Addiction, whether substance or behavior-related, is heartbreaking to watch and incredibly painful to experience. In my line of work, I have deal with addicts frequently.
I have also watched many of those close to me struggle with addiction in many forms, and also dealt with an addiction of my own in my much younger years.
Research suggests that my experience is not unusual; in fact, it has been found that the gender gap in addiction is steadily closing. It can affect anyone at any time.
Many of those we come into contact with daily likely have or know someone who has battled with the demon of addiction.
Here are some ways to identify an addiction, whether within yourself or a loved one, and how you/they can overcome it!
Know the warning signs
There are many indicators of addiction. You can examine an in-depth list related to substance abuse and behavioral addiction. There are many similarities between the two, some of which include things like:
- continuing with the behavior/substance consumption despite it having negative consequences in your life (work, health, relationships)
- neglecting basic needs (not taking care of personal hygiene, not eating regularly)
- isolation from friends and family
- mood swings and irritability; defensiveness when confronted
Note that substance addictions are much easier to spot than behavioral addictions. A drug or alcohol abuser may display needle marks (if injecting drugs), dilated pupils, smell like their drug of choice or not be able to walk properly (staggering, weaving).
Many times, behavioral addictions are not revealed until the addict is in severe financial crisis or experiencing other extreme consequences of their addiction.
Unless you are monitoring an addict’s bank account or credit history or following them around, you may not be aware of their struggles.
Once an addiction is identified, seek appropriate help
If you have a friend or family member who you believe is experiencing an addiction, do not confront them. They will likely lash out at you or become extremely defensive, which is the opposite of what you want. Seek out appropriate services in your community for advice on how to deal with the addict.
Additionally, if you are a family member of someone struggling with addiction, it is vital that you attend counseling or support groups. You will experience many emotions and trials, and it is important to have positive support around you who understand your difficulties.
Also, you need to ensure that you are not enabling the addicted party, since this behavior will only lead them further into their struggle rather than help them.
If you believe that you may have a problem with an addiction, the first step is to admit that you need help. Seek out addiction services in your area. If you are addicted to substances, you may need to attend detoxification and an inpatient program at a rehabilitation facility.
Certain substances can actually severely harm you if you try to detox on your own. If your problem is not at too a severe level, an outpatient program or counseling may be helpful.
You can also attend support groups in your area such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Gamblers Anonymous (GA). Helping services should be able to direct you towards those.
Once sober, examine the root cause of your addiction
If you are attending counseling or an inpatient program, the facilitators will discuss this in-depth with you. Regardless, it is important to consider what caused you to begin your descent into addiction.
Do you cope with an undiagnosed mental health issue? Were you abused? Are you using substances/behaviors to escape from a negative situation or emotion, or do you enjoy the rush you get while using?
Without understanding why we do the things we do, we cannot begin to fix them. If you do not deal with the underlying problem, you are very likely to relapse. Discuss your triggers and reasons for your behavior with your counselor.
As a friend or family member, support but do not enable
It is important to examine how your behavior has aided the addict. Do you give them money, believing they are using it for groceries, when really they are spending it on drugs/alcohol/shopping?
Do you give them a place to stay when all their bridges have been burned? Do you allow them to manipulate you into buying alcohol/drugs for them or taking them to a casino?
Once the addict in your life is in recovery, you need to ensure that you are not repeating these negative patterns, especially if they relapse. You will need to have a strategy and appropriate measures in place, which can be discussed with a counselor or helping service.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Whether you are the addict or a close party, you need to make sure that you take care of yourself at all times.
If you neglect yourself, you cannot be a positive support or are likely to relapse.
While you can read tips from experts, keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Self-care can also include things such as:
- knowing your triggers
- taking up a new hobby
- practicing forgiveness
- surrounding yourself with positive influences
Some of these things are easier said than done, but the more you can engage in positive behavior, the better you will feel internally.
If you do relapse, do not beat yourself up
Relapses are very common, and this does not make you a bad person. Be honest with your support system and yourself, and be willing to attend counseling, a treatment program or whatever it is that will help you back into recovery.
Identify what caused your relapse. Was it a situation/person? Were you neglecting self-care? By figuring this out, you can prevent another slip up in the future.
The cycle of addiction can be very hard to break, but not impossible. Know that there is support out there, and have confidence in yourself that you can work through the pain and get well—a much more fulfilling life awaits you on the other side!
Have you experienced an addiction, or do you know someone who has? What other advice would you give readers?