By David Joel Miller.
How do you know when your drug or alcohol use has become a problem?
Some people report that they can drink a few drinks now and then and they have no problem. There are those rare individuals who are able to try a drug a few times and then put it away with no apparent bad result. But many people discover that what started out as all fun has progressed to becoming a problem. Here are 11 signs that your partying has moved from being fun to being a problem, maybe even an addiction.
1. You are trying to control your use.
One of the first signs of an addiction gone wild is efforts to control use. Normal people, people without a problem, do not try to control their use. They do not need to control anything because they can take it or leave it. If you find that when you drink or use you end up doing more than you planed on doing, if you start needing to control your usage, then you are on your way to a problem.
2. You arrange your life around chances to drink or use.
People with an abuse problem begin to arrange their life around getting and having their drug of choice. They pick restaurants based on the bar not the food. They avoid social settings where their will be no drugs or alcohol or they will not be able to drink and use.
They also begin giving up friends who do not use or drink.
3. It takes more of the drug or alcohol to get the same high.
This is called tolerance. If you need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects, you are developing tolerance. If the same amount of a drug produces less and less of an effect on you, then your body has begun to develop tolerance. You are headed for problems. Those who can “hold their liquor” are not safe from alcoholism. They are already on the way to becoming an alcoholic.
4. You have symptoms of sickness when you suddenly stop getting your drug of choice.
This is called withdrawal or sometimes abstinence syndrome. Hangovers when you drink. Other physical symptoms, headaches constipation, diarrhea, changes in sleep or appetite directly tied to your use are indicators of problems. So is needing more of the thing you did in the morning to recover. Taking some of the hair of the dog that bit you means you have been both bitten and infected with the addiction germ.
5. You get angry when people try to talk to you about your drug or alcohol use.
People who drink or use in responsible ways do not have people talking to them about their use. If your use has reached a point where people need to talk to you about it, then you have gone past the point of casual use and are headed for problems.
6. You have begun to accumulate negative consequences as a result of your use.
If you get in fights, verbal or physical, with people, are getting DUI’s or lose your job as a result of drinking or drug use then it has become a problem. If your relationships are suffering or you are fighting with your partner about your drug or alcohol use then the drug has entered the relationship and you are now in a threesome with that drug. This is not likely to turn out well. Both Sherry (alcohol) and Crystal (Methamphetamine) are jealous lovers and they do not want you to see your current partner.
7. You feel guilty about things you have done while under the influence.
Most times you can drink too much or do a little drugs and the next day you can think I wish I hadn’t done that and everything is fine. But it is not always like that.
Some people find the first time they drink they end up blackout drunk, the may drive drunk and kill someone, do something violent or even commit a rape while under the influence. The little things are easier to hide than the big ones. No one knows when they will cross that line.
One warning sign is if more than once you wake up the next day having done things you wish you hadn’t and things that you need to pay for, make right or worse yet things you can’t take back or fix.
If you feel guilt for things you do when under the influence of drugs or alcohol then you are headed towards addiction. You may already be there.
8. Most of your life involves getting the drug, using, and getting over the effects.
This is a classic sign of addiction. The addict finds that most of the day is spent thinking about their drug of choice, getting it, doing it and then getting over the effects.
9. Drinking or using interferes with the roles you need to fill in life.
It affects your job, your relationship and your parenting skills. When you stop seeing your friend or family, when you let your kids or spouse down all because of the things that drugs or alcohol are now requiring of you, it has passed from being fun to being a problem.
10. When you wake up one morning and this is no longer fun.
When you wonder how you ever got started. When you wish you had never taken that first drink or hit, you have reached the point where you don’t need to ask if this is a problem, you already know.
11. When what used to be your solution has become your problem.
If you move from thinking that a little alcohol or weed would mellow you out and make you happier or help you have more fun, and then after a long time using you need this substance to help you wake up, this is a problem. When you decide that this drug is your problem you have crossed the line by then it has become too late. You are now way past the point of return and have arrived at addiction.
Remember not all addictions are physical, getting sick kinds. The psychological addictions are often harder to kick than the physical ones.
If you are seeing some or all of these eleven signs in your life, then consider if it is time for you to give it up. There is help out there but you need to reach out for the help. Some professionals, counselors and therapists, have been trained to help. There are substance abuse programs in most every place. If those options do not work for you there are plenty of twelve step groups and a few other peer self-help groups, all full of people who would like to help you as a part of their recovery.
If your fun has turned in to your problem please consider asking for help.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books