“No one told me you can love someone and still be miserable.
How is that possible?”
– Krista Ritchie, “Addicted to You”
There wasn’t a particular moment, or one single event even, where it hit me. It was just a slow and sad realization that took months and months, probably because it was so well hidden for so very long. There were signs, of course, little things that didn’t mean when looked at in isolation, but when you put them all together… A different story.
Addiction treatment specialists would have classed my wife as a “functioning alcoholic,” someone who appears to be in control of all that’s around them, but who is an alcoholic nonetheless. As well has her addiction was hidden from the other people in her life, when you live with someone, when you see them every day, talk to them, be with them, you cannot help but eventually notice that something is gradually changing.
The glass of wine at dinner that slowly becomes two. The forgetfulness. The lateness of the hour when the taxi finally brings her home. The mood swings. The discussions that become arguments for no reason. The two glasses of wine at dinner that slowly become the whole bottle…
You may say that all this is too obvious to miss. Over months and months, everything is gradual; everything slowly transitions into something else, something new. The change, so slow in coming, is hard to truly perceive. Add in a little self-denial, perhaps, on my part, and it is what it is – a slow and sad realization that the woman you love is an addict, an alcoholic, a drunk. This paired with her pain treatment pills, it slowly became a nightmare
She’s in rehab now, finally getting the help and treatment she needs. The road to there was a long and painful one for both of us, but she’s now where she needs to be. I have a vague idea when she’ll be ready to come home, and be ready to face the world again, only this time, she’ll do it sober. If she can. And I’ll be there for her.
As part of my own personal process in dealing with what her addiction has meant for her, and for us together, I give you this. Call it heartfelt advice, or call it one person’s view of the warning signs of addictive behavior, gleaned from experience and written in the cold light of day, or just call it what you will.
If you suspect, even slightly, that your loved one is succumbing to the devastating effects of addiction, you need to read about these 6 warning signs.
Evasion & Secrecy
Sharing your life with someone is exactly that. Addiction slowly erodes that sharing. Given time, it will destroy it. If you suspect your loved one is being evasive when they used to so open with you about everything, if they have even started to become secretive about certain things, like what they’ve done or where they’ve been, it may well be a sign of a life they don’t wish you to know about.
When addiction first begins to take hold, the sufferer will feel they have no choice but to keep it hidden from the world, as they know that what they are doing is not completely right. Evasion and secrecy will ultimately lead to telling flat-out lies to cover the truth, and addicts make bad liars.
All addicts will succumb to fluctuating changes in mood – happy and elevated one moment, quiet and withdrawn the next. Mood changes, for no discernible reason, are a clear indication that something is not as it should be.
Different and odd patterns of behavior coupled with these mood swings could be a sign of the uncontrollable effects of addiction.
Energy & Sleep
An addict will slowly start to lose any sleep pattern they previously had, and this will result in varying levels of energy to do the stuff they used to do quite happily.
Furthermore, alcohol will decrease the amount of expendable energy a person has, whereas certain drugs, such as methamphetamine or cocaine, will artificially boost those energy levels. Where previously energy and sleep were clearly linked, an addict will begin to lose that relationship depending on what they are abusing.
An addict will, after time, present a different attitude to what they did before. This can be anything from the way they dress, and look after themselves, to the way in which they treat other people, including you. The effect of addiction upon the human body has many facets, one of the most damaging being the psychological impact.
Addiction makes you look at things differently and respond to them differently. In essence, it alters your views and perceptions on life itself – you then begin to live that life in a different way.
As stated above, the psychological effect of addiction is a serious one. Abuse leads to changes in the chemical balance of the brain, and, thus, the way we function. A clear symptom of these changes is that of memory loss – an addict is one of the most forgetful people you’ll ever meet.
Forgetting important dates, conversations, events and so forth depicts a mind focused upon and affected by their drug of choice.
All of the above are dependent, if you like, on how well we know the loved one in question. They are comparisons we need to make in terms of the changes that we are seeing from day to day. However, there are other signs that are more defined, and clearer to us.
These signs can range from rapid weight loss or gain to indications that the person has resorted to stealing to fund the addiction in question. For example, I had a selection of rare vinyl recording, collected over many years. One day, I looked through them and noticed that many were actually no longer there. In time, it occurred to me that my wife, the woman I so truly love, was disappearing too.
Addiction is one of those things that gets surely worse before it gets better, of that there is no doubt. Realizing that your loved one is struggling with the perils of addiction is your wake-up call, and it is time for you to act. These 6 warning signs – evasion and secrecy, mood changes, energy and sleep, attitude, memory loss, and physical signs – are not definitive because everyone is different.
However, if you think for the slightest moment that your loved one is on a path they cannot control, one that will lead them to much, much worse, then you need to talk to them about your concerns and bring the whole thing out in the open. They won’t like it, for sure, it’s why it’s been hidden. From there, no one can predict what will happen. Just make sure whatever does happen, happens with you both.
If there is another clear warning sign that you consider should be included in the above, please share in the comments below. Have you experienced any of these signs in your loved one’s behavior? Or was there something else that triggered your realization?
My wife is today in the best place for her right now, receiving the treatment she desperately needs. There is no fail-safe cure for addiction, no magic pill exists. The answer, if it can be called that, as one of my wife’s therapists said to me, comes from within.