Am I an Addict?
This is a tough question. The reason is because addiction is a behavioral and a psychological condition, not just a physical disease. Diabetes is diagnosed by taking a blood test; infections can be cultured. But two people, one an addict and one not, may have very similar behaviors. The difference between abuse and addiction can be difficult to pin down.
Compulsive behavior and addiction
One of the clearest hallmarks of addictive behavior is an inability to stop when the negative consequences become obvious. The problem for addicts, however, is that part of being addicted is a talent for overlooking the problems abuse is causing.
Some addicts follow a process of sliding downhill until their life is so wrapped up in their drug of choice (including alcohol) that they can no longer ignore it. By this time, everyone they interact with already knows what’s going on. The question answers itself. Before this though, the compulsion may only be apparent to the user themselves.
Is your habit something that motivates you to do things you otherwise would not? Do you hang around with people and go places and put yourself at risk because you have a need to use? That isn’t normal, and it isn’t OK.
Addiction usually involves a feeling that self-control is lacking. One may say, “I can quit anytime.” They may actually put aside the unwanted behavior for a time. But they always return. The feeling of powerlessness increases. Someone who is addicted eventually understands they have lost control over their choices.
Refusal to accept responsibility
A common trait amongst addicts is their refusal to address the addiction directly and accept responsibility for it. The habit is continually justified by other life events. They may gamble or drink or use drugs to ‘self treat’ and think their addiction has a useful purpose. Unfortunately, the addiction is a false friend. It may seem to help one set of problems, but leads to other problems. Eventually, the addiction takes over and the only purpose for the behavior becomes the behavior itself.
The result is usually a series of lies. Lying to family and friends becomes a normal event. Hiding use is just part of the daily routine. Concealing whatever equipment is needed, making excuses for missing time, stealing resources to further use… all this becomes the new normal.
In many cases, when a person tries to overcome one vice, he will substitute another. HYPERLINK "http://www.myaddiction.com/tobacco_smoking.html" Smokers often become overweight when the try to quit HYPERLINK "http://www.myaddiction.com/tobacco_smoking.html" smoking. While it might be beneficial to substitute a less harmful habit for a dangerous vice, it is an indication that the addiction hasn’t been conquered, but has merely changed forms. It is important in such instances that the addict explore the underlying cause of his addiction, or he is likely to return to his former habits.
This idea implies that addictive behavior is not substance centered, but person centered. The drug isn’t as important as the behavior. It separates the psychology of addiction from any particular practice and highlights addiction as a mental illness, a maladaptive way of dealing with stress, depression or other underlying condition.
Tendency toward multiple vices
Oftentimes addicts engage in more than one habit or vice at a time, and, in many cases, they feed each other. A workaholic might begin drinking too much after hours, “to take the edge off,” falling into alcoholism or other addictions. Many experts criticize programs that they claim simply address the symptoms of addiction without treating its source. These experts claim that these programs are merely setting up an addict to fail again and possibly slip into a more harmful addiction.
It should be said that the problem also comes from a larger drug-using community. Commonly, when peers are involved in the ‘drug scene’ there are multiple types of substances available. Cross addiction is the phrase used to identify people who habitually use multiple substances or flip between drugs.
Addiction tends to pass from generation to generation. While experts are still divided as to whether the cause is entirely genetic or a learned behavior (environment), a person who has a family history of addiction has a greater risk. Currently, the estimate of the ‘genetic component’ is 25%. That means that someone with a family history would have that much greater risk of becoming an addict themselves.
The problem with these numbers is that they do not take into consideration the opportunity. The motivation may be there, but without access, no addiction can occur. There is currently no specific gene or combination of genes that can identify someone as addiction prone.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to clarify matters:
- Do I lie, cheat, steal or conceal in service of my habit?
- Do I prefer indulging in my habit over other things I used to enjoy?
- Have I lost interest in those parts of life I used to feel passionate about?
- Have I suffered to use?
- Do I put up with some consequence of using that I know is harmful?
- Do I think about using between sessions? Do I anticipate and think about it?
- If I could take a vacation would it involve using?
- Do I have to be using to enjoy other things?
- Is there some clear trigger – depression, boredom, stress?
- What does it feel like when I stop? Why do I return?
- If I had an unbiased person I could be entirely honest with, would they say I have a problem?
- Do I like myself better or worse when I’m high? Why?
Finally, why wait until you ‘know for sure’? There is help available and people who can give you good advice. There is only shame when someone thinks they might have a problem and does nothing about it. It doesn’t get better on its own.