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What Are Some Signs Your Grip On Substance Use Is Slipping

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Are you still in control? In the back of your mind, are you wondering if things are getting bad? The following are some signs that control is being lost:

  1. Friends aren't picking up the phone when you call

  2. You have lost a job

  3. Most of the day you are wondering if people can tell, or smell, you are under the influence

  4. You think everything is fine, but everyone around you seems to be frustrated

  5. You are already shaking upon waking up

You become less and less relevant as you use substances more and more.
Damn I'm less relevant.


Loss of control isn't a switch with either "control" or "not in control" on a lever. It's not an instance or an event. It's the compound negative effects of substance use over time. More like a spectrum consisting of gradient points between your ideal self and an uncontrolled hopeless mess of a man. Now, it will sneak up on you like Rambo in the bushes. The power of addiction and your brain's desire to perpetuate behaviors to sustain your use is unimaginably creative. It's similar to mental gymnastics. Your brain will not only set you up to make the same bad decisions. It will convince you it's the best decision possible for all humankind to pop another pill, call "the guy," or pick up that bottle.


Getting realistic about the current state of your life may prevent catastrophe. It's possible that you haven't lost your job. Or your peers are just slightly annoyed with you. Do you think that you have enough courage to ask? This is an amazing shortcut, if there were such a thing in a recovery journey. Reach out to people close to you and ask the same questions outlined above. If you really have some balls, do the same thing with people who are around you but aren't necessarily friends. This could eliminate the bias friends and family will have not wanting to hurt you.


Suppose reaching out may not be a move you can make right now. Let's continue looking under the hood. What are you feeling? When asked this question in a relaxed and less influenced state of mind, do shame and guilt show up? These two emotions are a constant for people suffering near their rock bottom. It often is such a heavy and looming weight that it just makes the most sense to cope with it by numbing the pain. A sober mind suffering from shame and guilt will strive for a solution. Honestly, it makes sense at the moment because there will be a short-lived and pricey relief. But hey there is relief, right? At the moment the only thoughts boil down to relief or pain. What is not happening? Any consideration for longer effects into the future and consequences with family, friends, work, and health.


Additional byproducts of the addiction loop are fear and anger. Instead of framing circumstances in your life appropriately. Anger will take control and go on the attack. Do you find yourself villainizing people, and even situations, that threaten drinking habits and rituals? Perhaps open-container laws piss you off because you just want to have a beer in the dog park. Or you become angry because there is a two-drink limit at the football game. Fear of your substance abuse being inhibited takes place when you are so scared you won't make it to the pharmacy before it closes. Or your supplier hasn't picked up and now the only thing that matters is how are you going to refill and what your options are to keep using. The silver lining here is that you will find a way. Addicts and abusers are incredibly creative and resourceful. Just look at the theft of catalytic converters. Man, that's ingenuity and addiction working hand in hand. Fear of people "finding out," will make you brush your teeth a little longer and put on extra cologne so they don't smell the excessive drinking from the night before. Or maybe the morning cocktail to calm the shakes.


What would have been a "wake up" moment for many barely got noticed by my addicted brain. I came to the break-room at my job as a retail sales associate. Yes, I wore an apron. I really can't count how many times I have woken up to paramedics all around me, and this instance was just that. I also realized I was soaking wet. You see I had finished my daily liter of vodka and decided to sit down right at the end of my shift. Well, that brief relief for my feet turned into a slumber. My shift manager decided I was on heroin and decided to dump water on me to snap me out of it. This water dumping consisted of many water bottles and continued after the paramedics arrived. Coworkers told her, "Please stop pouring water on this man." I was definitely not on the heroine, but her diagnosis was close enough. I was fucked up. Oddly, the paramedics covered up for me. They said I had a diabetic crash and my sugar was low. I escaped being fired one more time just to drink on the job some more.


Investigation of shame, guilt, fear, and anger may not be necessary. It's possible that a traumatic event sparked the whole forest fire of addiction and abuse. Divorce, being laid off, the death of a close friend, a spouse cheating, or a debilitating accident can all send a good person spiraling. What is most likely is that the addiction you were living inside all along. It's now just been given free rein to walk around and grow exponentially because now you really have something to cope with. The trauma can be health-related? or professionally related, and even the trauma from getting older can exacerbate the looming demons of addiction.


Maybe you have a case of the "fuck it's" this is a condition when nothing matters. So, why not just get wasted? If you are feeling that your potential is not being realized then the knee-jerk reaction is to bail. Especially if the majority of your addicted self wants to perpetuate self-destructive behavior. There is a good chance that there is a discrepancy between who you are and who you thought you should be. And when this happens this phrase sneaks in, "What's the point? it doesn't matter what I do anyway." There is very little worse than reaching the latter portion of your life and feeling like you didn't quite make it. David Goggins, the Navy Seal/ultra runner/pullup record holder, uses this as fuel as he describes meeting his maker after death and being told he didn't realize whom he was meant to be. Carrying out this thought exercise can spark more fuel for use than anything else.


Look around. Take an inventory of what drugs and alcohol have taken, manipulated, or destroyed in your life. If there is anything at all on this list, this book is for you. The trick here is that you have to decide if you really want to know. If you want to live better and shake off the detriment of substance abuse or escape rock bottom, you have to be deadly serious about it. Let reality sink in. Quit hiding. Quit lying. Embrace your potential. Just decide. Just decide how it's going to be.


Remember, this thing is going to kill you (life), you're all in. Don't tip toe through life just to arrive safely at death.


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