One of the greatest misconceptions about addiction and drug dependency is just how smooth the transition into them can be. Popular media makes addiction look spontaneous, but anybody who has suffered from an addiction can tell you just how sneaky those dependencies can be. It’s also important to know that the line between “I just like it” and “I need it” is very fine and often camouflaged by the confidence of our convictions.

So where is it? How do we find that line? Is it even possible to stand right at it but not ever cross it? How do we know when we’ve crossed it?

Drug addiction

Accept the Commonality

Before we can get into the specifics of addiction–how it works, what to do if you think you have a problem, etc.–it is vitally important to know that addiction is an incredibly common problem. It is not something that only happens to “other people.” It is also not a disease that only targets certain substances of behaviors. A good example of this is the recent spike in prescription drug addiction.

According to Georgia Drug Detox, approximately six million people abuse prescription drugs. These drugs include Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, Xanax, Valium and more. What makes this dangerous, especially for women, is how often they are prescribed (compared to the rate of prescriptions for men) and how loosely many of them are monitored.

Addiction can also happen with activities like shopping, gambling, sex, even online gaming. Nobody is completely immune.

How Do You Know You’re Addicted

Here’s a fact that feels really unfair: it is easier for a woman to become dependent upon a drug or activity than it is for a man. While, yes, men report addiction in greater numbers, it is more difficult for them to develop the dependency in the first place. Because of this, it is vital to monitor yourself when you imbibe. Resist the urge to try and drink a “bro” under the table. Track your consumption and your reactions to that consumption.

That said: the biggest indicator that you’ve developed an addiction is when the urge to use is no longer something you choose. You use because it has become a habit and because when you abstain you feel uncomfortable. There is a shift between wanting and needing to use to feel normal. As much as you may tell yourself and others that you can stop anytime you want to, when you do try to stop it feels like a battle (sometimes it is – withdrawal symptoms are no joke).

After that, other indicators include the inability to keep track of your consumption. You “accidentally” drink six cocktails instead of the two you had planned. Feeling like you need to lie about or hide your consumption is another red flag.

Your biggest indicator, as with most things, is going to be how you feel about your using. Many people who have crossed over into their addictions feel a tremendous amount of shame at their situations. They feel defeated and their pride is definitely injured. You might not like feeling these things and you might try to explain them away, but when you’re unhappy with yourself, that’s a sign that you need to look at yourself.

Getting Help

Make no mistake, asking for help is going to be hard. Even when you do so confidentially, going to that first meeting or having that first conversation with your doctor is not going to feel good. Still, it needs to happen if you ever want to live a sober life again. Your doctor is the best person to talk to first. She can help you figure out your best option for detoxing and overcoming your addiction. Follow her advice, but know that sometimes it takes trying a few different methods of rehab to find the one that will work for you.

Staying Sober

Staying sober when you are just out of treatment is very scary. You’re on high alert and your best behavior. As you calm down and start to build your life back up, it can be very difficult to resist the urge to dive back into old behaviors when you encounter stressors. There are many resources out there to help you stay sober. Use as many of them as you need to.

Remember: no matter what it looks like on TV or in books, addiction is sneaky. It can happen even to people who are vigilant. Know, though, that if it happens to you there is help out there and that getting help doesn’t mean accepting defeat. It means you are brave and rising to the challenge of taking your life back.

Photo credit: