How often have you heard someone say they are “addicted” to something?
It’s not that unusual for people to claim that they have a shoe obsession or state that they are addicted to love or ice cream, but a serious addiction can have negative effects that can impact your life for years to come.
The key is knowing how when “enough is enough” is having the ability to recognize when your passion for something has crossed the line from harmless fun and grown into a full-blown addiction.
Let’s start by defining what addiction is. According to Psychology Today; addiction is defined as, “a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.”
In a nutshell, it means that you may be an addict when your greatest pleasure becomes your biggest vice and you continue to do it even though you’re not enjoying it anymore. While it is quite common to think of addiction only as it relates to drugs or alcohol, more people in recent years are reporting serious problems with addictions to porn, video games, and shopping along with a rise in dependence on opioids and prescription drugs.
It does not matter what you are doing, whether smoking weed, drinking, sexting, gaming, etc. What matters is how your compulsion to engage in this activity is affecting your ability to live a healthy well-balanced life. Ask yourself if this is something you can effortlessly do without? Here are eight of the most common things people do if they are an addict.
Obsessive thoughts can be overwhelming. They are insidious, all-consuming and almost impossible to ignore. A good example of this is if you get up in the morning thinking about your object of desire, spend all day engaging in it or trying to figure out how you can get it and then go to bed at night only to repeat the pattern the next day. Obsession is a never-ending compulsion. You might find yourself saying, “just a little bit more” or “this is my last one”, but more is never enough. If just thinking about depriving yourself makes you feel anxious, then you may be suffering from obsessive thoughts related to your addiction.
Hiding or Minimizing Behavior
A classic symptom of addiction is “private secrets and public denial”. Hiding or minimizing your behavior is a hallmark that is all too common. A prime example is saying you had only a few beers when you know you had a case of beer, and then you go out of your way to hide the bottles in the bin on the curb of the street, instead of inside the house.
Or if you say you only played video games after you got home from work, but you instead called in sick and played all day in secret. If you are lying about where you are, where you are going, or straight-up hiding your behavior then you may be in trouble.
There is a saying in the treatment community which is “you are only as sick as your secrets”’ and there is a lot of truth to this. You can only get help for the things you are willing to admit to, and if you find yourself not being honest with yourself and others you may more at risk than you think.
This can often be hard to recognize because negative consequences can often be justified or dismissed by those with an active addiction. It’s easy to minimize our behavior and the effect we are having on those around us. Major things like losing a job, relationship, or going bankrupt are obvious signs of negativity, but there are often many less life-altering consequences that can be just as damaging over time.
Have you ever picked a fight with someone just so you can have an excuse to leave and do what you want? Have you broken a promise or blown off an appointment because of your addiction? If it’s a choice between your addiction and your bills what do you choose? Have you ever made excuses so people don’t know about your activities, who you are with or where you are going? Over time this type of behavior can erode your relationships, disrupt your life and compound the problem by leaving you feeling powerless and alone and even more susceptible to giving in to your compulsions.
Do you find it hard to make friends, try something new or go outside of your comfort zone? It’s easy to embrace an “attitude of solitude” when suffering from an addiction. Its feels almost safer to be alone then it is to reach out to strangers and ask for help.
If everyone around you is having a problem with your behavior and starting to go away, then you may want to take a hard look at your behavior. Humans by nature are social creatures and no one truly wants to be alone. If you find yourself without any resources or people you can count on, you may want to explore what you are doing that is keeping people away from you, or making it so that you do not want to be around others.
If you find yourself in increasingly dangerous or precarious situations due to your behavior, then you may be at risk. The deeper you fall into your addiction, the more likely this scenario becomes. It may start by hiding money then escalates into stealing money.
It goes from going out with friends and getting a ride home, to sneaking out by yourself and driving impaired. Another example is forgetting to pick up the kids from school because you were at the casino, or spending the grocery money on lottery tickets.
Other people may start sneaking prescription pills from an elderly parent or friends and then find themselves making up fake identities to feed their addiction. No one ever believes it will happen to them until it does. This is a serious issue that can often lead to legal issues that can exacerbate a complex situation for someone with an addiction.
Susceptible to Triggers
Triggers are everywhere and can come when you least expect it. You can be watching a ball game and a commercial for beer makes you want to drink, or be at work and hear a song on the radio that makes you think of your last high, or you can visit a place that makes you feel like you need to give in to your cravings just to feel normal.
Triggers are deeply linked to our memories, our emotions and particularly our senses such as sight, sound, or smell.
For instance, if every time you eat pasta, you want wine, every time you go to the beach you want weed, or every time you smell popcorn you want to watch porn, then you are being affected by triggers. Triggers are often the first chain in a long link of behaviors that define our addictive profile, but once we recognize them we empower ourselves with the awareness needed to start to address them and hopefully overcome them.
Loss of Control
Have you ever found that you can’t stop once you’ve started and that in spite of your best intentions you keep giving into impulses despite your best efforts? This is what we call the loss of control.
It also sometimes happens when you lose track of time, forget where you are or even “blackout” which happens when the cognitive part of your brain shuts down but your body continues to engage in an activity without being consciously aware. For the addict, there is no such thing as “moderation” and no such thing as control.
This is a major indicator of addiction and once you’ve started overeating, gambling, drinking or taken that first pill, will power is no longer a part of the equation.
Shame and Guilt
You’re probably familiar with “the walk of shame”, you know, that moment when you wake up in the place you never intended to be, possibly in bed with a person you barely know, or making excuses to people who matter. Shame and guilt are the twin sisters of addiction.
Addiction can make you a liar, a deceiver, a traitor and a person you don’t recognize in the mirror. If you are lying to cover up your behavior and making promises you can’t keep, it’s a good indicator that you may be an addict. Shame and guilt are often the elephants in the room that you deny, hide from and try to push down with more of the addictive behavior so that you don’t have to feel the pain.
Shame and guilt are often the major blocks of treatment. Understating that addiction is a disease and not a choice, and by not blaming the person, you can take the first steps required to overcome guilt and shame and find help.
Trusting your inner voice
If you have read this article to the end you are probably someone who has an addiction problem or are someone seeking information for a loved one who has a problem. It takes a lot to recognize that you have an issue and then work towards finding a solution.
Sometimes, simply find a support group is enough to make a change, other times we need something more intensive such as an outpatient treatment program or a residential rehab. No matter what path you choose, trusting that inner voice, reaching out for help and moving into action are all necessary first steps on the road to recovery.
If you would like more information about addiction or a free assessment by a counselor to then please contact the professionals at The River Rehab to explore what options are available.