Sanctuary for the Abused
Thursday, August 11, 2005
do you have a drug problem?
Addiction is a primary, progressive, and fatal illness which responds to medical treatment. If left untreated, addictions result in insanity and premature death. Addiction has also been described as a pathological relationship to a substance, person, behavior or process.
The idea that addicts are weak willed or morally corrupt has long ago been debunked. That attitude keeps people from seeking treatment and fosters shame and fear around their illness. Addicts and the people who love them are often the last to accept the disease concept - this relates to shame, denial and the need to prove that they are in control.
"Shaming" addicts for their use and using behavior is counter productive, creates barriers to recovery, and greatly complicates the recovery process once begun. Addicts feel enormous shame as it is - adding to this shame is not only cruel, but may spur greater use.
Addicts medicate shame, fear, anger and pain. Increasing the burden of shame can lead to overdose and / or suicide.
signs + symptoms of addiction
- When you drink or use drugs, does it take more or less to get you drunk or high than it used to? (Increasing or decreasing tolerance is a sign of addiction.)
- Do you ever drink or use more than you intended to? (This indicates loss of control over your use.)
- Do you make sure you have a supply of drugs or always keep a bottle on hand? (Do you call the dealer before your stash is gone, drive across town at rush hour to refill that prescription, or lay in a case on Saturday night so you'll have it when the liquor stores are closed on Sunday? Preoccupation with supply is a characteristic of addiction.)
- Do you have blackouts or brownouts - forget what you have done or said, or "lose time" after drinking or using? (Blackouts are indicative of late stage alcoholism or addiction.)
- Do you ever drink or use drugs in the morning to reduce anxiety or cope with a hangover? (This indicates progression of addiction, hangovers are actually the onset of withdrawal.)
- Do you ever find yourself wishing for a drink or drug to calm down or steady yourself? (This indicates preoccupation and self medication, as well as progression of addiction, as what prompts this is often physical withdrawal symptoms.)
- Do you ever drink when taking prescription medications which advise against drinking alcohol? (This shows powerlessness over your drinking. It is also very dangerous. Remember Karen Anne Quinlan?)
- Have you ever gone to work or school drunk or high? (This indicates powerlessness and unmanageability in your life.)
- Do you have a history of relationships with addicts or alcoholics? (Codependent alcoholics and addicts often unconsciously find addicted partners - it allows them a smoke screen to hide behind. "I may drink or use, but I'm not like them.")
- Do you find yourself using alcohol, drugs or sex to reduce anxiety or help you sleep? (Addicts medicate emotional pain, anxiety and fear. Benzodiazapine based anti anxiety drugs - Xanex, Valium etc. -are highly addictive. Most sleeping meds are very addictive, and often have a paradoxical effect - making sleep disturbances worse with continued use.)
- When prescribed medication, do you take more than prescribed? ("If one is good - two is better": this belief is at the center of addictive thinking.)
- Have friends, family or loved ones ever commented on or expressed concern about your use? (Addicts are usually the last to recognize their disease - denial is an automatic and unconscious component of addiction. If you insist that you don't have a problem you probably do! If this makes you angry - ask yourself why?)
- Do you conceal your use from family, friends, therapists or loved ones, or "edit" stories involving your drinking or using? (Secretiveness, denial and lies about use are characteristic of active addicts and alcoholics.)
- Do you ever drink or use alone? (Indicates you are not a "social" drinker. Also, isolation and a feeling of "being different" or "not fitting in" are a common personality trait of addicts / alcoholics.)
- Do you do or say things you later regret when drinking or using? (Impaired judgement from drinking or using indicate powerlessness over use. Behavioral changes when drinking or using are a sign of progression, loss of control and late stage addiction.)
- Have you ever had a DUI, driven drunk, or had a drug or alcohol related accident or injury?
- Have you slept in your car, or away from home because you were too drunk to drive?
- Are you relieved when someone else drives so you are free to drink or use? (Drinking and driving indicates powerlessness over use, and is a part of the unmanageability of active addiction.)
- Have you ever stopped or cut back on drinking or using because you felt it was causing problems in your life? (Life difficulties around use indicate a problem - many alcoholics and addicts temporarily modify their patterns of using in an effort to prove to themselves that they have control of their use. Non-alcoholics don't need to prove they are in control!
Stopping drinking or use for a period is usually not difficult, staying abstinent from all mood altering substances for long periods is nearly impossible for untreated addicts.)
- Is your life increasingly chaotic and turbulent? (Unmanagability is indicated by accidents, missed appointments, unpaid / late bills and rent, work and relationship difficulties, a generalized sense of desperation, and pervasive sadness or anger. A life out of control is often traceable to the progression of addiction. Addicts typically project their unmanagability outward
- blaming everything but the addiction for their problems. Addicts drink or use because they are addicted. Difficult life events may trigger addictive acting out - but they are not the cause of an addict's use.)
- Do you switch from one substance to another, or change drinks in an effort to regain control? (Switch from Scotch to Beer? Stop drinking but start taking pills? Give up marijuana but start drinking? Quit drinking but become sexually promiscuous? This is called cross addiction.)
- Do you believe you're not an addict because your drug of choice is legal or prescribed? (Go ask Elvis about this one! Many Medical Doctors are shockingly unaware of addiction issues, and of the addictive nature of many commonly prescribed drugs.)
If you answered yes to any of these questions you may want to look at your using and drinking patterns. If you answered yes to two moderating your drinking or use would be a good idea; three or more you would be well advised to seek professional help.
If you have an addict or alcoholic in your life the prudent course is compassionate and loving confrontation of their addictive behavior coupled with presenting a treatment option. This is called intervention.
If you just took this test for someone else - you may wish to learn more about codependency. Addicts cannot be "made to recover" - effective recovery work requires personal willingness. If someone you love has a problem you can (and should) confront their use and using behaviors. You cannot control, cure or fix the problem. Sometimes you have to let go and let them continue in the addiction until things get so bad that their misery outweighs their fear of change.
Copyright 2003 Recovery-Man.com