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Many of us have asked ourselves this question. Whether or not we gave it much thought or consideration is another matter. Most simply shrug it off, and that’s certainly the easier thing to do. We have come to accept drinking, and even some drugging, as being a normal part of youth. But how can we really tell when partying and experimentation becomes more of a habit? And how do we tell when that habit becomes an addiction?

Are there quizzes and tests? Sure. Can you ask someone close to you? Absolutely. However, ultimately only you are able to determine this for yourself. Granted, that’s not going to be easy for anyone in denial of a problem. Here are four questions that can hopefully help you in your self searching…

  • Am I facing consequences? Think about it for a moment. Sometimes we delude ourselves into minimizing the repercussions of our actions. Look at this way: if you have a mess to clean up from your drinking or drugging, then that’s a consequence. Be mindful that while some of these seem to be small at first, they will likely only increase in severity. If you are facing troubles your drinking caused, the next question is even more important.
  • Can I control myself once I start?  The real alcoholic or addict often suffers the phenomenon of craving and can rarely stop or control their consumption after they take the first drink.  A few more questions to help answer this one:  Can you limit yourself to two to three “social” drinks?  Do you often find yourself to be the last man standing late at night after everybody else has left the party?  Are you the guy that is always trying to convince your friends to stick around for “one more”?  These are strong signs that you have lost control of your drinking or use.    
  • Can I be honest with myself? If you cannot be honest with yourself, you are in for a very rough ride. Everything that happens going forward will be immensely more difficult and no amount of advice or counsel will help you. It is essential that you answer the former questions honestly. Whether or not you have a problem is irrelevant if you’re lying to yourself, as then you are not in a position to want or accept any help.

Every resource you will ever find on symptoms of addiction will be some variation on those first three questions. The fourth is designed to hopefully make this self examination easier, because it can often be a long, arduous process. Society has done little in the way of helping those that are struggling. The stigma associated with addiction makes it all the more difficult to accept when there is a problem. People have many misconceptions surrounding the issue. We, as people, need to recognize how vulnerable we all really are in life. Remember that addiction is an illness.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Help is readily available.  

Matt Matone is co-owner of Thriveworks Counseling and Coaching in Charlotte.  He is a North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist and works with individuals in recovery from substance use disorder.  


You might be reading the tell-tale signs and realize that while you’re not an addict, someone you love is. In the webcast video above, Dr. Anthony Centore speak with a couple—married 19 years—where they wife knew her husband was an alcoholic. Hear they’re journey of recovery and advice to spouses/partners of an addict.

If you’d rather listen to the audio version, see below:

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