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Spotting the signs of addiction to help our loved ones

We all have certain friends who really do know how to throw a party. As wine and beer empties collect in bags that clank, the music gets loader, and so does the bass-line of the human racket. By the time midnight hits, the part-timers are home with coco, and the remainder start to find everything hilarious. The morning after the night before party people often make remarks such as these:

“…why is it that (approximately) 90% of these will remember the whole night, and yet the rest will wake up holding their cranium with bewilderment?” GC, London

“..why do most of the people ‘seem to become’ a slightly more talented, taller, uninhibited version of themselves, whilst the minority seem to instantly transform into obnoxious imbeciles?” SM, London

Whilst the extent of someone’s misbehaviour is not in itself a measurement for addiction, problem drinkers commonly describe unbearable feelings of guilt and shame as a result of lost hours. “…I never seem to get told (the next day) that I was doing charity work whilst in a blackout. I am invariably informed that I was acting like a complete goose”. HD, Newcastle

The social signs of addiction

Articles about clinical diagnostic symptoms of addiction are widespread, but below are some other ‘social’ signs that someone close to you may be struggling:

personal spaceSpace: Especially with alcohol, a problem drinker will not want you near their mouth – for fear of being found out. Their personal space boundary will grow, and they will be unwilling to even enter confined spaces.

Prickly: Active addicts tend to struggle with all criticism, and comments about the drink or drug of choice are often a huge ‘red rag’.

Sneaky: The ‘art’ of active addiction involves a game of ‘opportunity creation’. The opportunity to use or take a drink needs to be engineered. This is particularly true in couples without children. Essentially, the addict needs a certain amount of alone time. The thing to watch out for here is constant reoccurring trips to the local shop for unnecessary items. You might notice that milk disappears and needs replacing, or shopping items and ingredients are all too often “forgotten”.

Moods: Try to notice if the atmosphere or mood is significantly different following your loved one’s trip to the shop, or the garden shed. Your loved one may become confrontational or argumentative. However, it is just as likely that they will seem more cheerful immediately after their fix.

Clutch-man-bag-for-men-3Bag-clutching: The active addict or alcoholic will often have a close bond with either a handbag or man-bag. Drinks or substances are often pulled in to the body, secure, and kept within an arm’s length. An active addict will take their bag of choice absolutely everywhere including frequent trips to the toilet and to bed (in particular).

Fibs: White lies are not uncommon, addiction is built on a bed of secrets. Helping our lovers  and loved ones live a honest life can help immeasurably.

When I speak on this subject to anyone, from health professionals to inmates, or to schoolchildren, the other question is invariably: “Why does a person become an addict?” Many of us are worried about loved ones. There are a number of scientific arguments why some of us progress into addiction, and a far greater number of less-than scientific ones.

If you were to ask a co-dependency advocate, like Pia Melody, she may describe tackling addictive behaviours through a lens of childhood trauma. Adaption to ones environment, in other words. On the other hand, other articles support the ‘born addict’ and/or ‘addict genes’. Goodwin (1970’s) reported that sons who had been adopted away from alcoholic parents were just as likely to become active addicts.

Does it make any difference?

Lets say – you get shot in chest with an arrow. You could spend all day trying to work out who shot the arrow, but is that going to help? You could accept that you have an arrow in your chest, and look at how to deal with that. You could seek a hundred professional diagnostic explanations of why you came to get in the way of the arrow, but does it change anything?

Show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended, we said to ourselves: “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him?” ~ Alcoholics Anonymous ~

Learn more about rehabilitation.

About Scott Mynors

A Qualified Psychologist and Consulting Psychologist - Scott trained in the UK (University of Leeds), but now works in the Asia Pacific Region. Scott started his Clinical career in 1993 in the UK under the British Psychological Society before emigrating to Australia and becoming Authorised to practice as a Psychologist. He is a worldly, intuitive and understanding Counselling Psychologist with a wealth of experience in treating Addiction and Behavioural Health issues. Scott has managed multi-disciplinary teams in the Public, Private and Third sector. Scott has spoken at Hospitals, Schools, and Prisons throughout the UK.

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