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Identifying Symptoms of Drug or Alcohol Addiction in a Family Member

Discerning the signs of addiction for anybody isn’t easy. Oftentimes things are misinterpreted for what they really are. Or behaviors are ignored or explained away.

When it comes to a family member or loved one, identifying addiction symptoms is even more difficult.

Perhaps you don’t want to consider that your family member has an addiction. Yet, you also know them the best. In both your heart and your gut, you know that something is wrong.

But is it actually an addiction?

Here’s how you can identify symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction in a family member.

Taking Unnecessary Risks

One addiction symptom is when someone takes unnecessary risks. This doesn’t mean just because your loved one decides to take up skydiving that they have a drug or alcohol problem. Rather, it’s risky behaviors that creep into everyday life that are more of an issue.

For example:

  • Drunk driving
  • Getting into physical fights
  • Being arrested
  • Participating in risky sexual behavior

What’s important to keep in mind is what’s typical for your loved one. If these are not typical occurrences, and yet you’ve noticed that they have been happening over the course of six months, that could be a warning sign.

Things Suddenly Disappear

For some reason, you can’t find that antique watch that your grandfather left you. It usually sits on that dresser, but now it’s missing. What happened?

If you have been noticing valuable things are suddenly not where they are supposed to be, watch out. Oftentimes, addicts will steal from their loved ones in order to fuel their habit. This could mean they may take valuable items to sell. Or it might mean taking your cash, bank cards, or credit cards from your wallet.

The tragic thing about addiction is that it causes people to do things that they wouldn’t typically do. That’s because the need to fuel the addiction takes over.

Sudden Job Loss

Your loved one comes home one evening to report that they were fired today. They then go on a rant, talking about how their boss is an “idiot.” And they may use strong language to describe how they believe the situation is ridiculous.

But is it?

Addiction can greatly distort reality. It can also cause addicts to try to blame away problems that are really their fault. If you know that, in the past, your loved one was a good and steady worker but now is struggling, it could mean they may have a bigger issue.

Personality Changes

As you’ve already seen, addiction can cause someone who typically presents themselves in one way to act in a completely different way. This probably means that their personality has also shifted.

In the past, they were kind and understanding towards you—now they are quick to lash back. They were once very attentive to their children and their needs. Yet, now, the kids don’t even seem to register as a blip on their radar screens anymore.

Being Gone at Odd Hours

It wasn’t a big problem at first. Your loved one came home late one night (no big deal!). But now they seem to be coming home late all the time.

Worse even, they are going out at odd hours too. In the past, they used to keep a regular schedule. Yet, now, that no longer seems to be the case. It may be because of an alcohol or drug addiction.

Knowing Them Best

Perhaps none of these issues, on their own, warrants great concern. But what if several of them were happening at the same time?

The thing is, you know your loved one the best. This does give you an advantage in picking up changes in behavior. However, the problem is that sometimes it takes a while to fully realize what’s going on. That’s because addicts will do their best to “fake it” as long as possible.

Thus, if you have a suspicion something’s up, you need to listen to your gut feeling.

Knowing that your loved one has an addiction can be heartbreaking. Yet, that doesn’t mean that you should bury your head in the sand either. Keep an eye out for the above-mentioned warning signs. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a therapist who understands addiction issues and treatment.

If you would like to know more about our approach to addiction therapy, please contact us.

Author

Joshua Howell, MS, LPC, NCC, AADC, ICAADC, SAP, SAE

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