Monthly Archives: May 2013

Social Activities: Secrets to Spotting a Substance Abuser: Part 2




You are what you do.  And what you do for fun is more important than what you do for work when it comes to defining who you are.  Many people stay in jobs that they have outgrown or because it is what they are trained to do but how you spend the rest of your time is a personal choice and regardless of whether or not you change your career your activities outside of work reflect what you are interested in at the moment- a clearer snapshot of someone at a particular moment in time in their life.

When I meet someone for the first time at a social gathering I like to ask them, “What do you do for fun?” rather than, “What do you do for a living?”.  I do this for several reasons:

  1. It is a different take on the usual question (What do you do for a living?) which usually catches people off guard.
  2. It makes me more memorable because I asked an unusual question.
  3. If this person is a potential friend or dating partner, the answer to that question will tell me how we might be spending time together since I probably won’t be going to work with them.
  4. The answer will help me determine if they have a substance abuse problem.

People who abuse substances, particularly alcohol, pot and cocaine tend to surround themselves with other people who do the same and there are certain activities that foster that sort of camaraderie.  Here is a list of some of the main ones:

  • They attend many sporting events like football at the college and professional levels, particularly where there is tail-gaiting involved beforehand. The occasional tail-gaite is one thing but season tickets, especially to more than one sport could be a problem.
  • They go to horse oriented events like polo matches, steeple chase races or track races often. There is a lot of standing around at these events and it seems to warrant the consumption of alcohol.
  • OK, I guess I should just say spectator sports in general.
  • Beer tastings, wine festivals alcohol centered events.
  • Fishing and boating-  another activity where there is a lot of sitting around for hours on end.
  • Golfing- again, a lot of standing around.
  • Motorcycling.
  • When they socialize with their friends they meet in bars or at someone’s house to watch a game.
  • Attending big concerts and/or play in a band – where they spend a lot of time in bars.
  • Entertaining at home centers on drinking alcohol.  Listen for themes of events like Margarita night, Annual Holliday Scotch tasting instead of Cookie exchange, Hearts Tournament, Horseshoe extravaganza.
  • They choose vacation destinations based on relaxed  rules and availability of drugs: Jamaica, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Bangcock – you get the idea.

I am not saying that all people who participate in the above activities are substance abusers. Understand that by liking or attending any on or two of these activities does not indicate that someone is a substance abuser but listen for volume and frequency.  Substance abuse is a lifestyle.  Substance abusers’s lives center around the substance of choice.  It is how they move through the world and navigate relationships. If you run across someone whose spare time focuses primarily on enjoying a mind altering substance and spending time with other people who do the same, you are most likely in for trouble.

So ask the question and listen carefully.  It could save you some heartache in the long run.