Five Signs That Stress Is Changing Our Consumption
Whether it be alcohol, THC, benzos, opiates, or caffeine there are times where we can find ourselves reaching for our substance of choice to aid in coping with stressful periods of our lives. As the pace of life increases it can be difficult to find the space to decompress and we often go to external solutions before making internal changes to our life. This list provides red flags pointing towards the deeper issue of a stress that we are coping within our life.
1. Our own recognition
Shame is a powerful emotional state and immediate signal that we have crossed the line with coping through substances to the point where we might lose relationships. We wake up out of a black out with the sudden realization that we were at a work party last night. Shame and panic set in dragging us fully into a fight or flight response. The shame response is one of many indicators. Self-recognition of negative coping can attach to other red flags listed below.
2. Someone close reaches out
Loved ones in our lives are critical in identifying and helping us when we are struggling to cope with stress. Being preoccupied with a problem typically pulls us into an isolated and reactive state. A performance signaling that we are okay for acquaintances dissolves when we are around someone who truly cares. This person will voice that they see something amiss with you. These conversations can be emotionally charged due to vulnerability on both sides. What is important is that someone close is identifying a concerning change within you.
3. Negative consequences
Negative consequences come in many ways but typically result in a tangible negative outcome due to the influence of the substance used. Consequences naturally differ in severity and they should not all be treated the same. Hangovers are not the same as DUI’s. However an important principle applies: Stress begets more stress and we become more vulnerable to more severe consequences if we do not address it. I challenge you to write down the amount of negative consequences you have recently experienced to see for yourself.
Rationalization is a powerful defense against the discomfort of losing control under stressful conditions when substances are used more. The more crafty you are will enhance your ability to create rationalizations. We tell ourselves we deserve to drink tonight. That everyone has their vice. We rationalize when we used more than intended. A powerful sign that the process of use is taking us over.
We avoid to decrease our pain in the short term. We avoid our family and friends when we know we will have to address our behavior or the feeling we are carrying with us. When we avoid we isolate and distance. Avoiding is a powerful red flag indicating that we are disconnecting from ourselves due to the distress that we don’t know what to do with.
Red flags are powerful signs that something is wrong. This something typically sits like a knot within us. We try to untangle it but end up back at square one distancing further or repeating behaviors we are trying to get away from. Understand that this is a completely normal response and that you can take control by reaching out here.