If you find yourself dedicating more and more of your life to your bad habit, take notice. Your indulgence may have become an addiction. Here are five clues:
1. Talk of the town
If people are complaining about your bad habit, listen up. Whether they mention it straight to your face or whisper behind you back, if you hear rumors about your dealings, it means others have taken notice. And people will notice when something is wrong. Murmurs tend to match the little voice in your head saying, "This is a problem now."
Life is tough enough without adding extra hassles or complications. Pay attention if your little indulgences are turning into big obstacles in your relationship, friendships, family bonds, job or your life in general. Interfering in your personal or professional life is a major sign something is wrong and balance needs to be regained.
3. Protection policy
Your bad habit is becoming a big problem if you become defensive or irritated about giving it up, taking a break, or even just slowing down. Most people do not respond kindly to demands, and ultimatums rarely work in situations that haven't hit rock bottom. The problem is that a habit rarely gets better until it has been identified and owned as an addiction. You can't change what you don't acknowledge. So it's easy to ignore what you don't give a name, and easy to protect what you don't call a problem.
4. Permission granted
Denial is a big part of budding addictions. But even admitting that circumstances are getting out of control won't keep you from making excuses to do it. Stress at home or at work, grief from a loss, anger and frustration at disappointments in life, and general feelings of fear or anxiety can trigger the instinct to self-medicate. And when you allow yourself to give into this powerful feeling instead of denying it and deferring to healthier alternatives, you've started down a dark path. If you have to convince yourself that it's okay, you're having a conversation with your unconscious you normally wouldn't need to.
5. Unworthy sacrifice
You are in too deep if you find you're sacrificing your time, money, mental, physical or psychological health to do it. And this is especially true if you're putting your freedom in jeopardy by engaging in illegal activities because of it or to get it. The risk-reward ratio is way out of proportion, meaning the risk is far greater than the reward in the grand scheme of things.
Addiction is hard on everyone, not just the person it directly affects. Everyone within the addict's circle of influence will have to deal with the affliction in one way or another. Some will stand by and do nothing, some will enable and aid the problem, some will support and aid the person, while others will walk away and wash their hands.
In the end, if you're the one who needs help, or you see someone else in your life that is in trouble, recognizing that there is a problem is the first step.