Do I Need Help? How Do I Know If I’m Addicted?

About a month ago I found myself walking through the “birthplace” of California—Old Town San Diego. Home to America’s first brick courthouse, California’s first sheriff, and our country’s very first cobblestone jailhouse—Old Town is rich with history. But more interesting than the town’s history was something I saw: a tiny prison cell.

No more than a 3x7 foot cage sat alone behind the sheriff’s house—the cell was more than 150 years old. Layers of thick orange rust cloaked its iron bars, and a small black wooden stool had been placed in the cell for effect.

I imagined myself sitting on the stool—an existence limited by the metal bars surrounding me, and a future governed by a higher power: the sheriff. The cell wouldn’t have left room to live; rather it would have forced me only to exist.

I think many times, addicts stop living, and are forced to only exist—limited by their addiction, and controlled by their desire for another drink.

Unfortunately, though, many of us don't even recognize we're addicted. We don't know that we are simply existing, but not living. 

How Do I Know If I'm Addicted?  

Most of us don't believe we need help--for just about anything--let alone an addiction. We're independent thinking human beings who enjoy helping ourselves. Sometimes we do know we are addicted but many times, we don’t.

Perhaps we don’t recognize our addictions easily because they’re not like “off” or “on” switches—they’re more like dimmer switches. Addictions generally grow in intensity and frequency—but so gradually, we hardly know we’re addicted. Therefore, we need something objective--like our friends or a doctor--or a quiz to help wake us up to the fact that we've just been existing, not living.  

The rest of this article will give you some tools to help you decide whether you are addicted.  

Tool: Key Drug or Alcohol Addiction Symptoms

There are literally hundreds of potential symptoms for drug or alcohol substance abuse, but I believe signs of drug and alcohol addiction can be narrowed into three basic categories:

Tolerance Withdrawal Evidence of Dependence
You need more of the substance than you used to in order to get high or drunk. You get sick when you try to cut back or stop using drugs and alcohol. You don’t have control over the drug or alcohol any more--your body tells you when you need to take it again.

Alcohol CAGE Questionnaire: Am I Addicted to Alcohol?

Statistically speaking, half of us reading this page today drink alcohol, according to a 2010 survey in which more than half of Americans admitted to being alcohol drinkers. Therefore, we should all carefully and thoughtfully answer these questions. Even if you aren’t an addict, you should still look at the questions—they may be useful in helping someone you know who’s addicted to alcohol.

The CAGE questionnaire, designed to help identify someone with an alcohol addiction, is a useful acronym and an interesting picture of the “cage” that addiction forms around an addict.

  1. Do you feel that you should Cut back? 
  2. Do you find yourself getting Annoyed by or with others?
  3. Do you have a feeling or sense of Guilt? 
  4. 4. Drinking an eye-opener

Scoring:

If you answered “yes” at least twice during the survey, you score positive for alcoholism and should seek proper treatment immediately.

How many times did you answer “yes”?

Drug Questionnaire: Am I Addicted to Drugs?

Admitting drug addiction is a difficult thing to do. Below is a 16-question survey that can help you to identify whether you are addicted to drugs. The questions are designed to help, so help yourself by being honest. Good luck!

  1. Do you do drugs alone? 
  2. During the day, do you consistently look forward to doing drugs?
  3. Do you do drugs to escape distress or worry?
  4. Do you do drugs to build self-confidence?
  5. Do you feel guilt or remorse after doing drugs?
  6. Do most of your friends do drugs as much or more than you?
  7. Do you only attend social events if they have drugs available?
  8. Do you avoid certain people because they object to your drug problem?
  9. Have you avoided responsibility in order to do drugs?
  10. Has your family been affected because of your drug problem?
  11. Have you lied about how often you do drugs?
  12. Have you promised yourself never do drugs again, and then broken that promise?
  13. Does it seem impossible to imagine life without drugs?
  14. Have you been arrested as a result of doing drugs?
  15. Have you sought help or been treated for your drug problem?
  16. Do you feel like your life would be better if you got help?

Scoring

If you answered "Yes" to more than 1 question, you have a possible drug addiction; if you answered "Yes" to 3 or more, you have a likely drug addiction. 

How many times did you answer "yes"?

Denial: The Hidden Demon That Keeps Us Addicted
 

Typically the biggest obstacle we have to hurdle before beginning the road to recovery is denial--we simply can't or don't want to admit we're addicted to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, this denial acts like fuel and keeps our addiction going. Instead of accepting our addictions and seeking treatment, many of us refuse to acknowledge our disease and ignore the consequences of addiction. But the longer we don't believe we have a problem, the more destruction we do to our lives and our family and friends. 

Am I in Denial About My Addiction?

You know you are in denial if 

  • You constantly make excuses to justify your addiction.
  • You promise yourself or someone else you'll never drink again--but you have broken that promise. 
  • You constantly shift blame and develop an irresponsible lifestyle.

Here are some common denial scenarios, excuses, or illustrations. Have you used any of these in your life? 

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If you recognize some of these scenarios as being true in your life, you are probably not only addicted but also in denial about your addiction. 

Until you’re willing to accept your addiction, your road to recovery will be blocked.

It’s Okay—We’re All Friends Here—You Can Admit It

It is never easy to admit we are addicted. Alcoholics Anonymous was named “anonymous” for a reason—we know it is hard to admit that we are struggling. And drugs aren’t any different. In fact, since using is also technically illegal, admitting a drug problem is perhaps even more difficult, but we can never really begin a journey of recovery until we recognize we are addicted and need help.

If you do recognize you have the disease of addiction, but are afraid to admit it—to yourself, your friends, or your community, take heart.

If you do admit it, you will join millions of people who have been in the same position as you through the years. And rehab centers are uniquely qualified to protect your anonymity while giving you the tools needed for a journey of recovery.

Okay, I Am Addicted, Now What?

If you do recognize you are addicted, you need to begin seeking treatment. Visit our “I Need Help, What Now?” webpage to learn what step to take next.