“We never saw it coming” is a common phrase uttered by parents at Nar-Anon meetings. Recognizing that your loved one, particularly your child, is struggling with addiction can be difficult. It is easy to be blinded by love, to get stuck in denial, or to simply miss the signs. After all, those in active addiction go to great lengths to hide their substance use from those around them.
Hiding an Addiction
Some, such as functioning alcoholics, are so successful at hiding their excessive drinking that they maintain a seemingly normal life ⎼ succeeding at work and keeping up with family obligations, all while consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol.
While the methods for hiding an addiction vary depending on the drug of choice and the individual’s lifestyle, these are some common ways many hide their use.
- They drive out of town to avoid being recognized when buying drugs or alcohol.
- They begin using work as an excuse for missing important events, coming home late, and being tired and irritable.
- They spend more time in the bathroom than usual so they can use or drink alone.
- They isolate themselves, such as by claiming to be working on a project in the garage.
- They make up elaborate excuses.
- They keep the attention away from them.
Common Places Individuals Hide Drugs and Alcohol
To keep their addiction a secret, users must hide their drugs and paraphernalia from their loved ones. This is often done by hiding them in plain sight. Common hiding spots include in the back of sock drawers, in shoes, in the undersides of dresser drawers, or behind picture frames. Others hide them within seemingly innocent objects.
Why Individuals Hide Their Addiction
Many have difficulty accepting that their substance use has gotten out of hand and spiraled into a full-blown addiction. Hiding their addiction from others enables them to remain in denial about their use. Others in active addiction are worried about the stigma that surrounds addiction and do not want to be treated differently by others.
Other reasons why people hide their addiction include:
- They are afraid of how their loved ones will react.
- They are worried about the legal repercussions.
- They are ashamed.
- They are worried about losing their job.
- They are not ready to stop using.
Signs Your Loved One is Hiding an Addiction
Recognizing addiction in a loved one is hard, but it is important to be vigilant and not ignore the signs. Aside from physical changes such as weight loss, slurred speech, trembling hands, constricted pupils, and flushed skin, there are other red flags to watch out for.
- You find household items such as spoons and bottle caps in unusual places.
- Valuables and money has gone missing.
- Their spending patterns have changed.
- They will exhibit more anxiety when they are without alcohol.
- They are sleeping too much or not enough.
- They have lost interest in their hobbies and passions.
- Their mood and behavior changes significantly.
- They are isolating themselves.
- They become defensive when you question them.
- They make excuses that don’t add up.
- They appear sick in the mornings.
If you believe that your loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, do not wait to get help. Addiction is a chronic disease that can end in death. Talk to your loved one, research treatment, and get the support you need. Overcoming addiction is not easy, but it is possible.