When we are engaging in behaviors of addiction, we often don’t see past our own, immediate, situation. We are focused on what the high is doing – or not doing – for us, and putting ourselves in the shoes of others doesn’t tend to come naturally. The fact is that our addiction doesn’t only harm our own lives and future. We are part of a bigger picture, and all who are around us can be impacted.
Losing Your Friends
The first people to know about our addiction is usually our friends. Our friends may even be the ones who provide us with the drugs or alcohol, in the first place. Drugs and alcohol affect different people in different ways, and you may end up reacting better – or worse – to the substances than your friends do. Either way, there are uncomfortable consequences.
If you are the friend who manages to get by with using drugs or alcohol occasionally, with few negative experiences, you may feel like your addiction is not a problem. Unless you are only using the substances when you are completely alone (which can be a bad sign, in itself,) you are probably encouraging others to use along with you. You can never know how much impact you are having on the future of those friends. One friend may do alright with the using, like you do. Another friend may have a fierce tendency toward getting hooked, and will start using the drugs or alcohol to excess. It isn’t any fun, knowing that we have played a part in the destruction of someone’s life, through being the one who provided him or her with the drugs which eventually took over his or her existence.
If you are the friend who watches your other friends do fine with using – while being out of control, yourself – there is another set of concerns. Young adults, in particular, often have their own problems to deal with. They are busy figuring out how to set up their own lives. They don’t have the time or energy to babysit a drunk friend all the time, or to talk a paranoid friend down from a bad trip every day. Eventually, these friends will get tired of giving you the amount of attention that your addiction is requiring. You are likely to find yourself more and more alone, as they separate themselves from the burden of your behaviors. Both you, and they, have lost a friend in this scenario.
Included in that list of friends may be a romantic partner. Being the girlfriend or boyfriend of someone who gets high or drunk all the time is wearing. There are only so many times that a significant other can listen to the nonsense or hateful words of a high or drunk person before considering that the relationship needs to end. A person, sober, is not the same person when addicted to substances. Asking a boyfriend or girlfriend to stick around while you play the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not fair. As with other types of friends, you are putting too much burden and responsibility on your significant other when you expect him or her to carry you through the darkness of your addiction.
Stressing Your Family
Other than ourselves, the people who are often most affected by our abuse of drugs and alcohol are the members of our family. For a family, watching a young person creep closer and closer toward falling over the edge of addiction can be extremely frightening. They may try to do anything they can think of to help pull you away from that dead-end. Their attempts to help can come as crying, yelling, cursing, and making demands. All of these behaviors are a result of the fear and panic that our addiction is causing for them. Our loved ones are afraid for our future.
When we are afraid, there are many physical consequences. Our hearts pump faster, and our blood pressure increases. Our blood sugar levels rise, and our muscles stay tensed up. We become vulnerable to getting sick, and our mind isn’t able to function as clearly. When this fear response stays around, every day, we call it stress or anxiety.
Family members who are worried about the future of a loved one walk around with this heightened arousal, daily. Prolonged stress and anxiety have been linked to migraine headaches; heart disease; depression; and insomnia. While we may know that our addictions are taking years off of our own life, we need to also be aware that we are taking years off of the lives of our loved ones. To put it bluntly, we may be slowly killing our family members with our addiction.
Damaging The Community
When a community has a high number of young people who are addicted to substances, the reputation of the entire area is tarnished. People who are working toward their futures don’t tend to want to move into a city where drug and alcohol abuse rates are high. There are only some types of people who want to move into towns like this. Those types of people are often other substance abusers, and drug dealers.
When a town can’t attract new, productive, citizens, it can’t financially prosper. Neighborhoods become dangerous and run-down, resulting in a decrease of property value. Existing businesses end up shutting down, and new businesses choose to open up in a different town. Job availability declines, and crime rates tend to increase, making it so that no neighborhood is safe for the community’s children to play in.
Towns which are plagued by high rates of drug and alcohol abuse tend to report more robberies; burglaries; and vehicle thefts. There are also more instances of deadly vehicle accidents and instances of homicide. While it might seem like an exaggeration to think that your own, personal, drug and alcohol abuse is at fault for this type of demise of a community, keep in mind that every individual in a community plays a role. Your role can be that of working to improve your town, or that of contributing to its bad reputation.