During the quarantine, many people have turned to substance abuse to feel more comfortable in their own skin. The truth is alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases of apathy. The addict does not want to care. But they care too much and it must be quelled. Here are some little-known signs of alcoholism that also apply to drug addicts that maybe useful during this difficult time of involuntary isolation.
Of course, we all know the easy way to spot an alcoholic: red face, preoccupation with alcohol, unable to stop drinking once started, etc. etc. But today I am going to share with you some insight on the characteristics of an alcoholic you may not know. Keep in mind, that what applies to spotting an alcoholic also applies to spotting a relapse because drinking alcohol is only a symptom of a greater problem inside the heads and hearts of people inflicted with the disease.
The Eight Signs
1. Anger and resentment- This is nothing new to someone who is in AA. The whole book is written around this subject. Alcoholics have a pattern of being angry and resentful. Often, on social media, one can see someone with hostile posts. This is a time to grow a bit suspicious. Alcoholics are triggered by what they deem to be unfair acts against them especially when it comes to close relationships. The disease makes it very difficult for the alcoholic to not take someone’s actions personal. However, in recovery, people learn that even the most atrocious acts of unkindness are not personal and people are taught to believe what other people say about them is none of their business.
2. Comorbidity- Almost all alcoholics have secondary afflictions of the spirit, mind, and body that manifest prior to the age we begin drinking. Many suffer from anxiety and depression. These symptoms pre-date substance abuse. have. In recovery, alcoholics are bonded by identifying in each other the same twisted personality traits. It seems like everything each alcoholic feels is always to the extreme. Alcoholics are incredibly sensitive. In alcohol. they look for relief in caring so much about anything and everything.
3. Big Plans but No Follow Through- The brain of an alcoholic is very different than that of a person who is not inflicted with the disease. The pleasure centers of their brains are not naturally full and it takes action every day to get into a pleasurable space. Alcohol replaces action in a way that thoughts of big ideas, sometimes brilliant ideas, are never completed due the fact that the intake of alcohol gives the alcoholic the same reward response as if they had actually followed through on goal or a task.
For example, if an alcoholic wakes up and decided that the lawn must be mowed, if they pick up, it is highly likely they will never mow the lawn or get anything done because alcohol creates a feeling of an accomplishment in the reward center of a person’s mind, leaving many tasks unfinished. This is why in recovery action is far more important than thought. Someone in relapse will begin slowly not to accomplish anything that is important for daily functioning and in the grander scheme of life.
4. A Track Record- This is very hard for alcoholics to see. They feel things are happening to them independent of their drinking. They believe that they are just unlucky. It is very difficult for an alcoholic to link their drinking as a consequence of what they choose. An alcoholic does not have to be drunk to make bad decisions. Once again, drinking is only a symptom that masks what drives a person to be reckless, irresponsible and sometimes very foolish. And the next thing they notice is that multiple situations are transpiring at once: but they cannot figure out why.
For instance, they get in fights with significant others, their bills are not paid or they lack money, their health deteriorates and most importantly, they stop doing things that they usually love, all at the same time. When someone is in their disease it is almost impossible for them to be accountable because their disease wants more alcohol. This is incredibly hard for a normal person to understand but it true.
5. Unhealthy Boundaries- It is hard to know if the inability to have healthy boundaries starts in the family of origin, which are likely full of other alcoholics or if it is just the nature of the disease. But alcoholics do not have healthy boundaries. They are often promiscuous, codependent and often expect others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves. They are abusive and they let themselves be abused. They do not know where they begin as a person and others start. This is very hard to master even in sobriety because of the extreme feelings and thinking that tend to create scenarios both in their heads and in their lives that cross lines of respectability and human decency.
6. Great Senses of Humor- Recovering alcoholics know how to laugh at themselves. They are usually very funny with off-color remarks and ideas. The way they view the world is quite different than a normal person and they are not afraid to embrace that side of themselves because they are usually rewarded by other people for it.
7. Moderation in Moderation- Alcoholics are all or nothing thinkers. Balance is just not a part of their vocabulary. If they eat, they eat a lot. If they exercise, they exercise to the extreme. And if they love someone, their love comes at the price of suffocating or isolating the person who is involved with them.
Furthermore, because the alcohol is filling their pleasure and reward systems, they don’t see much reason to change. They have a history of doing everything in our life to excess. Once again, they have a blind spot. They are unable to match their thinking with their behavior. They do not see the link unless they are practicing being mindful. It is doubtful that becoming moderate ever becomes easy for someone even they have years of sobriety. Each day moderation must be managed. That is why it is helpful to go to meetings, have a sponsor and be able to tell on ourselves to a therapist or other care professional. Otherwise, they slowly or quickly unravel into some sort of extreme.
8. A Need to be Special- Alcoholics almost always feel that they do not fit in. Because of this, they have a desire to be more “special” than their peers. They truly believe they are superior because of it. But at the same time, being special creates a distance which in turn breeds loneliness. One of the greatest things an alcoholic can learn is to find the similarities they share with my others if they ever want to enjoy a fulfilling relationship.
This list is not extensive. But it can tip a person off to know if someone has a problem with an alcohol problem. I usually can spot someone right away. However, it is seldom useful to tell a person that they are alcoholic. An alcoholic usually can figure this out on some level and either desperately tries to hide it or is willing to seek help.
The best way to endure and deal with this quarantine is to be creative and productive. That may take a little more effort for a recovered alcoholic, but it probably the best outlet they can find besides exercise and eating healthy.