No one really wants to get tangled up in the mess that drugs and alcohol can bring. But when a person struggles with stress, baggage, and trauma, the temporary effects of drugs and alcohol can become an escape, providing freedom from the constant barrage of mental and emotional distress that might plague them when they’re sober.
Admitting to an addiction is like letting go of the comfort that these substances provide and finally facing the stress and trauma that you’ve been trying to escape. That’s why individuals with substance use disorder often go into denial, struggling to accept that they have a problem with either drugs or alcohol. But as the old saying goes, the first step is admitting that there’s a problem.
How to Recognize a Drug or Alcohol Problem
It’s normal for the human mind to try to protect itself from potentially painful truths, and that’s why we’ll often go into denial when faced with harsh realities. Dealing with the death of a loved one, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, and yes, admitting to substance abuse are just some of the bitter pills that we often struggle to swallow. While it might be tough to bring yourself to face reality, there are markers that might tell you when it’s time to get professional help. These may include (but are not limited to):
Poor Eating and Sleeping Patterns
Regardless of what substance a person abuses, sleeping and eating are often two of the most significantly affected aspects of their everyday life. In some cases, an individual might eat or sleep too much, while in other cases, they might not eat or sleep at all.
Poor eating and sleeping habits — especially if prolonged — can be detrimental to a person’s health. Studies have found that struggling to normalize either of these activities can lead to further mental distress, including depression, anxiety, and panic disorder, among other things.
- Ask yourself, have I been sleeping too much that I no longer have time for other, important or urgent activities throughout the day? Or have I been hardly sleeping at all? Consider your diet. Do you eat more than you should at various times throughout the day? Are you always hungry and looking for more food to eat? Or do you eat very little, causing significant weight loss?
Work or School Related Struggles
As an addiction develops, a person loses their sense of obligation. They become more and more attached to their substance, doing anything to nurse their addiction and dependence. In effect, they fail to recognize school or work obligations as important, becoming lax when it comes to fulfilling their duties.
More often than not, individuals with an addiction end up losing their jobs or dropping out of school. But it doesn’t have to reach that point before you recognize that there’s a problem. With proper insight, some individuals may be able to preserve their career or their education by asking themselves the right questions.
- Ask yourself, am I missing too many work or school related obligations? Have I skipped too many days of work or class? Have my superiors/teachers pulled me aside to ask me if anything is wrong at home, or have they given me any warnings regarding my performance?
Maintaining a substance use disorder isn’t cheap, and most people will burn through their savings in order to secure their next dose. Unfortunately, financial struggles are much too common with individuals struggling with substance abuse. In fact, there are lots of people who have pushed the limits of their finances so far that they end up going homeless to support their urges.
The financial challenges that come with substance use disorder can be especially dangerous because of the way they can push a person to engage in illegal activities. These financial struggles are also the reason why some family members choose to abandon the individual because of the way they burden the family’s finances.
- Ask yourself, am I spending more than I can afford on drugs and alcohol? Do I ever run out of money because of the cost of these substances? Have I ever considered borrowing or taking money from people around me to support my urges? Have I ever considered engaging in illegal activities like theft in order to purchase my next fix? Have I ever considered taking bribes in exchange for drugs or alcohol?
Serious Threats to Health
Sometimes, a person needs to reach the point of a serious health threat in order to accept that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Many of those who turn away from substance use and enroll themselves into a treatment program do so after close encounters with death or serious injury or disability.
Typically, an overdose happens when a person is far along in their addiction. As the body becomes accustomed to smaller doses, the individual is forced to take much higher amounts of the substance in order to experience its effects. Unfortunately, the body can only take a certain amount at a time, and when the system is overwhelmed, overdose occurs.
- Ask yourself, has there ever been a time that I took more than I usually do, resulting in long hours of unconsciousness? Have I ever been hospitalized because of my substance use? Do I need to take more drugs and alcohol than the people around me in order to experience its effects? Has my dose increased significantly since the first time I tried using the substance?
Be Honest With Yourself
Accepting an addiction means being fair with and true to yourself. As you lay down the facts and assess how drugs or alcohol have changed your life, it’s important to remove the rose tinted glasses and see the issue as it truly is. Accepting that you have a drug or alcohol problem involves recognizing all of the ways that its presence has taken away from the quality of your everyday life.
While it might be difficult to admit to yourself that your substance use has escalated into a potentially life-threatening problem, help is never far away. With proper guidance and support, anyone can overcome substance use disorder and experience the fullness of life away from the shackles that drugs and alcohol come with.