Subtle signs that someone may be an addict

Subtle signs that someone may be an addict

An addict can be described as someone who cannot stop and stay stopped from doing something that is detrimental to themselves and/or those around them. There are many reasons behind addiction, and many signs of addiction. 

If someone is always drunk or high it is usually obvious they have addiction issues. But there are also some much more subtle signs that there are problems.

Some of these are not totally exclusive to a person who’s using drink or drugs addictively, or to someone suffering from a behavioural addiction. But they can be strong indicators.

People who are addicts can often be cunning in hiding they have a problem. They most likely know that their addiction is unhealthy – but they fear getting found out and advised to stop because they do not know what else they can do.

As the Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) “Big Book” puts it: “We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he isn’t happy about his sobriety.

“He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it.”

What are some subtle signs of being an addict?

Signs of being an addict

There is another passage in the Big Book that says: “Selfishness—self-centredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.”

People who become addicts are damaged and hurt people. Often a great aspect behind addiction is that as a child someone’s needs were unmet. All children need to know they are loved.

Some are not shown this – and often it is intergenerational. That is, their parents are wounded people too. Others are not only not shown love, but they are also actually abused in some way.

It is the extreme opposite of what every child needs. It causes grave damage.

Not being shown love to varying degrees as a child most often goes with the child into adulthood and leaves them with an overwhelmingly painful emptiness. They will attempt to fill it, to mask it, to create a distraction from it, to numb it – often with drink and/or drugs and/or a behavioural addiction.

In an attempt to fill the emptiness, people try grabbing everything they can in the mistaken belief that these things will fill it. This is where alcohol, drugs and behavioural addictions come in.

But it means people can be self-centred and selfish. These are connected as someone who’s self-centred is frequently selfish and vice versa.

Self-centredness means always thinking about yourself too much, being egocentric. Selfishness is not being kind or generous or giving with our time, money or a skill or talent that we have.

Selfishness and self-centredness

Selfishness and self-centredness can show themselves in many ways. They can be the sign of someone who’s an addict.

– Always borrowing things and not returning them when agreed – or ever.

It might be abusing the trust too – for instance, borrowing someone’s car saying you need it to go food shopping and then driving around for miles all night in it.

– Being continually late.

If someone is always late it is frequently because they are only thinking about themselves and not the people they have left waiting. As well, someone who is always early can be considered the same or someone who shows up unannounced at your home or workplace.

– Repeatedly phoning or messaging.

Phoning three, four or more times, one time after the other when it’s not an emergency. It is not considering the other person.

– Not listening well.

People who are preoccupied with themselves are poor listeners. Often they were not listened to as children, and in their attempt to deal with this become consumed with themselves. Their inner pain is always there and they are always trying to cope with it.

– Always talking about themselves.

This means never really showing interest in other people, and sometimes getting irritated if a conversation cannot always be just about them. A person who’s an addict will often have repetitive speech patterns. It’s an indication of their “washing-machine mind” – as well as a sign that their memory is not good.

– Self-pity.

This is another way that self-centredness reveals itself. If someone focuses on lack and is only concerned with themselves it can mean they often feel sorry for themselves. It’s one factor behind alcohol addiction and as recovering, alcoholics get to understand it is what’s behind the light-hearted but poignant phrase: “Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink…”

Other signs of addiction

Other signs of addiction

Some other signs of someone who’s an addict are that they will live in denial and may become sulky or angry if anyone questions their bad habit. They might well be someone who is not trustworthy or in fact downright dishonest.

Part of this dishonesty and denial can be that they will try to disguise their addiction. This might mean hiding drinks or drugs or such as frequently disappearing to the bathroom to drink or use in secret. To disguise the smell of alcohol or marijuana can also mean the overuse of mints, strong-smelling cough sweets, gum, mouth sprays, aftershaves and perfumes and hand sanitizers.

Birds of a feather flock together is an apt phrase around addiction. Have a look at someone’s friends and acquaintances. Many addicts will surround themselves with other addicts in an attempt to stay in denial that their habit is actually damaging them. They will justify their use by thinking that everyone is doing it, or that someone they are around is doing it more.

Another subtle sign can be that on social media there might be lots of photos and videos of their main relationship in life: that is, such as glasses of wine and beer or joints. If drinking or drugs or behavioural addiction is mentioned in their biography description it can be a warning sign, perhaps even more so if their bio photo is, for instance, a bottle of wine or a can of beer. 

This is certainly not always the case but can be very telling as anything we love we will give our attention and time to – and an addict’s main relationship will be to whatever they are using or doing as a coping mechanism for their pain.

Although some of this behaviour is unsavoury, when dealing with someone who is an addict we need to remember that they are someone who’s unwell and who is suffering. As physician, addiction expert and author Dr. Gabor Maté says: “The question is not why the addiction, but why the pain.”

Other less obvious signs of addiction

For obvious reasons – that an addict is spending lots or all of their money on drink or drugs or a behavioural addiction such as gambling, shopping or sex – there can be financial problems. They might never have any spare cash, be getting increasingly in debt by using credit cards or borrowing money that they cannot payback.

Financial problems are also often connected to work issues. An addict might not be fit enough to find work or reliable enough to hold down a job or if they are self-employed might always be taking time off due to hangovers or comedowns.

Many addicts are in a continual state of feeling irritable, restless and discontent. They will act accordingly, and for instance never be able to sit still or they will get cross at the slightest thing.

Others in a bid to mask their inner emptiness will behave arrogantly. Irritability, restlessness and feeling discontent a lot of the time can also be linked to being a troubled sleeper and not eating healthily, which includes at regular times. Physical signs include weight loss, a runny nose, excessive sniffing, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils and attempts to hide their physical appearance.

Continually complaining about feeling ill can be due to substance or drink abuse, but also as an excuse that means they don’t have to fulfill certain responsibilities. It can also be a way of setting themselves up to take such as strong opiate painkillers. There are many people who are addicted to prescription drugs.

Drama after drama

A person who’s an addict has continual dramas, one after the other and frequently more than one blending into each other. They will also often try to pull as many people as possible into their dramas.

They will not realise they are always there in all of their troubles and dramas, that very often they started the ball rolling because of how they are living their life. They will blame others.

Because addiction is a progressive illness, dramas will most often get increasingly worse. It is often said by mental health experts that an addict will end up in one or more of three institutions: hospital, jail or the mortuary.

However, if the moment does come when they finally realise who’s at the centre of all their dramas it can be a defining moment. It could signal the beginning of their recovery.

Thankfully, there is always a solution to addiction. These are proven successful ways that have helped a great many people move into recovery.

Our expert team at Centres for Health and Healing has treated people with all mental health problems. Call us right now to discuss what we can do to help you or someone you know.

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