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3 Major Types Of Substance Abuse Warning Signs And How You Can Help

3 Major Types Of Substance Abuse Warning Signs And How You Can Help

You’ve noticed things are off with your loved one. Some changes are obvious, others not so much. You’re beginning to suspect substance abuse and you want to help, but you’re at a loss. What do you do?

Familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of substance abuse is a crucial first step. Know the three types of signs—physical, behavioral, and psychological—and how to spot them.

1. Physical Signs

  • Disregard for personal appearance: disheveled look, unkempt hair, etc.
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Unusual odors on breath, clothes, or body
  • Slow or impaired coordination or speech
  • Use of eye drops to hide red and bloodshot eyes, dilated or smaller pupils
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep changes: insomnia, sleeping too much

Substance abusers show a mixture of these signs of drug use, but some physical signs will depend on the type of drug. For example, marijuana produces euphoric feelings, difficulty concentrating or remembering, and an increased appetite. Synthetic drugs may cause hallucinations, vomiting, chest pains, or confusion. Users may suffer panic attacks, become unusually sociable, or have a spike in energy. An extreme symptom is psychotic or violent behavior. Drug users snorting or inhaling drugs often have red or runny noses and/or nose sores.

2. Behavioral Signs

  • Secretive behavior: lying or hiding where they’re going, avoiding visitors
  • Withdrawing from family or friends or a drastic change in relationships
  • Financial difficulties: repeatedly asking for money without an explanation or a vague or unlikely reason, missing money and/or valuables
  • Poor work or academic performance, repeatedly calling off or skipping work without notice, loss of interest in work, significantly lower grades
  • Paranoid behavior
  • Changes in friend groups, activities, and interests
  • Risky behaviour: getting into fights or accidents, being arrested, engaging in illegal activities, etc.

3. Psychological Signs

  • Sudden change in personality
  • Mood swings, acting out, irritability, or agitation
  • Lethargy or absentmindedness
  • Anxiety or fearfulness for no apparent reason
  • Bouts of hyperactivity, periods of laughing or giddiness

Different drugs can have different effects on people. For more information on signs and symptoms related to specific drugs, visit Mayo Clinic’s website.

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How To Support Your Loved One

It’s also possible that the substance abuse problem may be obvious to you but not to your loved one. It’s important to show your support in ways that show you care. Substance abuse and addiction are very complicated and painful for those suffering from them. Although your desire to help is sincere, your loved one may not see it that way. Remember to be cautious and sensitive. Here are just a few suggestions.

What To Do

Talk To Your Loved One

Explain that you’re concerned in a non-judgmental way. Be honest but not aggressive when you cite specific things that have been worrying you, such as unexplained financial difficulties or a withdrawal from family and friends. Be prepared—it’s not uncommon for users to get irritated or defensive when confronted about their condition. On the other hand, they may be so deep in denial that they’ll just blow off your concerns or make up excuses. Offer to get your loved one help. Whether it’s taking them to a doctor, going along to a substance abuse meeting, or helping them find a substance abuse recovery program, it’s important to demonstrate your support during this rough time.

Be Realistic

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You can only do so much on your own, and you can’t control your loved one’s actions. Ultimately, users need to accept responsibility for their addiction. Recognize your limitations. You aren’t a professional; you are a concerned loved one.

Take Care Of Yourself

Supporting a friend or family member who is suffering from substance abuse can be an emotional and draining process. You need support, too. Establish a support system that includes friends and a professional, like a counselor. Keep yourself safe. Don’t put yourself at risk by getting into dangerous situations like following your loved one to a drug deal or party.

Define Your Boundaries

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Taking your loved one to a weekly appointment is reasonable; repeatedly bailing the user out of jail is not. In fact, enabling destructive behavior only impedes progress. In the long run, giving money to people suffering from substance abuse or getting them out of trouble only hurts them more. Sometimes, the best way for them to learn needs to be the hard way.

What Not To Do

Threaten Your Loved One

Physical threats and psychological mind games are not methods for curing your loved one’s struggle with substance abuse. Threatening to disown your loved one for not getting clean or just attending rehab is far from healthy, and resulting to physical violence only creates more problems. Making them feel guilty for their addiction can also be psychologically damaging. Some users already feel as though they’re beyond help, so pouring guilt on them will only make them feel worse and increase risks of suicide.

Take Away the Drugs

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When you hide or throw away a user’s drugs, you’re making the problem worse. It’s not only detrimental to your relationship, but it can be fatal. Your loved one will turn against you and most likely go to extreme measures to get more.

Blame Yourself

It’s easier said than believed, but it’s important to remember that you are not responsible for your loved one’s actions. It’s not your fault. Make sure you’re available for your loved one should it come time to lend a shoulder, but don’t feel as though it’s your job to bail your loved one out of jail or cover up mistakes the user has made as a result of the addiction.

Do you suspect a loved one is suffering from substance abuse? The professionals at High Focus Centers are here to help you both. We provide individual, family, and group counseling as well as in-patient substance abuse recovery programs. Contact us for more information on how to get the help you need!

Featured photo credit: Credit: craigCloutier via imcreator.com

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Dan Gellman

Director of Marketing for High Focus Centers

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words—many times your parents
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

1. For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

2. For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

4. For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
  • Shut down your thinking
  • Calm your feelings
  • Simply focus on the present moment

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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