Addiction takes so much control over the addict’s life, it’s hard to imagine that something so profound could go unnoticed. While some people are not very good at hiding their addiction, others are. It’s possible that someone close to you may be secretly battling an addiction, but they are careful to cover their tracks, mask their behavior and create compelling excuses when questioned.
Remember, addiction knows no bounds, and it’s different for everyone. If you suspect that a friend or family member may have a dependency, don’t wait for the textbook signs and symptoms to surface. Pay attention to your gut instinct, and be on the lookout for these hidden signs.
Hiding Spots Around the Home
Have you noticed bottles of alcohol tucked away in unusual spots, such as under the sink or in a dresser drawer? Or maybe you’ve noticed a bottle of pills in the glove box or under the seat of a car. As people become more dependent on drugs and alcohol, they stash them in various spots. Addicts do this for two reasons. First, they feel ‘safe’ when they have their drug of choice within reach. Second, they become territorial over these substances and feel a need to ‘guard’ them.
Finishing Medicine Too Quickly
Is your loved one going through their medications too quickly? Maybe they always have an excuse. The pharmacist shorted them on the quantity. The pills were accidentally washed down the drain. Their car was broken into, and the pills stolen. The list of excuses goes on and on. Bottom line: If you notice that prescriptions are being filled too frequently, it’s time to look at things rationally. Also be sure to take control of your own medications by counting the pills and keeping extras in a locked drawer or safe.
Getting Head Starts
If you notice that a close friend is always getting a head start before going out with friends, this may be a cause for concern. It’s common for alcoholics to start drinking before they go out with friends so that it looks like they’re drinking the same amount as everyone else. The trouble is that they’re actually way ahead. Alcoholics are also notorious for hiding empty bottles and cans or burying them at the bottom of the recycling bin. Anything to hide their behavior and look like a normal part of the crowd.
It’s expensive to support a drug or alcohol habit, so it’s almost certain that you will notice your loved one having money problems. Impaired judgement can also lead to unnecessary purchases and spending. Be on the lookout for any type of suspicious money behavior, such as selling big stuff on eBay and Craigslist, borrowing credit cards from others without asking or gambling. Another thing to watch for is missing stuff around the home. When addicts get desperate, they won’t hesitate to sell things for money. Missing jewelry, collectibles or family heirlooms should all be accounted for.
Tricks and Manipulation
You can’t hide an addiction without lying. That’s why addicts will try to throw others off about their habit. They may drink in private but not when out with friends so that it looks like they do not have a problem. Or, they may admit to a lesser problem, such as smoking marijuana, when really, another drug is the real issue. Another common action is to tell one family member something, and another something else. This way, the addict is being partially truthful, but no one family member knows the total picture.
Forgetting Important Affairs
Missed appointments, being late for work or forgetting to pick someone up from school or soccer practice are all red flags when they happen continuously. Addicts lose track of time, forget important events altogether or need time to sober up, which is why they are often late or forgetful. And, if they do show up, it’s probably not in the best condition. If this is common behavior, don’t fall victim to the excuses. There is something going on that you should know about.
It’s only normal to want to be clean, but some people take it a step further, and it could signal a secret addiction. If you know someone who is constantly using hand sanitizer, lotion, perfume or mouthwash, they may be trying to hide the smell of smoke or alcohol. The same goes for dryer sheets; it’s not uncommon for addicts to tuck these away in pockets, purses, backpacks, etc. to cover up smells. Eye drops may also be used to hide red eyes. Listen to your gut instinct if you feel that your loved one is too obsessive with smelling or looking acceptable.
Addiction is different for everyone, which means you may notice one or all of these signs in your loved one. That’s why it’s important to be aware and open your senses if you feel that something isn’t right. One of the biggest regrets that families of addicts have is not realizing the addiction sooner.