Substance use disorder does not look the same on every person and can be especially difficult to identify when it’s someone close to you, such as your partner or significant other. Some people are high-functioning drug addicts or alcoholics, holding down jobs, taking care of their families, keeping up with bills and personal hygiene. Others look disheveled, malnourished, and struggle to keep themselves fed and clothed. No matter what the exterior, a person who suffers with addiction makes it their top priority to get the substance that they need so they can function. Once the disease has progressed so far, their drink or drug of choice is synonymous with survival, no matter the damage it can cause or shortcuts they must take. The bottom line remains that the ultimate destination is destruction.
How do you even begin to know what to do if you suspect that someone you love, specifically your partner, is abusing drugs? What are the signs? The following information may be able to help you start to get a handle on what possible addiction looks like, and what actions you can take to get them on the road to recovery, and prevent yourself from enabling them.
Signs to Look Out For
Before your partner’s behavior signals an addiction, there are some early stages that can be considered red flags for being susceptible to a substance use disorder. Take notice if the person:
- Has a history of addiction in their family
- Seeks out risky behaviors or situations
- Loses control or has periods of recklessness
- Has previously experimented with addictive substances
If you suspect that your partner is using drugs, you might be hesitant to even bring it up. You may wonder if some of the signs that you’re looking at are signs of something else entirely. It’s very difficult to accuse someone of abusing drugs, but you need to find out if your partner is involved because, ultimately, their drug abuse will affect your entire life.
The following are just a few signs that you should look out for if you suspect that your partner is using drugs.
- Missing Money: The first time you notice that money is missing, you might assume there’s an innocent explanation, like you’ve misplaced it or left it in a pants pocket. When more and more of these types of incidents start to take place, however, you should start taking notice. This is true whether the money that you’re missing is in a cookie jar in the kitchen, or in your bank accounts. It could also be a checkbook, ATM card, credit card, or even withdrawals from savings. More often than not, it goes missing on a gradual basis, making it more difficult to spot right away. However, it’s important to keep an eye on your finances if you sense something seems amiss. If the money missing is physical currency that’s located in your house, consider moving it to a bank account, into investments, or with a trusted friend or relative. If this is money that belongs to both you and your partner, you may want to tell them you’re moving the money. Based on their reaction, you may have more of a clue about what’s going on. Another option for couples with a joint bank account is to change account access, preventing them from withdrawing money without approval. Again, the responses to this request may give you a hint as to someone’s mindset. If the money that is missing comes from your own account, lock it up and change your password. These measures may seem draconian, but it’s important to understand that the situation isn’t just about money. If you take steps and pay attention to the warning signs, you can help prevent your partner from falling deeper into addiction.
- Dishonesty: When people start to abuse drugs, they often start to lie. Most people who are abusing drugs do so in secret, so they need to explain away their behaviors. If your partner is abusing substances, they might also create an elaborate lie in order to avoid being confronted with the truth of their addiction. Facing their addiction might mean they have to change their behavior, and turn over a new leaf wherein they commit to being honest. When lying is coupled with other strange behavior, it’s a sign that their actions could be drug-related. While being lied to may feel like a betrayal, it’s important to take the high road and try to help your partner. There are ways to help people overcome addiction.
- They’re Moody, Irritable: Drug addiction literally changes the brain and the way it functions. Once someone has become addicted to a drug, they’re going to need that drug to experience pleasure and highs. This is normally taken care of by the body’s ability to produce endorphins naturally. As people become addicted to drugs, they are no longer able to produce natural endorphins; their endorphins are now artificially created by drugs. When they don’t have that drug, they are no longer able to feel any sort of joy. This is why many addicts can be angry or depressed.
If you notice these changes in your loved one, take note. You may also want to look for symptoms like irritability. If they are unable to get the drug that their body has now become dependent on, their body will most likely start to go through withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can make them jumpy and irritable. They may also appear to be nervous, constantly checking over their shoulders or shaking. They’re not doing this intentionally. It’s their body’s reaction to not having the drug it now needs.
- Unreliable: One of the most important aspects of a relationship is being able to depend on your loved one. If someone who was always reliable is suddenly unable to keep their promises or hold up their end of the relationship arrangement, something may be amiss. The problem here is that the loved one who is abusing drugs is no longer on your timetable. They are completely at the mercy of the drug, and their number one goal will be reaching out for the drug. This means that, if your loved one tells you that they’re going to meet you at the supermarket in the evening to do some shopping, they may not show up. Or if they tell you that they’re going to attend a function with you, those plans will be scuttled with absolutely no notice. While this certainly isn’t proof your partner has a substance use disorder, unreliability is a potential sign. When someone is struggling with substance use disorder, their main priority is often drugs. This will remain the case until they can get help.
- Disinterest in Family or Couple Activities: Part of being in a relationship is doing things as a couple. This could be anything from running errands together to attending parties and picnics together. When you notice that they suddenly don’t want to do the things that you’d always done together, something may be amiss. There could be many reasons why somebody no longer wants to spend time with their significant other, but this type of behavior is almost universal amongst drug addicts. They are not in control of their decisions and will end up spending their time drug seeking and using, ignoring all social commitments.
- Shame and Secrecy: Most drug addicts are extremely ashamed of their behavior. Despite everything that they’re doing to get their drugs, one thing remains constant; they don’t want their loved ones to see them doing it. This could be because of embarrassment, shame, or a host of other reasons. When taken in conjunction with other signs, this could point to a very serious drug addiction.
- Random Disappearances: Some people say that drugs and alcohol are like mistresses or secret lovers, and that’s often true. When someone becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, those substances become the most important things in their lives. They are no longer interested in their actual loved ones. From your viewpoint, you may simply notice that your loved one no longer wants to spend time with you. They may be taking off in secret in the evenings, or there may be unexplained absences. If you ask them about this, they may deny it. They may even try to gaslight you and say that it’s all in your head, or act out in other emotionally or mentally abusive ways. Domestic violence can eventually stem from an untreated addiction.
- Disinterest in Hobbies or Activities: It’s one thing when your loved one is no longer interested in you, but it’s another thing entirely when they’re no longer interested in things that they’ve always been passionate about. Someone who’s always been an avid runner who suddenly stops running, for example, may have something serious going on. People who are involved in hobbies that bring them so much joy who suddenly stop engaging in those hobbies may be involved with drugs. It’s safe to say that you could view this type of behavior as a major red flag.
- Trouble at Work or in School: One of the biggest casualties of drug use and abuse is someone’s work or school career. When someone is addicted to drugs, they usually have trouble focusing and will likely have trouble keeping up with their homework assignments for school. If they work, their performance starts to slip. They may arrive at work late, or they may be unfocused and unable to complete tasks that were always easy for them to do in the past. Most institutions have no tolerance for this type of behavior, especially if the person is unwilling to get any sort of help. If you notice that your loved one has suddenly fallen off in these areas, it’s a strong sign that something is wrong.
Granite Recovery Centers
At Granite Recovery Centers, we know how difficult it is to confront a loved one about substance abuse. We’re here to help. We’re happy to speak with loved ones who are concerned about their partners’ potential drug or alcohol abuse. We have medical, mental health, and behavioral health specialists on staff who can help advise you as to the next steps. We can talk to you about the types of rehab that your loved one may need, whether that’s inpatient or outpatient treatment.
We may be able to help you decide how to approach the process so that your loved one can get treatment. We operate with no judgment, and our only goal is to make sure that, at the end of the day, people who need help, get help.
We know that drug addiction doesn’t only involve the drug user. It involves everyone in the addict’s life, particularly the closest loved ones. The good news is that so many people have been helped because of partner intervention. Ultimately, whether they get the help they need or not is up to them, but having a loved one in your corner can make all the difference for the future. Contact us today for more information.