as well. If you are experiencing these conditions yourself, there is an excellent chance you are addicted. If you’re witnessing them in someone else, that person likely needs help.
The first step towards reversing the downward slide is admitting there is a problem. Denial is an incredibly powerful foe. Simply admitting the truth to yourself can be liberating. Accept that you are addicted. Admit to yourself that you cannot control your addiction. Believe that you can overcome addiction if you commit to accepting outside help. If you can manage those three things, even if you’re not wholehearted about it, you have done something amazing!
You’re standing right on the brink of change. We all have pivotal moments in our lives where a decision must be made which will impact the rest of your life. The moment you accept you are an addict and that you need help is certainly one of them. Strike while the iron is hot, as they say. Don’t wait another moment in misery. If you know you’re addicted or someone you care about is, pick up the phone and call us or at least jump on a chat. There are people who can help you end the suffering and let you begin a new chapter of your life free of drugs and alcohol.