So check it out: Addiction is recognized as a disease, but the official diagnosis is called a “substance use disorder.” According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.”
In other words, as the first of the 12 Steps point out, our lives have become unmanageable. Where on the scale of unmanageability, however, does our drug use lie? Are we casually experimenting? Do we have a problem? Are we full-blown addicted? No one who starts out using drugs ever plans on getting to that point, but it happens. And when it does, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms so that you can do something about it.
Here are 10 signs you may be an addict:
- You experience intense cravings. Cravings are defined as “intense desires,” so we’re not talking about fleeting thoughts of, “Man, a line of coke would be nice right about now.” Cravings are those incessant thoughts that occupy large blocks of time and push to the side other concerns. If you find yourself obsessing about the next time you can get high, to the point that everyday life seems like a distraction, then you’re experiencing cravings.
- Your tolerance has increased. By “tolerance,” we’re talking about the amount of drugs needed to achieve your desired high. Over time, your body acclimates to your drug use, and the amount you smoked, snorted, swallowed or shot up in the beginning just doesn’t have the same effect. You get part of the way there, but not all of the way, and so you find yourself taking more of a particular drug in order to feel the way that you want.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop. These may be mild — general restlessness or irritability — or full-blown sickness, where your body aches and your legs feel like Jell-O and you spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with quaking bowels and a queasy stomach. All of these symptoms disappear when you consume your substance of choice, however, and you find that you can’t feel normal without it.
- You’re physically and psychologically dependent on drugs. You can’t function, and the thought of attempting to do so without them terrifies you. You need something in the morning to get you going, throughout the day to be OK and in the evenings to keep from going into withdrawal. Your body requires a steady intake of a particular substance in order to feel OK.
- Your life revolves around getting, using and finding ways and means to get more. Perhaps you once had habits or hobbies you enjoyed — golf, perhaps, or going to the movies, or seeing live bands, or running … but you can’t remember the last time you did any of those things, because everything in your life now revolves around planning for the next time you’ll be able to get high. Everything in your life now serves a singular purpose: to keep you in a steady supply of drugs.
- You continue to use in spite of negative consequences. Maybe you’re on probation at work because you’re constantly late due to being sick or needing to resupply … maybe your relationship is on the rocks … perhaps you’re behind on bills. Whatever the case may be, you recognize that your life is spiraling out of control, and that something needs to be done, but you keep telling yourself you be able to fix it, and therefore you keep getting high and keep receiving consequences.
- You’ve begun to do things you never thought you’d do in order to get drugs or get high. In recovery, we call those “yets,” because most addicts know that as our affliction spirals further and further out of control, we’ll eventually get to a place where we do the things we swore we’d never do: steal, pawn, write bad checks, sell our bodies, use a needle. If there’s a line you’re not willing to cross, you might want to look at all the lines you already have … because sooner or later, you’ll cross the next one as well.
- You hide or downplay your drug use. If you’re covering up the amount of drugs you do, even from friends with whom you do them, you probably know why: You have a problem, and those people are going to point it out. If other people knowing about your drug use makes you feel ashamed, then something is clearly wrong with that picture.
- You’ve begun to change your circle of friends to accommodate your drug use. Instead of hanging out with folks who may express concern, you instead begin to gravitate toward those who party like you do, or even worse. That way, you always have someone at whom you can point a finger and say, “I’m not as bad as him/her,” which is tacit approval to keep doing what you’re doing.
- Life seems to have no meaning. If you go far enough down the rabbit hole, getting high is no longer about having fun; it’s about staying one step ahead of being sick. You reach a point where you cease to live and simply start existing, outside of the slipstream of a life that once seemed fulfilling and into a monotony of endless repetition only broken up by chaos and insanity.
If any of those 10 issues resonate with you, consider it a warning flag. You may very well be an addict, and if you can’t figure out a way to put the brakes on your problem, you’re going to start suffering serious consequences.
However, you can stop. You can lose the desire to use. And you can find a new way to live, thanks to the recovery offered at places like Cornerstone of Recovery. Our commodity is hope, and no matter how far down the scale you’ve fallen, it’s available to you. All you have to do is reach out. Our professional and compassionate Admissions staff is waiting on your call.