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So, how do you know?
I remember walking into my doctors office shortly after detoxing to 'fess up that I had alcohol/drug problems. I held a great respect for my doctor (I couldn't get pills out of him) and he had repaired a great deal of damage I had done to my body during the previous years, including some rather nasty duodenal ulcers when I was the ripe old age of 22. Stress caused them, or so I convinced myself was the case. The fact that I was vomiting blood incessantly, in pain 24 hours a day and still drinking never struck me as being somewhat stupid.... I didn't really care anyway.... I ended up basically living on antacid... should have bought shares!
I was nervous about telling my doctor what I was. He was well known in the town to refuse to keep tobacco smokers as patients... he thought it was a waste of time. Based on that (and my sensitivity at the time) I was sure that he would call me every name under the sun and curse me out of his office, hurling unspeakable medical instruments at me as I retreated.
When I told him what had happened and what I had done about it, he extended his hand and shook mine. You could have knocked me over with a feather. He then started speaking about what he knew of addiction, and surprised me with his depth of knowledge. He believed in the disease concept, knew the importance of not prescribing mood altering medications to recovering addicts and was very supportive.
I asked him "you know so much about it, why didn't you ever bail me up on the subject?" His response: "Was there any point?".
And that is the point of this article.
It's true.. we can't be told. Denial is our greatest ally in our downhill run. It shields us and allows us to find alternative scapegoats for our situation. "If only this, if only that, blah blah blah...things would be different". Even when we get "this and that", things don't change... the illness is progressive and does not respond to a change in our finances, environment or relationships - it must be dealt with directly.
For most of us, we have to lose everything... material and emotional before the denial is also lost - many of us are brought to our knees. I used to take a lot of pride in my appearance, but by the end of my "career" I had even stopped bothering to wash myself or even brush my hair. It didn't seem to matter.
We just don't seem to get it, but I do believe that subconsciously we know damned well what is causing our lives to be chaotic.
So how do you tell if you are alcoholic/addicted?
Are you ready to take a good look at yourself? If not, don't bother reading any further... go back to your bottle or your bong and find what temporary happiness you can in that. If you can really face yourself, I assure you that the future will hold a happiness that you have not experienced for a long time, perhaps ever.... but I warn you, it is damned hard work... for the term of your natural life.
I guess I could write reams and reams of quizzes and symptoms (I sat through many of them), but for the person questioning themselves as to whether they are an addict; it boils down to this:
-If you spend most of your straight time thinking about the substance of choice, to the point that it distracts you from other things, that is a strong indicator that you have the obsessive aspect of addiction.
-If you maneuvre events around things that may get in the way of using or drinking. That much mental energy dedicated to something so destructive is definitely not what I would consider a "good life".
-If you use/drink and it causes problems in your life, be they financial, physical, emotional or spiritual, and you continue to use or drink.
-If your behaviour while you are under the influence is totally out of character, negatively affects others and you have blank spots (called blackouts) - this signifies a lack of control over the substance and also indicates the beginnings of frontal lobe brain damage.
-If you need to use/drink more in order to achieve the same sensations, you are developing a tolerance to it. Your body is growing used to the substance, which is never a good sign.
That's it, 5 points. Simple things for complicated people. Now, I could pretty it up and make it fuzzy around the edges by making the statement that if you experience the above you may have an alcohol/drug problem. But that wouldn't sit right with me.
Whether you accept it or not, you are addicted and in big trouble.. end of story.
How does that hit you? Do you feel angry or threatened by what I just stated? Maybe you are thinking "what right does this person have to make this statement?". You are of course correct, I have no right - but you don't have to read this. Is our old friend Denial paying a visit, tying your stomach into knots? Then I have made my point.
That's all that addiction is - a physical compulsion couple with a mental obsession. Very strong, very dangerous... and more often than not, fatal. If a loved one confronts us head on with the accusation of being a drunk or addict, we usually have a instantaneous, very defensive response. Some of us become aggressive and I know of cases where people have killed others when confronted. Never underestimate the power of the disease or the grip it has upon you.
To people who don't understand this disease, I guess their reaction is "just stop". They are pretty fortunate to obviously not have an addictive bone in their body - it is so hard to try and relay to someone the gnawing feelings which remain long after the hell of withdrawal is over. It is very tiring, and that is why so many of us relapse. But the gnawing does taper off to a point that it just becomes a part of lifes other aches and pains & the positives far outweigh the negatives. My other articles explore avenues of assistance in the battle against substance addiction.
I guess the other way to self diagnose is to think about this: If you are seriously questioning yourself as to whether you have a problem, then you probably have one ........... "normal" people usually don't have to ask themselves these things .........
Please do something about it, before the "Parasite" takes a firmer grip... I guarantee you it won't get any easier the longer you put it off. Like pregnancy, you can't ignore it and hope it will go away.
And... how much do you want to lose while waiting? Denial may cost you your job, your house, your loved ones....it's their lives too that you are affecting.
Good luck to you in your struggle...fight it.. it's worth it. I can honestly say that I have more to live for in my life now than I would have ever dared dream, none of it was possible the way I was before.
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