“The life of the Addict is always the same. There is no excitement, no glamour, no fun. There are no good times, there is no joy, there is no happiness. There is no future and no escape. There is only an obsession. An all-encompassing, fully enveloping, completely overwhelming obsession.”
~James Frey, A Million Little Pieces
Substance abuse is a disease of denial – not only for the alcoholic or addict, but for their loved ones as well. Many times, the family and friends of the substance abuser don’t want to – or are unable to – recognize that a problem exists. They are simply too close to the problem.
If you are worried that someone you care about might possibly be covering up an addiction, here are some signs and symptoms that will tell you if they need help from a professional addiction recovery specialist.
Sign #1 – They Become Secretive
Addiction is a disease that thrives on denial, deception, dishonesty, and deflection. Substance abusers will take great pains to ensure that you don’t know what’s really going on:
- Keeping secrets
- Disappearing for hours at a time without explanation
- Hiding phone calls and text messages
- Avoiding straight answers or becoming defensive when questioned
- Lying about where they’ve been, what they’ve been doing, or who they were with
- Unexplained missing money
- Isolation – spending long periods of time locked in their room
Sign #2 – They Experience Widely-Divergent Mood Swings and Energy Levels
Being around actively-addicted people will allow you to witness firsthand the daily roller coaster of emotions. At any given moment, an addict will be:
- “Up”– full of enthusiasm and energy, often to the point where they can’t remain focused on any one thing
- “Down” – listless and lethargic, sometimes to the point of passing out in the middle of another activity
- Extremely anxious, restless, and irritable – typically, this is when they are OUT of drugs/alcohol
- Going without sleep for long periods of time; alternatively, sleeping for abnormally-long periods of time
- Loss of appetite; alternatively, ravenous appetite
Sign #3 – Major Changes in Appearance
Drug and alcohol addiction take a tremendous toll on the abuser’s body. Physical changes can be tangible evidence of an ongoing problem.
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Uncharacteristically poor personal hygiene
- Changing manner of dress
- Needle marks or festering sores
- Sunken, hollowed-out, or bloodshot eyes
- Rotted teeth – “meth mouth”
Sign #4 – Disinterest in Formally-Enjoyable Activities
As the addiction progresses over time, the addict/alcoholic will lose the ability to feel pleasure – or even normal – without the presence of the intoxicant. Getting drunk and high takes the place of:
- Getting together with friends
Sign #5 –Failure to Meet Obligations
When an addiction is in full force, the only thing the substance abuser cares about is getting their next drink or their next fix. Satisfying their craving becomes the top priority. A once-responsible person will ignore commitments by:
- Skipping/calling in “sick” or poor performance at work
- Multiple absences at school/sharply declining grades
- Missing family events–– school events, anniversaries, dinners, etc.
- Failing to pay bills– repossessions, turned-off utilities, evictions, etc.
Sign #6 – Suspicious Paraphernalia
In the beginning, the substance abuser will take great care to hide their usage. However, as the disease progresses, they will begin to get careless. Your loved one may have a problem you find any of the following:
- Empty liquor bottles/beer cans
- Burnt spoons
- Steel Wool
- Glass or metal pipes
- Rolling papers
- Pill Bottles
- Small plastic bags
Sign #7 – Mounting Legal Problems
As the out-of-control spiral continues, a person in active addiction will begin to “cross the line”. Drug-seeking behaviors are probable when there is a pattern of any of the following charges:
- Public intoxication
- DUIs – especially multiple ones
- Fraud/bad checks
- Domestic violence
What’s important to remember is that although unfortunate situations can happen to anyone, a pattern of suspicious or dysfunctional behavior is usually a good indicator of a substance abuse disorder that the person can no longer hide.
If you have noticed a friend or family member exhibiting a number of these signs, there is a good chance that they may have a serious problem with alcohol or drugs that has gone beyond experimentation or recreational use.
Your next step should be to talk to a trained addiction recovery specialist. They can help you decide if further intervention is needed.
Keep this positive thought in mind—with early intervention and proper care, it IS possible to return to a productive, healthy, and happy life.