When you think that a loved one has an addiction, it may very well feel as if you are suffering with them.
It will feel especially distressing if your loved one does not yet realize that they have a problem. Usually, as the relative, friend, or significant other of someone who is struggling with an addiction, you will realize that they are suffering before they do; naturally, it’s easier to see something from the outside looking in than the other way around. But how can you be absolutely certain that your loved one is suffering from substance abuse and not something else? Typically, someone who is struggling with an addiction will show these symptoms that you can be on the look out for.
Often, someone with an addiction will display some sort of change in their temperament. They may become moody, aggravated, or depressed. They also may seem hyperactive at inappropriate or random times. They may act impulsively and start to behave rebelliously or recklessly; for example, they may drive under the influence or have unprotected sex. Someone struggling with an addiction may start to show antisocial behavior, isolating themselves from their loved ones. If someone you love is isolating themselves, it could feel hurtful. Try to remember that is not your fault, or even their fault, and that they could very well be struggling with an addiction.
Is your loved one calling in sick more frequently before, or maybe skipping a significant amount of school? Or worse, maybe they’re neglecting their other friends and family? People struggling with addictions often neglect their responsibilities and then make excuses for doing so. They also tend to withdraw from activities they previously enjoyed. These symptoms of neglect and withdrawal can be especially problematic when someone does not even realize that they have a problem.
Though someone struggling with an addiction may not be willing to acknowledge their problem, to some degree they probably know that something is wrong, and they will try to hide it from you. Does it seem like your loved one is hiding something from you? Are you frequently catching them in lies? Additionally, the person struggling will either make up excuses for their behavior or try to justify it. Maybe they are repeatedly coming home later than they had before and, upon being asked about it, they tell you something that doesn’t seem right. Or, they may get defensive and try to turn the blame on you. This is hard, but it is not your fault. It hurts when someone you care about makes you question your own judgement like this. But again, remember this is not your fault, or even their fault. They could be struggling with something much bigger than themselves, and their anger is simply a defense mechanism.
Along with all of the behavioral changes you may notice in your loved one, there can also be physical changes as well. Physical symptoms of addiction include but are not limited to: red or watery eyes, loss of or increased appetite, significant weight loss or gain, deterioration of hygiene, nausea, excessive sweating, changes in sleeping habits, needle marks, or runny noses.
Like all other diseases, addiction has symptoms that you can keep an eye out for. If you think that your loved one may be struggling with an addiction, remember that you do not have to deal with this alone. Odds are, other people who love the person have noticed them behaving strangely as well. Try talking with someone else who is close to this person to see if they have noticed it; if you are both sure that your loved one is struggling with an addiction, you can look at our tips on intervention at the Twin Lakes Recovery Center website. You may also talk to an admissions counselor at Twin Lakes Recovery Center to discuss treatment options for your loved one.