Does Someone You Know Have an Addiction?

Brian M Murray, IMH


"I wanted to write about the moment when your addictions no longer hide the truth from you. When your whole life breaks down. That's the moment when you have to somehow choose what your life is going to be about." - Chuck Palahniuk


Do you know someone who struggles with addiction? Sometimes watching a friend or a loved one struggle in life can be difficult. The first inclination is to help the person only to be met with guarded behavior, anger and defensiveness. Questions often begin to arise after seeing a pattern of behavior developing in someone we care about wondering if there is something deeper going on. Understanding the nature of addiction and looking for some subtle red flags or signs can help what to watch out for if you believe that someone you know is struggling with an addiction.

Addiction is often misunderstood and perceived as a bad disease that is “fixable” if the addicted person would exercise some personal willpower to stop. Sounds easy in theory, however if the addiction is too powerful telling a person to just stop is akin to telling someone to stop breathing. Quitting becomes unbearable and leads to relapse. Severe addiction requires intervention and management as physiological withdrawal occurs. Addictions often have attachments involved that require a person to surrender themselves and enter into a rehab environment.

Addiction can be complex to sort out and usually involves a long term pattern of negative thinking. A negative perception of the self leads the person to believe they are somehow fundamentally flawed or a bad person. The result of thinking and feeling this way is typically characterized by low self esteem. The addicted person often feels guilty and shameful for their behavior and they are not worthy of positive endeavors in life. This shame and guilt cycle is reinforced every time the addicted person uses. Over time, these thoughts weigh on the psyche and they become dependent on a substance to make them feel better. What is unseen is they are reinforcing the problem. It becomes a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself and so the user becomes chronically dependent worsening the addiction.   

There are some red flags that can signal that a person is struggling with an addiction such as; a shortage of money when they seemingly have enough income to cover living expenses, isolation and avoidance of social situations, and suddenly seeming withdrawn from the family unit and spending more time in an isolated part of the home such as the garage. Sudden mood changes or anger becomes prevalent along with what appears to be depression. Some physical signs are sudden weight loss or gain, red dilated pupils or the smell of alcohol on their breath. While this list is far from complete, it signals that a person might be having a problem with an addiction. The first thing is they often try to hide it usually because they don’t want to give it up or they are ashamed of being discovered. The idea of helping someone recover with an addiction is to come alongside and help them get the help they need. Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of and encouraging them in a supportive positive way can only help long term recovery.


Brian Murray is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern with The Lifeworks Group located in Winter Park Florida.

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