To keep an addiction going an addicted individual tends to use certain tools in the attempt to convince themselves and others that the addiction is either not a problem or it is a manageable issues.
The “tools of the addicted individual” may include:
- Denial – This is one of the primary defenses mechanisms in addiction. The addicted person refuses to see the same signs and symptoms that loved ones see that indicate a problem or they see the signs but deny that they indicate a problem. “There’s nothing going on.” “I didn’t take your money/medication/valuables.”
- Minimizing – Addicted individuals maintain their addiction by attempting to make the addiction/problem seem smaller than it really is. “I still get up and go to work or school. You’re making a big deal out of nothing” or “It’s just some alcohol. It’s not like I’m using heroin.”
- Avoidance – The addicted person leaves or shuts down any time concerns related to his or her substance use is brought up. They don’t argue or lie or minimize… they just refuse to discuss or listen to any concerns.
- Rationalization – The addicted individual makes up excuses as to why it’s ok to drink, use, etc. “I’m too stressed. I need something to help me calm down.” “If you had a wife/life/job/family like mine, you’d use too.”
- Anger – Addicted individuals may use anger to keep family and friends from discussing the issue. Responding to concerns by blowing up/shouting/being destructive is one way to increase the likelihood that concerns about the addiction are rarely brought up.
- Blaming – Often, addicted individuals shift the attention from the real issue – the addiction – to other real or perceived issues that are meant to change the focus of the discussion. These issues may be about the family, the spouse, the individual’s current situation. “If you had only done (or hadn’t done) x, y or z, I wouldn’t be in this situation. It’s your fault” or “If you and dad hadn’t gotten divorced, I would’ve never started using.” Shifting the attention to these other things often results in the family putting energy into guilt or shame versus maintaining attention on the addiction.
In many cases, the addicted individual will do whatever they have to do, say whatever they have to say to continue to use the substance.
Examples of addicted behavior in adults includes, but is not limited to;
- Severe mood swings, extreme anger, depression, blaming
- stealing (money, items, medications, spoons)
- DUI’s, legal problems, car accidents, loss of transportation
- Disheveled appearance
- They may appear “slow”
- Unable to maintain or procure employment
- Unable to maintain a residence or home, pay bills, or pay rent or a mortgage
- Severe weight loss or weight gain
- Dilated pupils, excessive sweating, excessive excitement, animation, talking about non-sense, unable to control their bodies, foul body odor, blood shot eyes (depending on the drug)
- Failing and strained relationships or marriages
- Child abuse or neglect to their own children, stepchildren, foster, etc…
- Loss of custodial rights to said children
- Finding drug paraphernalia near them, in their home, car
- Unpredictable bizarre behavior
- Broken promises (they promise to stop and get help, but don’t)