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How Do I Know This Is An Addiction?

Posted by Peter Guess on June 24, 2011 at 7:05 PM

THE FIRST STEP IN RECOVERY: RECOGNITION AND ACCEPTANCE


I am writing this in a way that can be used as a Self-Administered Addiction Check-Up (before going to the online self-test) to identify signs that indicate the presence of an addiction. The first thing I look at is the PATTERNS of usage (whether drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, internet gaming, etc.). These I will refer to as DOC (Drug of Choice). The second is the IMPACT of the patterns on the functioning of the individual and the family and loved ones. These are not in clear, distinct categories, as you will see as I ask the questions. I will be framing the questions as if you are the one with the possible addiction.


Note your "Yes" answers as you go along. So here goes...


PATTERNS

  • Are you losing control over your using of your DOC?
  • Do you need more and more of the DOC, stronger doses or more frequently?
  • Do you make promises to cut down or stop and fail continually to do this?
  • Do you go on binges (weekly, monthly or for whatever period), believing you are in control?
  • When you do stop or cut down drastically, do you experience any signs of *withdrawal? (*Note: These signs are in two basic categories: (a) psychological symptoms like: irritability, aggression, depression, mood swings, emptiness, craving, obsessing over the DOC and/or (b) physical symptoms like: sweating, headaches, pain, insomnia, changes in eating patterns, shaking, fever...)
  • Have you been referred to a health professional or treatment centre due to concerns over your DOC? Or sought help for yourself as a result of your usage?
  • When you use your DOC are you experiencing more and more discomfort, guilt or shame?
  • Are you beginning to isolate yourself or withdraw due to your DOC?
  • Are your friends, family, spouse or partner asking you (no begging you) to cut down or stop?


IMPACT ON FUNCTIONING

  • Is your life becoming unmanageable in one or more of these areas: Career? Money? Relationships? Confidence? Self-esteem? Spiritual life? Social life? Hobbies? Sport?
  • Are people withdrawing from you due to your DOC or the changes they see in you?
  • Do you continue using in spite of some serious consequences you have experienced? For example: loss of a job, traffic accident, police arrest, threats of divorce, drop in achievement (in studies, career, sport...)
  • Are there clear signs of weight loss or gain; changes in eating patters; or deterioration of general health?
  • Is your social circle changing and you tend to spend more time with other using your DOC or in that environment (e.g. bars, hotels, strip shows, adult shops, gaming stalls)


This is not a comprehensive list by any means. These are just key questions I probe or information I listen for. If you can identify with even ONE of these questions, I suggest it is worth having a Risk-Assessment and talking to someone as soon as possible. Why? Because denial is a part of the development of any addiction. It blinds one to the reality of what is happening.


THE PROBLEM OF DENIAL

Denial is part of the disease of addiction. Denial keeps the addiction going. It feeds the addiction like fuel to a flame. Denial locks in the disease of addiction. Both the user or addict and those closest to the person, experience denial. Denial is a set of cunning ways the addiction "fools" everyone that everything is OK or "it will just go away if we/I leave it". Here are some ways we deny the reality of addiction:

  • Minimisation: "It's not as bad as person X?" When confronted the person says, "You are making a big deal about nothing. Lighten up. I'm just having fun."
  • Projection: The person blames the economy, bad boss, bad marriage, drinking partner, a crisis, some stressful situation...
  • Rationalisation: "It's just a bad habit. You also have some bad habits." "Everybody does it." "I'm just going through a stage." "I can stop if I want to."


As you can see, this "faulty thinking" or denial is also a clear sign of the presence of addiction. The sad news is that denial perpetuates the progressive growth of the disease. It masks the problem. People help and enable the problem by believing these lies. These lies contribute to and compound the problem and delay the person and the family from getting the help they need.

Click here for Your Check-Up and Risk-Assessment


So, my appeal to you is to get professional help as soon as possible. the longer it continues the more the addiction becomes treatment resistant! And that's the bad news.


The good news is this. Yes, addiction is difficult to treat. Yes, to date, we know of no cure for addiction. And we know you cannot try to control it either. Untreated addiction always gets worse. It is a progressive disease and takes down the individual and those around the person.


But, the good news is that it is treatable. There is hope for living a new life. Millions of people across the world, from all walks of life have found new hope and courage to live sober and meaningful lives using simple principles and steps, with support systems including other recovering addicts.


Just a question. Do you realise why I started the blog with the headline:

"The First Key Step In Recovery?"


The 12 Steps of Recovery, based on Alcoholics Anonymous, says the first step is this:

"We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, and that our lives had become unmanageable."

Based on this blog, if you identify the problem clearly and begin the process of surrender, you (as a supporter, loved one or the person with the addiction) are taking the first crucial step. Surrender means you are raising the white flag and saying "OK, I need help. And I will do whatever it takes to recover." Without this step done thoroughly, no long-term recovery is possible. You may be a spouse or employer of a person with this addiction. Or you have the addiction yourself. You need not do this alone anymore.


I know the desperation of struggling alone. Why? Though I am a qualified counsellor, I am also an addict in recovery. And I know the pain of seeing my Mother and Father struggle with their addiction and feeling helpless to stop the downward spiral. Both died with unteated alcoholism. This has been one of my sources of inspiration to find answers for myself and others.


In my next few blogs I will discuss the process of recovery - principles, steps and support systems - in some detail, and why they work "if you work them".


Don't wait though. Call me now! Any time. And let's have a chat. I really want to help and inject some hope.


To Your Health and Wholeness,

Peter Guess

Click here for Your Check-Up and Risk-Assessment

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2 Comments

Reply emme
1:38 AM on June 25, 2011 
Thought provoking and real.
Reply Peter Guess
9:02 AM on June 25, 2011 
Thanks emme, yes this is such a growing need and we still have no "magic cure". But we do have recovery options and a simple path that works!
emme says...
Thought provoking and real.