Personality Traits of a Substance Abuser

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By Donna Schwartz; Community Clinician for Valley Hope in Colorado
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This week time was spent visiting with various families who have been drained dealing with a loved one’s addiction.  Each family shared their story about their loved one; how they have been behaving; what they are saying and ways they create harm to others.  At times the families tearfully described the loved one they once knew that had ‘become someone else’ while using their chemical of choice.

What I find myself saying each visit with these families tends to be similar:  the personality traits you described are typical of any person who is chemically addicted.

They include:

-dishonest

-irresponsible

-impulsive

-blaming

-manipulative

-self absorbed

-self willed

-immature

One thing that is missing for most people is the understanding of a person with an addiction and emotional maturity issues.  At the age they began using a chemical regularly is the age they stopped emotionally maturing.  If they began using alcohol, pot, pills, or any drug that mood alters, with any regularity, that is the age the brain and their emotional development stopped maturing.  This is why you will often walk into a treatment center and see adult people dressing, acting or speaking like a person that is much younger than their stated age. 

Within most treatment centers are ‘teenagers’ in adult bodies, trying to find their way into the adult world and feel emotionally overwhelmed by the invitation to start taking responsibility for their own lives.  In the world, these people are expected to act like an adult, ‘their age’, when they feel more like a teenager.  This is rarely a conscious experience for the addicted person.  If you ask most significant others of an addicted person, they will agree, ‘my loved one behaves more like an adolescent than ______ (stated adult age).

The gift of 12 Step Recovery is an opportunity to mature into adulthood; find personal awareness, strengths, gifts, abilities that are creative, productive and joyful.  One goal of working the 12 Steps is to find a quality of life with a community of support, wisdom and accountability coming in unconditionally loving ways.  Wow…what a concept! 

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