“Am I An Addict?”

    Asking Yourself Tough Questions

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    No one starts drinking or using drugs with the intent of becoming an addict. It usually starts with just one drink or just one pill and before you know it, functioning in daily life without that substance seems impossible. You feel anxious at the sight of having only one pill left. You may leave work early just so you can ease the pain.

    In my practice, I frequently hear this: “How did I get here? I did not picture myself taking an unfulfilling job just to put food in my mouth, pay my rent, and support an addiction. My hope was to go to school, get a job, and support a family.”

    According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use accounts for 88,000 deaths 
in the United States each year. In Virginia, excessive drinking accounts for 1,865 deaths and 55,232 years of potential life lost. In 2011, 17.9% of adults and 15.7% of high school students in Virginia reported binge drinking – that’s five or more drinks per occasion for men or four or more drinks per occasion for women.

    The social implications and economic statistics are staggering, but how does this information translate to you personally? Taking a personal inventory could prove useful in helping you determine if your drinking is problematic.

    Is this you? If so, it would be advisable to seek help with your addiction.

    You drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure, or have had a quarrel with someone. You can handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink. You have never been able to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out. When drinking with other people, you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it. You sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available.

    Beyond alcohol, many drugs are addictive. Some commonly abused drugs (besides alcohol) include: marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine, methaqualone, opioid alkaloids, synthetic opioids, benzodiazepines, phencyclidine, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy), ketamine, anabolic steroids, and many prescription drugs.

    Do the statements below describe you? If so, you may be dependent on drugs.

    You use drugs other than for medicinal reasons. You take prescription drugs more frequently or at different dosages than prescribed by your physician. You abuse more than one drug at a time. You have difficulty getting through the week without using drugs. You have blackouts or flashbacks as a result of your drug use. Although by no means is this a comprehensive evaluation, agreeing with most or all of these statements might indicate that it’s time to seek help.

    There is hope. And once you recognize you need help, it is available. Mutual help groups are strength-based programs that utilize others’ experiences for the purpose of healing. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two popular and successful programs. Addiction can make you feel isolated. Groups like these allow one to have a community forum in which to tell and retell your story to a group of witnesses, many of whom are fellow travelers on the journey.

    Therapists who specialize in treating substance abuse can offer a caring, supportive environment with modalities such as solution-focused and narrative therapy. Solution-focused therapy is based on the assumption that the future can always be changed, regardless of the problem. Narrative therapy looks to the patterns of meaning in one’s life history to manage an addiction.

    No matter the course of treatment, the first step on the path to recovery is owning an alcohol or drug addiction. It’s important to note that seeking help is a huge victory in and of itself.

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    Adina Silvestri
    Adina Silvestri, LPC, EdD, is a licensed professional counselor, researcher, and counselor educator who works with adults and children in her private practice, Life Cycles Counseling.