Addiction is defined as compulsively consuming a mind altering drug or repeating a behavior despite its adverse consequences. Addiction goes beyond drugs and alcohol. It also includes engaging in behaviors that are destructive like gambling away necessary funds, overeating, binging and purging and compulsive sexual acts to name a few.
Addiction affects more than just the addict. Usually the family and loved ones are affected also. Whether it’s you who is concerned of your own addictive behaviors or a loved one that you suspect might be in the grips of addiction, reading our 8 signs of addiction is a place to start.
1. Consuming a substance or engaging in destructive behavior without being able to stop.
Being unable to stop applies to the present inability to stop once consumption begins and their inability to stop altogether. For example, “The phenomenon of craving,” as described in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Doctors Opinion, pg. xxx, is where the Alcoholic is incapacitated to stop consuming alcohol after the first drink. Meaning, once the person who is addicted to alcohol ingests that first drink, a phenomenon occurs where they must continue to consume. This is true of any addiction. It is a major cause to alcohol poisoning and drug overdose. It is largely recommended that complete abstinence is necessary to overcome addiction to substances. Conversely, when someone is addicted to a behavior, like overeating, then abstinence from trigger foods are more appropriate as it is impossible to abstain from food altogether.
On a grander scale, there comes a point where a person crosses the line between recreational use/engagement and addiction. It is mainly characterized by their inability to stop using or engaging in this behavior altogether. Eventually, substance abuse or self-destructive behaviors start to have consequences. At this time the potential addict may wish to stop their behavior but is unable to. Every firm resolution to stop is followed by failure. By this time, the person loses his or her power to choose. For example, an addict who goes to jail for stealing to pay for drugs may promise never to use again, but the minute they are let out they go back to their dealer and use again.
2. Withdrawal symptoms
Once continuous use of rewarding stimuli becomes compulsive, and there is no ability to stop despite dangerous consequences, it is considered addiction. Withdrawal occurs when the person is no longer consuming or engaging in the compulsive behavior and exhibit physical and emotional symptoms. These may include moodiness, obsessiveness, depression, cravings, bouts of violence, anger, anxiety, frustration and feelings of emptiness. In addition, physical symptoms are present for substance abuse addictions that may not be present in behavioral addictions. For instance, shakiness, hallucinations, constipation or diarrhea, throwing up, seizures dehydration and even death.
Most addicts, if not all, are unable to see the severity of their addiction. Usually when confronted they bring up a series of excuses like “I can stop any time I want,” “I’m not hurting anyone but myself,” “If only… I would be able to stop.” Regardless of how terrible their reality may be they refuse to take responsibility and somehow convince themselves that it is not that bad. Despite the consequences from a month or a week ago they justify their need to use and have no mental defense what so ever against engaging in their addiction. This is why medical treatment is incredibly important and highly recommended.
4. Isolation and dropping hobbies
Addiction is insidious. Eventually, it affects every single aspect of the addict’s life. If you or a loved one are concerned about addiction, you may notice that isolation is prevalent. Addicts stop showing up to family gatherings and stop hanging out with friends who don’t use. They stop participating in hobbies and activities that they once loved. Before you know it, their addiction is all they think about. The who, what, how and when of using is the only important thing. Their world becomes very small and dark and using is the only thing that matters.
5. Risk taking: Stealing, trading sex for drugs, driving fast, anonymous sex etc.
Taking risks is a tell-tell sign of addiction. It is an indication that the addict is willing to go to any lengths in order to get their fix. Addicts may steal from the ones they love most in order to pay for drugs. They may also trade sex for drugs which may involve heterosexual and homosexual sex regardless of the person’s sexual orientation.
Another form of risk taking involves the actions addicts take under the influence like driving fast or having sex with people they don’t know. While under the influence, they have no regard for their well being and put themselves in very dangerous situations.
6. Hiding stashes
An addict may hide stashes of drugs or bottles of alcohol in odd places like closets, bathrooms and drawers. They get a sense of ease and comfort knowing that their drug of choice is available at any given time. If you have felt compelled to hide your substance of choice, or as a loved one have found hidden stashes of mood-altering substances, then addiction may be the culprit.
7. Financial Problems
Because an addict’s whole life revolves around their addiction, it is no surprise that financial problems are common. Most of their income is spent funding their habit and therefore other financial needs are not met. They may lose their home or car. They are constantly borrowing money and are unable to pay it back. Some addicts end up on the streets, with only the clothes on their backs, pan handling so that they can pay for a fix.
8. Relationship Problems
Addicts have a really hard time with relationships. Consistent use of mood altering drug s make them unable to stabilize emotions. It is difficult to hold meaningful relationships when the addict is in a constant state of anger, frustration, depression and isolation. For people who are addicted to behaviors relationship problems may be equally as difficult as they are consumed by their compulsion and obsession. Any addiction often leads to alienation, betrayal of other’s trust, isolation and loneliness.
Our greatest hope is that this article offered some insight into the life of an addict so that something can be done before it’s too late. Whether you are wondering if you have a problem or are concerned about a loved one JC’s Addiction Recovery Center is here to help. Our addiction specialists are knowledgeable and caring. Please call 954-589-2001 for more information.