Do I have an addiction?

The google search bar entry reads: Do I have an Addiction problem?

“Do you drink or use alone? Do you drink or use more than you planned to? Have you ever missed work or school due to drinking or drug use?” stares back at you.

The self administered test that Google directed you to indicates an affirmative NO. No, you do not have Addiction. Phew.

You tell yourself “Of course I don’t have an addiction.” Your mind begins supporting that belief. “I work hard. I deserve a reward when I come home.” And “I only drink (or use) on the weekends.”

Then why do you still have those nagging feelings … guilt, shame … embarrassment?

“I can stop anytime,” echoes in your head-less confidently than you intend.

In the beginning, this may be the case. Your use may not yet be “an addiction.” However, if you are asking Google if you have an addiction, chances are that you at the very least have had a problem or problems with your drinking or drug use. Problems that if not examined and explored, may progress to be a bigger issue.

There is a progression of use with Substances. One that can be a steep and slippery slope. Many of the people that I sit with describe having this experience with their own substance useā€¦

  • “I remember when it wasn’t this bad. When I could only have a couple.”
  • “It’s a cycle. I’m in this never ending loop.”
  • “I drink because I’m sad.”
  • “I drink because I’m happy.”
  • “I drink to cope (or celebrate).”
  • “I start my day saying ‘Today’s the day, I’m done drinking’ and then before I know it, I’m 2 glasses of wine deep.”
  • “It’s like my mind has these blind spots and I go on autopilot.”
  • “I wake up and feel guilt/shame/embarrassment and then it happens again. I used to deal with all those feelings. I’m stuck in this awful cycle.”

Progression of Use

Addiction can be best described as having phases. These phases can happen very slowly over a long period of time or they can be a fast, rapid and quick progression. This varies with the individual and with the substance. These phases are described below. This model, known as the Jellinek Curve, represents statistically proven patterns of behavior for people suffering with alcohol or drug addiction.

Click to open full size PDF

Phase 1. Progressive Phase:

  • Occasional relief drinking (or using)
  • Constant relief drinking (or using) commences
  • Increases in alcohol/drug tolerance
  • Onset of memory blackouts
  • Increasing dependence or alcohol or drugs
  • Surreptitious drinking or using
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Urgency of first drinks/use

Phase 2. Crucial Phase

  • Memory blackouts increase
  • Unable to discuss problem
  • Decrease of ability to stop
  • Drinking or using when others do
  • Grandiose and aggressive behavior
  • Drinking/using bolstered with excuses
  • Efforts to control fail repeatedly
  • Persistent remorse
  • Tries geographical escapes
  • Promises and resolutions fail
  • Family and friends avoided
  • Loss of other interests
  • Unreasonable resentments
  • Work and money troubles
  • Loss of ordinary will power
  • Neglect of food
  • Decrease in alcohol/drug tolerance
  • Tremors and early morning use

Phase 3. Chronic Phase

  • Onset of lengthy intoxications
  • Physical deterioration
  • Impaired thinking
  • Moral deterioration
  • Indefinable fears
  • Obsession with drinking or using
  • Unable to initiate action
  • Vague spiritual desires
  • Complete defeat admitted
  • Obsessive drinking or using continues in vicious circles
  • Possibility of death

Phase 4. Rehabilitation Phase

  • Honest desire for help
  • Told addiction can be arrested
  • Learns addiction is an illness
  • Meets former addicts, both normal and happy
  • Stops using alcohol and drugs
  • Healthy thinking begins
  • Assisted in making personal inventory
  • Physical overhaul by doctor
  • Spiritual needs examined
  • Start of group or individual therapy
  • Onset of new hope

Phase 5. Recovery Phase

  • Diminishing fears of the unknown future
  • Appreciation of possibilities of a new way of life
  • Return of self-esteem
  • Regular nourishment taken
  • Desire to escape goes
  • Realistic thinking
  • Adjustment to family needs
  • Natural rest and sleep
  • New interests develop
  • Family and friends appreciate efforts
  • Rebirth of ideals
  • New circle of stable friends
  • Appreciation of real values
  • Faces facts with courage
  • Increase of emotional control
  • Confidence of employers
  • First steps towards economic stability
  • Contentment in sobriety
  • Care of personal appearance
  • Increasing tolerance of others
  • Rationalizations recognized
  • Group and/or individual therapy and mutual help continues
  • Enlightened and interesting way of life opens up with road ahead to higher levels than ever before

So your Google search may yield an affirmative NO that you don’t have a problem with addiction yet. Yet, I would encourage you to seek further support and evaluation from a professional if any of these stages resonate with you or if you are able to identify parts of yourself and your behaviors in any of these phases of addiction. Recovery is possible and you don’t have to be stuck in the cycle. You are not alone.

Michelle Harkins LCMHC, LADC is licensed in both NH and Vermont as a clinical mental health counselor and alcohol and drug counselor. Michelle has worked with individuals, families and groups in the human services and mental health field for over 10 years.

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