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Just a Bad Habit or Addiction?

If you are unsure if your use of mind-altering substances is a harmless habit or a potentially harmful addiction, you are certainly not alone. Since man first crushed grapes and turned them into wine people have been asking themselves the very same question. While some who crushed grapes were satisfied with a glass or two of the wine they produced, there were some who drank until they reached the point of oblivion. Centuries later, most of us still know people who fall into each of these categories.

It seems (at first glance) to be a relatively simple question to answer. It is definitely not; countless numbers of people of all ages around the globe struggle with this intensely personal question.

There are a number of reasons why it is so hard to answer. First, no one wants to admit they have an addiction and few want to be referred to as a “drug addict” or an “alcoholic”. These terms alone conjure up disheveled, homeless folks huddled under bridges shooting up, popping pills or drinking from a brown paper bag. Like any other group in our society, addicts come in all shapes, sizes and income levels. The solid citizen (with two cars in the garage and a white picket fence) is as likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol as the man or woman living on the streets.

Another reason many find the question difficult to answer is because the mental fog some users live in makes it nearly impossible to make accurate judgments.

Without a doubt, however, the biggest reason alcoholics and drug users can not admit to addiction is denial. The vast majority of people will have to break through the layers of denial before they can “own” their addiction and begin the process of recovery. Denial does not mean these people realize they are addicts and deny it because admission would mean defeat. No, it is much more complex than that. Even after having suffered major consequences as a result of using and having been diagnosed by a bevy of professionals, many addicts will continue to deny they have a problem. How can this be? They really believe they don’t have a problem. Often, they believe they are not like all the “others”, they can handle their liquor or drug of choice … they can quit any time they want. Typically, however, they don’t test that theory because they don’t try to quit. No one can make you believe you are addicted to a substance. It is a discovery you will have to make on your own. Yes, you can be guided, but the decision is yours alone.

You may be familiar with the folksy comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Foxworthy’s most famous routine is called “You Might Be a Redneck If …..” fill in the blanks. If you are completely honest, you may come to an important conclusion when you just consider this:

You Might Be an Addict If:

  • You are no longer comfortable around your old friends
  • You surround yourself with people who live their lives “high”
  • You have given up previously enjoyable activities – playing baseball, swimming, dancing, etc. to get high instead
    You find yourself isolating yourself more and more – you spend countless hours totally alone and non-productive
    People who love you (trusted family and friends) are telling you they think you have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol
  • The only people that agree with your assessment (you are not an addict) are the people you use with
  • If you have lost jobs due to drugs/alcohol
  • If you have lost friends due to drugs/alcohol
  • If you have tried (time and time again) to control your habit … “I’ll only drink/use on weekends” … and you have failed repeatedly.
  • If you sleep something like 2 hours or 18 hours each day
  • If you have gained or lost a significant amount of weight rapidly
  • If you have ever been jailed because of substance use or issued a DUI

These are only some indicators that might suggest you have an addiction. Maybe the best indicator is how happy are you? Or, are you miserable a great deal of the time? As stated earlier, only you can determine if your substance use is a habit or an addiction. There is good news for those who come to terms with the fact that they are, indeed, addicted. There are many sources of help available and there are many millions of individuals who are recovering from their addictions and who now live happy, productive and fulfilling lives.