Sometimes we use the word addiction to mean a craving for something we can’t resist, like new shoes or our favorite spiced latte. But at some level, we realize that addiction is something much darker and difficult to overcome – a pattern that can destroy even the strongest of relationships.

If you are involved with someone you believe is abusing alcohol or drugs, you’re in a tough spot. You may care deeply about this person, but at the same time, you know that addictive behavior can tear both your lives apart.

When does an attraction to something become a dangerous addiction? Understanding how addiction works is the first step in determining if your loved one has a problem that requires professional help.


Experts define addiction as a relentless focus on any substance, object, activity or behavior that is clearly harmful to the person and those around him or her.

While we may think of addiction in terms of drugs, alcohol or even food, the truth is that people can become addicted, dependent or compulsively obsessed with just about anything. Researchers see strong similarities between physical addiction to chemicals such as alcohol and opiates and psychological dependence on activities such as compulsive gambling, sex, work, running, shopping, or overeating.


  1. Is your loved one obsessed with a particular substance or activity – to the exclusion of pretty much everything else?
  2. Does s/he seem blind to the harm this pattern is creating?
  3. Is s/he experiencing health problems, poor work or school performance and conflicts with family and friends?
  4. Does s/he find it impossible to stop, even if s/he really wants to break free?
  5. If s/he succeeds in quitting for a short time, are there withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, craving, restlessness or depressed mood?
  6. Is s/he losing control? For example, does s/he drink 6 beers when s/he only wanted one, or buy 8 pair of pants when s/he really needed a new belt?
  7. Does s/he deny problems relating to the substance or behavior, even though everyone can see the negative effects?
  8. Does s/he hide evidence? For example, do you see him/her hiding food under the bed, stashing bottles in closets or shoving credit card bills in the bottom of drawers?
  9. Does your loved one experience blackouts – periods of time when s/he doesn’t remember what happened?

If the answer to at least 2 of these questions is “yes,” then your loved one may be facing a serious addiction that requires a long commitment to overcome. Professional help will be needed to get him or her on the right path.

But as concerned as you are about your loved one, it’s crucial for you to see your own needs clearly. At this point it’s wise for you to seek out the support of a skilled individual therapist who can help you gain greater perspective and figure out what to do next.


Addiction is a serious condition that calls for medical and psychological treatment. The road is long and the outcome is far from certain. As someone who loves the person suffering from addiction, you need expert care, too.

A skilled, experienced provider of individual and couples therapy in the Phoenix area, Janae Munday has helped hundreds of men and women see the larger patterns within their lives. She can help you begin the difficult conversations with your loved one that need to happen right now.

Call Janae for a confidential appointment today.


Indiana University