Detecting Addiction Before It's Too Late

As we watch, the world mourns songstress Amy Winehouse. Replete with musical tributes, makeshift shrines on her doorstep and raw devastation on the faces of her friends and family, it is a sad scene. Yet, it’s one that we are sadly growing accustomed to. Collectively, we are painfully aware that this is only the latest in a tragically long line of celebrity addiction stories – most of which do not have happy endings.

Posted on | Janine Driver | Comments ()

As we watch, the world mourns songstress Amy Winehouse. Replete with musical tributes, makeshift shrines on her doorstep and raw devastation on the faces of her friends and family, it is a sad scene. Yet, it’s one that we are sadly growing accustomed to. Collectively, we are painfully aware that this is only the latest in a tragically long line of celebrity addiction stories – most of which do not have happy endings.

In Winehouse’s case, the whole world held its breath waiting and wondering when she would meet her demise. It was painfully obvious to anyone who had a television, or ever glanced at a tabloid, that her addictions held an undeniable power over her. She was sick – you could tell by looking at a photo, listening to a snippet of an interview, or by witnessing her on-stage stumbles and vocal warblings.

For Amy, her addiction played out on a very public stage – and even with all the world watching, she was unable to find lasting sobriety.

This gives us reason for pause. After all, if having the glare of the media spotlight shining its 1000-watt bulb down on Amy gave her no perspective – what hope do “regular” people have?

This is why it is so important we PAY ATTENTION to one another. That we understand the warning signs, the changes in behavior and communication patterns that raise the red flag of addiction. If we don’t look out for one another – then who will? Clearly, having your life’s troubles plastered all over the glossies doesn’t help. Rather, it is only the kindness, compassion and understanding of others that will help addicts choose a different path.

There are always warning signs. There are emotional, physical and social indicators that addiction has taken hold. Knowing what they are can make a significant difference in a situation where time is of the essence.

A word of caution: The presence or absence of some or all of these indicators does not necessarily mean addiction is present. Just like when we are attempting to detect deception, a change in baseline behaviors merely means that there is substantial reason for additional investigation.

  • Strained Communication: A change in communication habits is often a preliminary indicator of addiction. Have you noticed an inconsistent attention span? The inability to concentrate or keep pace with a conversation? A shift toward isolation or arguments? Or a despondence – a removal from family, social or work life where there was once routine involvement?
  • Unpredictable Behavior: Are you witnessing an uptick in deception or finding yourself confronted with unexplained absences, unreliability or a shift in friendships? As addiction progresses, a person will be less able to hide performance flaws at school or work. They will become careless with their secrecy and neglect to hide new routines, new friends or changes to longtime habits.
  • Personal Appearance: What are they saying without saying a word? Plenty – I can assure you of that. From posture to personal hygiene, there are many indicators of depression or looming substance abuse issues (which often go hand in hand). Do you see a slumping, unsteady individual rather than one standing tall and confident? Can they make eye contact and speak clearly – or is it the opposite more often than not? Are there continual fluctuations in weight – either up or down? Are they unexpectedly prone to emotional or violent outbursts? Has arguing become a favorite pastime?

In short, if you have noticed significant personality changes, alterations in your family dynamic, or a dramatic shift in a friend, co-worker or loved one’s attitude, work ethic or appearance – it is certainly time for a chat.

The despondency that an addict feels cuts to the core of the problem; it serves to heighten the addiction, turning their drug of choice into their support system. Where once there were friends, family and work life – now there are only drugs or alcohol.

Communication is one of the many keys to recovery. Without it, your loved ones may be lost to you. Time to open your eyes and take in those around you – their lives may depend on it.

Blog written by Janine Driver
Janine Driver is the New York Times best-selling authorof YOU SAY MORE THAN YOU THINK: A 7-Day Plan on Using the New Body...