Addiction does not discriminate and has the potential to affect anyone. Even people who seem to have it all together and be very successful may be secretly struggling with a substance use disorder. Individuals become very good at hiding addiction over time and downplaying the severity of their substance use. Friends and loved ones may not want to believe they have a problem, so they fall for the common excuses. However, recognizing these red flags can aid in getting people the help they need for recovery.
Telling Little White Lies
When trying to cover up addiction, individuals may start altering the truth and telling small lies such as rounding down the number of drinks they have had, or “forgetting” that they already took pain medication. This can make the situation seem like a mere oversight and nothing to be concerned about. However, the effects may still be noticeable when you realize they are under influence and have had more than they indicated.
Individuals may be hiding addiction by making excusing for their behavior. They could blame changes in mood on being stressed out, or having too much to drink on trying to unwind after a rough week or celebrating a special event. Perhaps they missed an important meeting because they claim they were tied up on a call or another project. Whatever the situation, they always have an excuse to explain what happened, even if it doesn’t always make sense.
As addiction becomes more severe, the person may start spending more time alone or suddenly disappearing for short (or long) stints of time. You may notice that at an event they are unable to be found, then they reappear as though nothing happened. They may opt out of plans or activities where they know drinking isn’t the norm. This isolation could be their way of enabling their substance use without having others see.
Another sign someone could be covering up addiction is that they become nervous or anxious in situations where they’re unable to get away or have gone a long period of time without access to drugs or alcohol. They may be distracted thinking about where or when they’ll be able to engage in substance use again. They may experience mood swings or become very defensive when someone brings up addiction or questions how much they drink.
While some people seem to be very high functioning and stay on top of their responsibilities even in the midst of addiction, others may begin to slack off. You may notice that bills start being paid late or not at all, they’re late to meetings, they miss a child’s performance or game, or they’re not keeping up with their usual responsibilities. Asking to borrow money could become a more frequent occurrence as well. As substance use becomes a greater priority in their life, other responsibilities may fall by the wayside.
Facing the Truth
When an individual in active addiction realizes that their excuses are not fooling others, and friends and family are truly concerned about their well-being, it can help to break the cycle and encourage them to enter an addiction treatment program for recovery. It may involve some difficult conversations, and if they are in denial, an intervention, but it can get things moving in the right direction and empower them to remember who they wanted to be and turn their life around.
Hiding addiction is not uncommon. But it takes recognizing these signs and taking steps to get the person into treatment in order for them to make a change and embrace recovery. Ignoring signs does not make the problem go away. Crossroads supports families in getting their loved ones help and provides comprehensive treatment ranging from residential programs to outpatient care to assist clients along each step of their journey. Recovery is possible with help from Crossroads.