You’re at work, with family, with friends at the gas station and an in bed, and all you can think about is the next time you’ll be able to drink or use. It becomes the center of your universe, occupying more and more of your thoughts and dictating more and more of your behavior. This is because drugs and alcohol have already started to hijack your brain chemistry and central nervous system. This level of desire is often mistaken for just a “fun-loving” or “carefree” attitude, but it’s actually the product of serious, complex and dangerous neurobiological changes.
At first, before the isolation and loneliness, drinking and drug use are usually social activities. As addiction takes hold, you’ll probably start to gravitate toward people who want to drink or use as often as you do, leaving behind other deep and meaningful friendships. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen, and it is important that you recognize it in the moment.
Getting annoyed or angry at the people who care about you when they voice concern about your drinking and drug use represents denial, which is a classic sign of addiction. It’s important to realize that your loved ones may be seeing things clearly and more objectively than you are. They can see what kind of person you were before you started using and what addiction has turned you into. Pay attention. Addiction will also bring about other serious behavioral changes, like paranoia, isolation, irritability, dishonesty and, very often, temporary psychosis.
As drinking and drug use persists, your sleep patterns will become more and more erratic. You may go days without sleeping or only sleep for a few hours a night, which will create a permanent sense of fatigue. The exact nature of your sleep disruption will vary based on what kind of addiction you’re battling.
You’re going to start to notice physical changes as your substance abuse worsens. These can include anything from skin tags to weight changes, to serious dental issues and more.
Your finances are very often the first casualty of your addiction. You’ll start to spend more and more money on drugs or alcohol until you’re forced to spend money you don’t have and make choices that a “sober you” never would have made. This financial impact will invariably impact your relationships, whether it’s hiding large losses from your family or having to always borrow money from your friends. Like politics, the first rule of addiction is often to “follow the money.”
If your wallet, friends, family or quality of life won’t let you know you have a problem, your body certainly will. Addiction, by very definition, is a physiological compulsion to drink or use drugs. This means that when the body is forced to go without them, it will let you know. The worse your addiction becomes, the more severe and protracted your withdrawal will be. While each person’s withdrawal symptoms will vary, depending on what type of drugs they’re taking, they often include flu-like symptoms, joint and muscle pain, headache, stomach issues and others.
Other signs that drugs and alcohol may be taking over your life include legal issues related to substance use, high-risk behaviors in pursuit of your next fix, making dangerous decisions in the interest of using, lying to people about your behavior and more. If you think that you or someone you care about may be struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, take our quiz.
The first thing to realize is that you need help, not shame. The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction as a complex condition, a brain disease manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. It’s no different than other chronic conditions, like hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol and the relapse rates are often the same. Nearly 20 million people are struggling with addiction in the United States, so you’re not alone, but you do need help.
If you think that you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction and needs immediate help, this is a time for help and not judgment. Treatment should begin immediately, including detox and rehab to address the medical and behavioral aspects of their addiction.
Recovery Unplugged offers a full range of addiction treatment options, including inpatient, outpatient, long-term and more. We’re ready to help you or your loved one reclaim your life. We accept most major insurances and treat all types of addiction, including heroin, opioids, cocaine, alcohol and others. Don’t let addiction control your life any further.