Are You in Denial? How to Recognize Substance Abuse

woman wonders how to recognize substance abuse

There’s nothing worse than having friends or family who recognize substance abuse nagging you to change… except for having a little voice in your own head suggesting that the “nags” may have a point.

When it seems that everyone you were close to is changing for the worse—because so many people are hinting or saying outright that coping through substance abuse is doing you more harm than good, and you just don’t want to hear it—odds are that it’s time to turn off the defensive reflex and consider what they’re saying. Even if you have to grit your teeth to do it.

How To Recognize Substance Abuse of Medications

Signs that your legitimate medical use may have developed into a prescription drug or painkiller addiction include:

  • Unexplained changes in energy levels or appetite;
  • Deterioration of performance in work, hobbies, or everyday activities such as driving;
  • Loss of interest in socializing, or loss of enthusiasm for longtime favorite activities;
  • A noticeable difference in reaction to one’s usual dose of medication;
  • Unusually strong physical symptoms in the event of a missed dose;
  • “Bending the rules” by requesting prescriptions from multiple doctors or pharmacies, taking more than the recommended dose, or “borrowing” from someone else’s prescription;
  • Coming to think of the medication as the one and only way of coping. 

How to Recognize Substance Abuse in Yourself

If your use of any chemical substance—be it prescription medication, beer or wine, recreational drugs, or even over-the-counter herbal preparation—seems concurrent with any such issues, chances are that people who suggest you’re “taking too much” just may be right.

If that sounds like just what you didn’t want to hear, that in itself is a potential red flag. Please, don’t close this window yet! If you’re strong enough to continue defending your own position when everyone is saying you should give it up, you’re strong enough to face the possibility of making a major change.

To tell whether someone’s advice is motivated by genuine concern, consider:

Is This Someone With Whom You Have a Longstanding Close Relationship?

One very common symptom of denial is convincing yourself it’s not you who’s changing for the worse—it’s your old friends who are suddenly finding fault for no good reason. But if you always got along well in the past, and if you can’t honestly point to anything else the other party is doing differently, chances are all too good that the problem is yours.

Do They Speak Quietly and With Empathy?

Although angry accusations do sometimes contain legitimate truth, the person who is trying to ease into a topic and to understand your feelings is likeliest to have thought long and hard about opening a discussion on the subject—and likeliest to be right.

Are They Complaining About This One Specific Problem Only?

People who criticize in unreasonable anger, or from bullying tendencies, usually speak in vague terms (“You’re always doing the wrong thing”) or pour out a load of loosely related grievances at once. Someone who is concentrating on one specific issue is more likely to be focused on a spot where genuine change is needed. 

Are They Holding Out Hope for Change, and Offering to Help?

A person who stops at “you’re hopeless” will be little help even if right about the basic issue; a person who genuinely wants you to get better—and who is willing to make personal sacrifices to help that time along—is worth listening to.

Consider your typical gut reaction when someone raises the subject yet again. People who are truly confident they are right rarely respond to criticism with a burst of indignant emotion; it’s those who are afraid of being proved wrong who automatically snap:

  • “Mind your own business”
  • “I don’t want to talk about it”
  • “It’s not that bad”
  • “I wouldn’t be drinking if you weren’t making my life so difficult”
  • “I can do what I want with my own life”
  • “I’m doing the best I can”
  • or any number of other responses that translate to “This is the only way I know how to cope, and changing it would be too much work!”

Kemah Palms Can Help You Recognize Substance Abuse

No question, changing a habit is a lot of work. It’s a major step out of the comfort zone into a world of uncertainties, emotional struggles, even physical pain. And it can be hard to believe that what’s on the other side will be better, or even possible. The journey is rarely accomplished without human encouragement and support.

In the end, though, the choice is yours alone. Do you really want to stay in the miserable-but-familiar situation of trying to solve your problems with self-medication? Or do you want to become a stronger, happier person giving all you can to the world?

Only you can decide.

Located in Kemah, Texas, Kemah Palms Recovery® can help you or someone you love overcome substance abuse once and for all. We offer a variety of Houston substance abuse treatment programs, including:

Recognizing substance abuse is the first step to a more fulfilling life. The next step? Contact Kemah Palms online or call us today today.