Facing the Signs of Addiction


Its something that you think will never happen to you. It will never happen to your family. Not to your children, not to your spouse. It’s never something you start out searching for, and yet you begin desperately seeking. Its cloaked in friendship, masked in medication, and marketed as enjoyable – yet it brings nothing but despair. It’s substance abuse and addiction, and it can begin anywhere and to anyone.

Many of the classic signs of addiction are highly recognizable. The changes in character, sudden drops in grades and interest and the withdrawing and isolating from favored activities will naturally give pause to family and loved ones. What may be more concerning in our ever-moving forward culture, are the new breed of those battling high-functioning addiction. From the athletic star to the college student with straight A’s, or even the struggle to climb the corporate ladder – many high functioning addicts, while they perform well in the light of day, use the dark of night to binge to further their success. They are simply discovered a little further down the road of addiction.

Recognizing Subtle Signs and Symptoms

Whether high-functioning or classic, there are some clear red flags for parents, families and loved ones to be aware of in order to be on the lookout for signs of addiction:

  1. Watch for differences in personal patterns – what they do and how they act when they don’t think anyone is watching. Have there been drastic changes to their regular routines?
  2. Address any sudden changes or life experiences – these can trigger an addiction or relapse an underlying mental health crisis that can lead to addiction.
  3. Recognize themes of desperation and coping – Does your loved one mention “having” to do things just to get by or “survive?”
  4. Ask about drastic physical changes – Have you noticed extremes in appearances, weight loss or weight gain?
  5. Keep in touch with their support community – New relationships that are disconnected from their character and they avoid integrating into the family or social circle may not be healthy. If they are intentional about keeping a new person or group secret, it may be because there are truths hidden in those relationships that they don’t want exposed.
  6. Stay in tune with triggering events and past behaviors – Trauma is relative to the person experiencing it. Whether it’s a death, experience or a memory, clients can be triggered without even realizing their mental response is traumatic.

Responding Appropriately

  1. Stop treating addiction as a choice. – When families and loved ones treat addiction solely as a bad decision or behavior, instead of the disease it is, treatment will not be successful. Recovery is not a choice – it’s a million little choices. Addicts can’t just choose to get better – they sometimes must choose every ten seconds to get better.
  2. Stop enabling – Families and loved ones can still help those struggling with addiction, but everything you do has to be geared toward treatment and recovery as the only option.
  3. Stop funding them – even for a “little bit”. When those struggling with addiction are easily funded, it makes it much easier to allow addiction to continue it’s hold on your life. Those struggling with addiction can’t see and feel the pain it causes to themselves and others, when the rest of life feels safe and comfortable.
  4. Get educated – If you are concerned your loved one is struggling with addiction and don’t know what to say or how to help, do your homework. Go to the 12 Step, NA, or AA meetings yourselves and hear about the real-life experiences of other people.
  5. Check your own response – attend your local Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. These groups are geared towards families and loved ones battling active addiction, designed to help you process through the difficult emotions and choice needed to play a supporting role in the life of your loved one. 
  6. Be aware of people, places and things – and be a part of the plan. The environment around an individual struggling with addiction, or newly in recovery, is key to their recovery being successful. Be an active player in planning out “safe zones” for your loved one.

Regardless of whether we want to recognize addiction or not, in many cases, it is still there. When you have the courage to help face the signs with your loved one, you can then begin to face the battle for healing head on.

If you or your loved one needs to face the signs of addiction and would like support, our Admissions Navigators are here to walk you through each step. Contact us today to take your first step towards healing.

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Read More from Lindsey Simpkins:

Mind(fulness) Over Matter

Looking to help someone with their alcohol addiction, Click here



About The Contributor

Lindsey Simpkins
Lindsey Simpkins

Senior Training Manager, American Addictions Admissions Center

Lindsey Simpkins is a seasoned learning and development professional with more than 13 years of experience in adult learning, including instructional design, facilitation, talent assessment, leadership development and organizational development.... Read More


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