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Sometimes as addicts we engage in behaviors that are toxic and unhealthy, behaviors that reflect our addictions but that we don’t necessarily associate with addiction because they appear to be less dangerous and destructive as the ones we do think of us as problematic. We think because we’re not angry and volatile, violent or abusive, our behaviors aren’t so bad, and therefore we’re not addicts. We think that because we don’t get belligerent or unkind with the people around us, because we can function normally in life because we can hold down jobs and take care of our families, we don’t fit the label of an addict. We don’t self-identify as addicts, and we don’t recognize or acknowledge that we have a problem. We tend to use denial and avoidance as coping mechanisms, telling ourselves that we’re not nearly as bad off as the other people we see destroying their lives – our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors who show much more obvious, overt signs of addictive patterns. We associate ourselves as being different from them, as being able to handle life better, as having better coping skills. We think we have more self-control and willpower because we don’t show our problems to the outside world. We might not present signs of mental illness that are troublesome to the people in our lives. We might not give them any cause for concern. We are nevertheless perpetuating behavioral patterns that are reflective of addiction. What are some of these more hidden behaviors?

Many of us whose signs of addiction are less outwardly apparent will engage in self-harming behaviors, in addition to using our addictive drugs or behaviors. When we self-harm, the signs that we have a problem, the manifestations of our addictions, are more internally inflicted rather than externally obvious. We tend to hide them and keep them a secret from everyone in our lives. Our self-harming behaviors can include physically cutting, hitting or otherwise harming ourselves. They can be the ways in which we self-sabotage with unhealthy relationships. We might stay with abusive partners. We might enable the other addicts in our lives. We might prioritize other people’s needs over our own. We might ignore our own pain, our mental health issues, our unhappiness in life, for the sake of other people. We might neglect our goals, our work, and our dreams, making our lack of fulfillment one of the ways in which we cause ourselves harm. 

When we direct our pain inward and suppress it, we’re struggling with addiction just as much as any other addict who is showing more obvious signs of addiction. We all cope in different ways, and we all express our pain differently. Our experiences are unique manifestations of our fears, our wounds, and our unresolved issues. We all, however, are using addictive substances and behaviors to help ourselves manage our lives, our difficult thoughts, and our painful feelings. We’re using our addictions as escapism and distraction tactics, convincing ourselves we don’t have a problem, rather than confronting our pain and working to heal ourselves. Recognizing that we have a problem, even when we don’t show it outwardly, is a huge step forward in the healing process. 

If you’re struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. Reach out for support. The community of Riverside Recovery has personal experience with addiction and recovery. We’re here to help you reclaim the life you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today.