Recognizing the Wake-Up Calls

Wake-up callsWhen people refer to wake-up calls, those events typically mark the culmination of a negative behavior developing over time. Maybe that behavior stemmed from a poor attitude, a shortcut in a process, or a bad habit. Sometimes we reconcile with those wake-up calls as being the result of taking something for granted or running a risk too many times, proving to finally catch up with us. Whether they come in the form of an injury, threat, or loss, wake-up calls surface as a shattering moment of reality, capturing the nearness and severity of a problem.

In situations of substance abuse, a wake-up call can feel like a moment where something meaningful begins crumbling, and the consequences of repeatedly getting drunk or high begin to unfold. Too often we look back in hindsight and wish we could take those early warning signs more seriously. Consider the following perspective on watching for warnings and responding to wake-up calls.

Defining the problem

Psychology Today defines wake-up calls as an awakening to something one has been ignoring. When we’re neglecting to correct an inclination within ourselves or find a solution for a persisting problem, a wake-up call can feel like life’s sudden way of bringing an issue to higher consciousness. We get a momentary foreshadowing of the troubles ahead if the problem continues. Unfortunately, we often dismiss the warning signs and more manageable wake-up calls, feeling a new sense of surprise and shock each time outcomes get worse.

Letting warning signs slip

Wake-up calls in an addiction may start seemingly small, but they progress into more dangerous situations. The scary truth about wake-up calls is that we become desensitized to their seriousness as the drinking and using prevail over time and the damages appear repairable. When an addict doesn’t take initiative to change substance abuse habits, the next episode or binge requires even more damage and despair to feel costly, and what we thought was “rock bottom” becomes deeper and darker.

Just like the substances themselves, consequences can build numbness, causing a hangover or blackout to lose its sense of alarm. Perhaps the next wake-up call means losing a job or a partner. As substance abuse perpetuates, that wake-up call becomes an arrest or a tragic accident. Eventually the frustration from once fighting over how much someone drank last night pales in comparison to the proceeding damage to their health, career, finances, family, child custody, and legal freedom.

In the some of the toughest stories, that series of wake-up calls turns into an overdose. As the opioid epidemic continues to take a painful toll, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the rise in opioid abuse has resulted in a 30% increase in emergency room overdose submissions.

While we hate to hear situations escalate to life-threatening levels, we can take important lessons from these circumstances about recognizing the signs and acting sooner.

Taking the next steps

What signs are you observing? Adopting a heightened awareness and being informed of common warning signs can help us recognize moments where we need to make changes and reorient ourselves toward a healthier direction.

As you consider addiction treatment, avoid waiting for your situation to get worse to finally make a change. If you wonder if your loved one is an addict, how much worse is it to wait until a tragic accident to bring your concern forward? Learn more about things to consider when researching treatment options.