Recognizing an addiction in oneself is often harder than it seems. Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol tell themselves they can handle their usage, and even after a crisis like a job loss or car accident, they may deny the severity of their problem. In fact, part of the problem is referring to drug or alcohol abuse as a problem when it could, in fact, be a full-blown addiction. Early addiction behaviors, alienation from friends and family, and deteriorating health are all associated with substance addictions; if you experience these aspects of addiction, it’s in your best interest to admit your problem and seek the treatment you need.
In the early stages of addiction, it’s definitely easier to deny the problem; however, in the early stages, addictions can be easier to treat than an addiction that’s gone on for years. If you find yourself planning your day around drinking or using drugs, that’s a definite sign that there could be an issue. If you find yourself losing control of your actions most times you use a substance or if you use a substance with the sole purpose of getting inebriated, you are engaging in a pattern of behavior that is known to lead to addiction. It’s important for someone with a substance abuse problem to recognize how their behavior might be getting out of hand, even if it involves something as socially acceptable as alcohol.
As a substance abuse problem or addiction deepens, the suffering addict may begin to draw away from family and friends. If you find yourself surrounded only by people who also use drugs or abuse alcohol as you do, you should definitely find that worrisome. Alienation, like addiction, is progressive. You might find yourself hanging out with non-using friends less and less frequently until you simply stop seeing them. You might decrease your communication with family but stop answering the phone or visiting them entirely if they point out your drug or alcohol problem.
Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, so you must realize that it’s only a matter of time before it negatively impacts your physical and mental health. It is not uncommon for drug or alcohol addiction to lead to a mental disorder like depression or paranoia. Abusing these substances over time alters the chemistry of the brain, which can result in a serious mental illness.
Additionally, alcoholism and drug addiction are associated with profoundly serious health risks that include liver damage and disease, stroke, heart disease, suppressed immune system function, and infectious disease. There is always a risk of overdose that should never be overlooked.
If you believe your problems with drugs or alcohol are small, get help anyway. Let someone like a skilled addiction specialist evaluate you and help you overcome these “small problems” before they develop into larger ones that require more extensive treatments. Addiction is a serious disease, and like other diseases, it’s best to start treatment in its earliest stages in order to reach long-term recovery.