Addictions- Alcohol and Drug

This week, Imagine Hope has covered some common areas of addiction:  Sex addiction, TV and internet addiction, and Relationship addiction.  In the final part of this series, we will cover a very prevalent addiction:  Drug and alcohol.  So, what exactly is the line between being a "social" user, and a problem drinker?  The bottom line is how alcohol and drugs effect you and the ones you love.  If your drinking is causing you problems in your life, then you have a drinking problem.  The same goes for drug use.  Is your spouse or significant other complaining about how much you drink?  Is your family concerned about the extent of your prescription drug (or other drug) use?  Does alcohol or drugs cause you to become a "different person" emotionally (e.g., completely "checked out" emotionally, raging and angry when high or intoxicated, reckless and careless, etc.)?  Do you use drugs that are illegal and put yourself and your loved ones at risk for having an illegal substance? Do you and your spouse/significant other have repeated fights about the same thing (your drug use or your drinking)?  If you answered yes to any of these, don't wait for the addiction to grow and present even more problems--  seek help today, before you lose the things that need to be more important to you than the drugs or alcohol!  Here are some additional common signs of drug or alcohol abuse and/or addiction:

  • You need to drink or use drugs in order to "relax" or feel better
  • You can't stick to having "just one" drink, but need to have more and more-- to get drunk, in order to have "fun"
  • You regularly drink more than you intended to
  • You make promises to the people around you (who are hurt by your alcohol/drug use) to quit drinking/using drugs, but can't follow through with quitting.
  • You blame your drinking or drug related problems on others
  • You downplay the negative consequences of your use
  • You black out or forget what you did while drinking or using drugs
  • You have emotional outbursts while using drugs or drinking alcohol that you wouldn't normally have while sober
  • You lie to others about your drug use or alcohol consumption
  • You hide your alcohol or drug use from others, keeping it a secret
  • You feel guilty or ashamed about your use (or after using when you see the impact it has on others)
  • You use alcohol or drugs in situations that are dangerous (for example, operating a vehicle while drunk, mixing alcohol and prescriptions)
  • You neglect your responsibilities at work, home, school, or in your relationships
  • You continue to drink or use drugs, even though it is causing problems in your relationships with your significant other, friends, or family-- or legal problems and/or problems with your work
  • You have given up other activities because of your use
  • You want to quit drinking because of the problems it is causing, but you feel like you can't stop because of the cravings
  • You are going through tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
  • Drinking or drug use is the center and focus of your social life

Denial about alcohol or drug problems is the biggest obstacle for someone getting help.  Many times, denial can cause a person to try and rationalize away the problem, enabling them to continue using the alcohol or substance.  After all, if the true impact of the alcohol or drug use is seen and acknowledged, it makes it harder to stay in the addiction.  Many people who struggle with addictions need an excuse to continue drinking or using drugs, keeping them from looking honestly about their self-destructive behavior and how it hurts the people in their lives.  When confronted with their behavior, they may lie, become defensive, or blame the problems on something (or someone) else.

Because alcohol is such a common part of our social activities, it can be difficult sometimes to determine whether your use has crossed the line from social use to a problem.  The same holds true with many drugs, such as prescription medications and over the counter medicines.  With drug use, however, if you find you are initially using medications or drugs to treat physical symptoms, but are currently using them for other reasons, it's time to look at the truth of your use (even if you are "only taking them as prescribed").  Again, a good rule of thumb:  If your family, friends, or loved ones find your use causing problems, it's a problem. 

There is SO much information on the area of alcohol and drug addiction, but this blog is a start and can get you headed in the right direction.  For more information, or if you believe you (or a loved one) might have a problem with alcohol or drugs, contact a professional counselor today!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.