Oddly, it can be astonishingly difficult to diagnose oneself as an alcoholic or an addict. Being able to see the signs of addiction becomes nearly impossible when we are in the cycle ourselves. Our lives can be burnt to the ground, in smoldering flames all around us, and yet we still can’t see it. The spectacular levels of denial and delusion surrounding addiction or abuse contribute mightily to the inability to get well. How can you recover from addiction if you don’t think you have it? If you’re unsure if you’ve got a problem or not, here we offer some things to consider.
Alcoholics and addicts sometimes say things to themselves like “I’m not homeless, so how could I be an alcoholic?” or “I am young and just partying” or “I’m just going through a rough patch in life and will quit when things get easier.” This inability to see the problem clearly is actually characteristic thinking for alcoholics and addicts. Some people might point out that they are functioning; they are holding down a good job, showing up for family, have never gotten a DUI. But functioning well in the world isn’t the sole indicator of alcoholism or addiction. Looking closely for the signs of addiction is hard to do when you’re stuck in a cycle and in survival mode.
Craving and Obsession
Twelve-step literature identifies alcoholics or addicts as having a wide range of varying qualities but acknowledges that they share common characteristics: specifically—warped, obsessive thinking about alcohol or drugs (such as: “just one more” or “I’ll quit tomorrow” or “I just went two weeks without drinking, so I don’t have a problem”). In addition to the skewed perception, alcoholics and addicts discover that once they start drinking or using, they experience an overpowering physical craving for more, regardless of cost or consequence. These are just a few signs of addiction that many people dismiss.
Other Signs of Addiction
Well-regarded medical facilities offer these additional signs of alcoholism or drug addiction:
- You continue drinking or using despite clear negative consequences, such as problems in your life, or physical or psychological harm
- You pass up or avoid social situations where there won’t be a chance to drink or use
- You experience withdrawal symptoms when not using or drinking
- You hide your alcohol or drug use
- Your tolerance is increasing—you find that you need to consume increasing amounts for an effect
- You can’t seem to stop when you want to
- You take risks you normally wouldn’t (like stealing or driving drunk) or make sacrifices to continue using
- You make excuses or lie when other people show concern
- Feeling that you have to use or drink regularly — daily or even several times a day
- Having intense urges or cravings that block out any other thoughts
- Drinking or using larger amounts over a longer period than you intended
- Making certain that you maintain a supply
- Spending money on alcohol or drugs, even though you can’t afford it
If You Can Identify, Take Heart
Twelve-step literature sums it up nicely with this method for self-diagnosis: “If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic.”*
Believe it or not, if you can identify with some or all of these symptoms, that may be great news. Admitting powerlessness over drugs or alcohol is the first step in getting free, and often the beginning of an entirely new life.
Help is Available
At Scottsdale Providence, we offer PHP, IOP, and Evening IOP. Our therapists work with you to identify your goals and develop a program that fits you. Our comprehensive addiction treatment program includes individual and group therapy, psychiatric care, and 12-Step Facilitation. The clinical foundation of our program is in Interactive Journaling, an innovative experiential modality that puts the client at the center of their change process. Our expert treatment team blends CBT, Motivational Interviewing, DBT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Narrative Therapy, EMDR, Neurofeedback, and Occupational Therapy to promote long-term recovery. Psychiatric care, case management, discharge planning, acupuncture, yoga, and fitness all make up a truly comprehensive treatment experience.
*page 44, Alcoholics Anonymous