It seems like it would be a no-brainer, right? But recognizing the fact that you’re dating someone with an addiction isn’t always cut and dried. Despite what people think and the stereotypes that exist, most addicts are very good at hiding their problem. If you have never been exposed to someone with an issue, it can be very hard to detect. If you suspect (even a little) that the person you’re seeing is hiding something, don’t brush over it.
Here are subtle things to look for. If you see these in combination with each other, take heed:
1. Their actions don’t match their words.
Addicts are wonderful storytellers. To keep their secret hidden, they’ve developed this skill over many years and will be quite good at (and extremely charming about) the stories they tell you. However, if you hear the story being told to someone else, it will likely vary significantly from what they told you or what you actually witnessed with them. And often, the changes are things that seem insignificant to you. Essentially, they are liars. They have to be to hold up the façade of the life they want you to think they lead versus the one they actually do. Their stories change often because they may not remember exactly what happened while under the influence.
2. They are always broke.
We all struggle financially at times, but people who battle addiction struggle with money issues constantly as they try to feed that addiction. They will allow you to pay for everything (be especially wary, ladies) to the point that you begin to feel used for your money. The reason? You are being used for your money. They may want to spend time with you and enjoy themselves, but they would never risk spending money on you that they intend to use for their addiction. This can even go so far as to take things that aren’t theirs. If you begin to notice that things are missing from your home, or money from your wallet, it’s no mystery who took it.
3. They are super fun, then not so much.
Addicts can be some of the most entertaining people you know. When you are on a substance that alters the chemical balance of your brain, you swing through highs and lows. When they are on the substance, they will likely be on a high and be super fun to be around. This is one of the qualities of addicts that make it so hard for others to see that they have a problem. I mean, they seem so easygoing and fun, right? However, when the high wears off and they are recovering, their personality will change completely to the point of becoming moody, aggressive, paranoid or generally unpredictable.
4. They have family issues.
Again, we all have family issues. But, in order for addicts to justify their choices, they often place blame on others so they don’t have to face their problems. This most often falls to family members, especially parents that they will blame for all of their bad life choices. If you notice them badmouthing the majority of their family (they won’t badmouth enablers), or people from other relationships such as friends and coworkers, be wary. If they have few close relationships because they have isolated these people and called them out as jealous, unsupportive or out to get them, take it as a red flag.
5. They like to brag.
One of the most interesting things about addictive behavior is how addicts will sometimes risk everything they are trying to cover up in order to brag about their addiction. When their guard is down or they are around others who condone their issue, you may find them bragging about how much they can take with no effect, or do the opposite and brag about how long it’s been since they’ve partaken (usually a lie). The truth is that they can handle more because their tolerance has built up over time, and it’s certainly nothing to brag about. If you call them out on it, they will likely try to convince you that you are overreacting or placing your “strict” values on them unnecessarily.
While we are called to love others and not condemn, we are not called to live in someone else’s sin. In fact, we are called away from it so that we aren’t pulled into it ourselves. “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The longer you are in a relationship with an addict, the harder it is to recognize and accept the problem they have. Don’t start compromising what you believe in as you struggle to work their issue into your lifestyle. Be wary of what you are getting into, and don’t allow yourself to normalize what is clearly bad behavior. You deserve better than that.