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SALT LAKE CITY — At some point in their lives some people find out that partying is fun.
Hanging out with friends having a few drinks, shots, bowls, hits, etc., is a way for some people to let off steam.
Where is the line of fun and dysfunctional?
You’re spending more time engaging in your habit over a longer period of time than you wanted to. Nobody wants to be the “old burn out” at the party.
2. Can’t cut back
You’ve tried to cut back, but you end up right where you were yesterday or last week. This also applies to, “If I drink one beer I’m fine. If I drink two beers, the flood gates are open.
You’re spending a lot of time thinking about, talking about, getting ready to or recovering from parties. You own several T-shirts with alcohol advertising or pot leaves on them. You know the alcohol "rep girls" by first name. You’re the one who people call to find out where the party is on most days of the week. You have a Web page dedicated to all your party pictures.
If you crave something, meaning you’ve got to have it or somebody is going to feel your wrath, there is likely an unhealthy addiction to it.
5. Neglecting obligations
If you are missing work or school, having poor performance, or people are telling you that you are slacking, you might be staring down an addiction.
6. Relationship difficulties
You’ve lost a relationship because of something you did while you were drunk or high. Your family and friends are telling you they don’t like your habit and it’s messing with your relationships.
7. Spending all your time with your habit
If you are spending less time at work/school or have cut back on other fun things you used to do because they just aren’t as fun as partying, you’re in the danger zone.
8. Ignoring your physical safety
You are in situations where you could be compromising your health, and yes, drinking and driving counts. Blacking out also counts. There is also a strong argument for, “if it’s illegal, it will compromise your safety.” Anyone who has ever spent the night in jail can attest that jail is physically uncomfortable.
9. It’s made you sick and you still need it
Your health is in danger by participating in the activity and you keep going anyway. “Puke and rally,” is not healthy. All joking aside, this is a very serious situation if your use has gotten to this point. If you have had a seizure or “fished out” see a doctor.
You need more to get you that feeling you crave or you use the same amount as you always have and it doesn’t seem to affect you the same way any more. If you can “hold your liquor” really well, your body is adapting to the alcohol. It’s protecting you from yourself.
You feel sick when you don’t have it or you take something else to avoid feeling sick then you may have a problem. If you get the shakes, feel bugs crawling on you, get the sweats, have flu-like symptoms, that is withdrawal. If your withdrawal symptoms are from alcohol or benzos (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, Restoril or any pill with a name then ends with -am), don’t try to detox yourself or go “cold turkey." This can be life threatening. See a doctor.
If any of these describe your situation and you are worried about your drinking or using, get in touch with a licensed counselor. Most schools have a counseling center available for enrolled students and will help you get your drinking under control before it’s too late.
A primary care doctor can point you in the direction of a counselor as well.
If you have serious withdrawal symptoms when you stop using, you may want to seek out detox program. There are both inpatient and outpatient detox programs. Calling 2-1-1 on your phone will get you to a person who can help you find resources in your area. 211info.org will help you with an Internet search for services.
Martha B. Fallis, MA, LCSW is a therapist at Life Stone Counseling Centers in Salt Lake City specializing in helping others overcome life's challenges. To learn more about Martha, please visit www.lifestonecenter.com.