Listen, I’m the first guy to admit there have been times when a few beers out with the guys turned into a holy-crap-how-did-I-end-up-in-this-stairwell-and-where-are-my-pants kind of night. It happens. Sometimes the party fever takes hold, and things get a little out of control. And that’s nothing to worry about… when it happens once in a very long while.
But what if the occasional turns into the regular? How do you tell when your “just blowing off steam” becomes your “just to get by”? When your party lifestyle nosedives into full blown addiction?
Look, all joking aside, addiction is ugly, and it can lead you down an isolating path from the life of the party, to a life of destruction. So if you think that you or a buddy may be struggling with addiction, consider the following warning signs the party has gone on too long, and then don’t be a hero. Seek help right away.
1. You’re Using Even After the Pain Has Stopped
Remember that back injury you aggravated a while back and the doc gave you some pills for the pain? Ever take one (or more) of those left over Vicodin or Valium even if your pain is gone, just to cope with stress? That’s technically abuse, and for many people, the occasional pop of a pill becomes a regular occurrence just to help them get through their day.
Addiction to prescription medications is one of the most dangerous abuses for a bunch of reasons. Many of the medications can cause liver and other organ failure with continued abuse—and because prescription med abuse is more secretive in nature, it makes it easier for people to sustain before friends and family find out. If you find yourself regularly downing prescription pills that you no longer need for the prescribed reasons, you may be facing addiction.
2. When Being Sober Hurts
Decided not to drink today because you have an important meeting with the boss tomorrow? Notice a wave of nausea or a pounding headache? That headache that won’t go away, cold sweats, or those random bouts of nausea could all be signs of withdrawal. If you find yourself experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you might be suffering from addiction.
Withdrawal is your body’s physiological reaction to being deprived of—whether suddenly or simply due to a decrease—the drugs or alcohol that it is used to receiving. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and emotional, and if you find yourself experiencing either type, it’s time to seek help.
3. When You’re Drinking Alone
I know this is an old cliché, but it holds true. Most of us are social users. We might have one too many cocktails or beers when we are out with the guys blowing off steam on a Friday night after a stressful week, or watching a big game at a sports bar. But, if you find yourself drinking alone on a daily basis, it may be a sign that you have a problem. A beer when you get home isn’t an issue, but an entire 6-pack, half a bottle of booze, or using prescription drugs to take your mind off the day you just had, well then, yeah, maybe there’s a problem.
4. When You’re Constantly in Stealth Mode
Are you ducking into the bathroom to swallow that pill? Hiding your prescriptions? Or avoiding hanging out with friends to rush home to get your drink on? Take a close look at that. Typically, we only hide what we don’t want others to know about due to shame or fear. If you find yourself using drugs or alcohol in a secretive or isolating manner, you may have a problem.
5. When You Can’t Take Jokes
Someone makes a crack about how much you can drink, and you lose it. F*ck them! What do they know? I don’t have a problem! Sure, we all have our glory stories from college and bachelor parties about taking our drinking to the limit, but when you can no longer take those jokes, it might clue you in to a bigger issue.
When we’re confronted with something that we know is true and we don’t like it or are ashamed of it, we have a tendency to become angry or hostile about it. So if you find yourself flying off the handle whenever someone even mentions you drinking or using, it might be time to ask yourself, “Why am I getting so angry?” You might find that it is because you are wrestling with addiction.
If you or any buddy of yours seems to fall into any of the 5 warning signs above, you might want to consider seeking treatment. Sites like Dualdiagnosis.org can help you determine the level of addiction, and can also help you find the type of treatment needed. Don’t be afraid to confront yourself or your buddy. Just remember not to be a dick about it, or get in his (or your own) face about it. Coming from compassion rather than anger will yield better results.
Remember, addiction doesn’t make a person weak or bad. Addiction is a disease that causes a person to completely lose control. Approaching someone in an aggressive or highly confrontational manner will most likely only cause them to either A- run or B- attack you back. If you find that you need to confront yourself, look for a close personal friend or family member to confide in.
Don’t let addiction cost you those you care about or ruin your life. If you think you might have a problem, it’s time to turn the lights out on the party and make the call.