We walked the streets of San Dionisio, one early afternoon, to find where a very good friend of my mom, let's call him Jimmy, currently lives. I wanted to know why he didn't make it to her wake and burial, if he even knew that Mama had passed away. Neighbors pointed us to a small apartment. There sat a man, skin and bones; I could barely recognize him. It didn't take a doctor for me to figure out that he was very ill. And yet, there before him were empty bottles of gin---one half-consumed, a small hill of cigarette butts on an overflowing ashtray, and a fresh pack of Marlboro. Red.
Here's a picture for you: a man at the verge of death, still consuming the very things that are killing him. That's what addiction does to a person. He is not able to control his cravings, no matter the harm upon himself and to those around him, because he has already developed a chemical need for those substances in an effort to cope with life.
Question is, can you imagine yourself growing old with someone like this?
In our current series, How to Avoid Jerks and Jerkettes, the first talk, Red Light, touched on the things that should set a single person off to getting out of a potentially disastrous relationship. One of those things is addiction.
It was apparent in the talk that the addiction in focus was substance dependence---drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. But addiction has more shades to it than most people realize. It's clearer to see why a single person should avoid a potential partner who's already in a steady relationship with his or her favorite substances. But there is also what is known as behavioral addiction---engaging in activities or preoccupations as if their very lives depended on them, things such as gambling, shopping, and other things that provide temporary pleasures. Experts even say that what starts out as innocent habits and productive stuff, like work and exercise, can also morph into addictions. There are also modern-day addictions, as when a person loses sleep and forgets to eat---for days, just because of online games, or when there is a compulsive need to use social media all the time, or when assets are spent to the point of poverty, just to look unnaturally beautiful, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. These are addictions, too, which are often overlooked but are equally destructive to life and living.
Keep this in mind, when a person loses control over his or her cravings (compulsion), when he or she 'needs' such cravings (dependence), when they need more and more of it (tolerance), when there is emotional and physical imbalance when these cravings are not met (withdrawal), and most important, when the avid satisfaction of these cravings interferes with life and living, relationships, work, responsibilities, health, and the like---it's an addiction!*
Give it time. There are obvious signs but there are also signs waiting to happen. Know the person you're dating very well. Probe and observe how he or she copes with life and its stressors. If this person opts to risk the relationship just to keep the cravings satisfied, I think it's a red light flashing.