When the ‘Whys’ are Lies: Eleven Lousy Excuses from Addicts and Alcoholics Who Won’t Stop Using or Drinking
Perhaps ‘lies’ is not the right word.
‘Rationalizations’ might be a better choice. But whatever word we choose, few are better at making excuses for self-destructive behavior than addicts and alcoholics, who always have dozens of good reasons to explain why they do what they do. Firmly entrenched in their denial, practicing substance abusers are totally convinced there is nothing really wrong with them and that anyone who claims there is doesn’t know what she is talking about. Rather than seeing themselves as victims of substance abuse, as crazy as it sounds, addicts and alcoholics who are still in the denial stage actually believe they are being victimized or betrayed by the people who love and care for them. This is obviously a distortion of the truth, but the ability addiction has to warp the minds of those it has enslaved never ceases to amaze even the most experienced addiction counselors.
If we were to list in notebooks all the excuses that addicts and alcoholics have come up with throughout recorded history to explain their behavior, we would probably have enough material to fill up every shelf in every public library west of the Mississippi. Nevertheless, when addicts try to calmly and rationally explain why they are doing what they are doing and why it is not as bad as it seems, there are certain themes that tend to recur.
After extensive editing and filtering, we have been able to narrow the list of excuses most frequently repeated by addicts on justification binges down to eleven. Anyone who has ever had to deal with an addict or alcoholic for an extended period of time has undoubtedly heard at least a few of these rationalizations (a.k.a., self-serving lies) on more than one occasion.
In the Words of the Addict…The Lousy Eleven
- Excuse #1: “I’m not hurting anyone except myself.”
The Truth: Everyone who cares about an addict or alcoholic and is involved in his life is adversely affected by his behavior. Substance abusers are so absorbed in themselves that they often don’t even notice the collateral damage their drinking and drugging cause, which is a testament to the thickness of the mental and emotional fog that shrouds the perception of the substance abuser.
- Excuse #2: “I need alcohol (or drugs) to help me cope with my emotional (or physical) pain.”
The Truth: There are a lot of wounded people out there, and all addicts and alcoholics can be included in their ranks. But chemical intoxicants only help people escape from their pain temporarily, and don’t actually provide any lasting, sustainable relief-and the physical and psychological problems that plague addicts will ultimately only become worse thanks to the long-term ravages of substance abuse. Everyone needs methods for coping with pain, but drugs and alcohol are not a good option, and anyone who claims otherwise is kidding himself.
- Excuse #3: “I need to drink (or use) to relax, my job is terribly stressful.”
The Truth: Everyone has a stressful job. That stress might help to explain why addicts and alcoholics turn to intoxicants, but it is hardly a justification for the decision. Good methods for dealing with stress involve practices such as meditation, self-hypnosis, breathing exercises, etc., which facilitate good health and at the same time promote relaxation.
- Excuse #4: “Everyone else is doing it, why are you picking on me?”
The Truth: Everyone is most certainly not doing it, at least not in the way the substance abuser means. If an addict really believes his behavior is no different than anyone else who drinks, this only goes to show how out of touch with reality he really is. But if all the people an addict is hanging out with actually are doing the same thing, it means he is spending time with the wrong crowd and needs to separate from those people as soon as possible.
- Excuse #5: “I only drink (or use) to be social.”
The Truth: Any justification for drinking/drugging to excess will claim a need where none actually exists. It might be true that alcohol and drugs can help a person relax around other people, but the price that must be paid for this way of dealing with social stress is just too high. In the end, an addict is likely to be estranged from everyone anyway, so any advantage he supposedly gains in social situations will eventually be negated once he becomes an outcast.
- Excuse #6: “I am going to quit eventually, this just isn’t the right time.”
The Truth: Addicts may believe this when they say it, or they may just say it to get people off of their backs. But when we constantly put things off until tomorrow it means they will never get done, because the only time a person can ever really accomplish anything is right now, in this moment of time. Living in the future isn’t living at all, and no matter how sincere they may be, addicts who claim they will stop drinking or using next week or next month have not yet committed themselves to sobriety, and they may never do so if they insist on giving themselves excuses for procrastinating.
- Excuse #7: “I am nothing like Steve (or Jonah, or Millie, or Hannah), now there is what a drug addict/alcoholic looks like!”
The Truth: Addicts who resort to finger-pointing are reaching, big-time. Of course there are other substance abusers who are in worse shape, that is seldom in dispute. But if those people had only agreed to get help earlier, they might never have reached such a depraved state. Steve, Jonah, Millie, and Hannah could be object lessons, or they could be a preview of coming attractions-it is up to the addict to decide.
- Excuse #8: “This is who I am, and I’m never going to change.”
The Truth: This bit of existential sophistry is the quintessential example of an utterance that has no meaning. Addicts have already changed, and substantially, as a result of their immersion in the tumultuous ocean of mind-altering substances. The addicted person has been actively involved in creating his degraded state of being, and he could just as easily take charge of his life and create something entirely new.
- Excuse #9: “I’m not an addict/alcoholic, I can stop any time I want.”
The Truth: This is the oldest and most well-known refrain of the substance abuser. It is a lie of course, and it is one that the addict or alcoholic may not even believe himself. When addicts come up with this one, the best response is short, sweet, and right to the point: “Prove it.” If he is not addicted after all, then the substance abuser should have no trouble stopping for awhile, just to prove his point.
- Excuse #10: “Life is pointless anyway, so why bother trying to get sober?”
The Truth: (Sarcasm alert) Who would have ever guessed that a substance abuse problem could leave someone with a pessimistic outlook on life! The darkness that an addict or alcoholic sees all around him is actually a mirror’s reflection, which will become clear to him someday when he finally makes the effort to find sobriety.
- Excuse #11: “I would like to stop, but treatment doesn’t work.”
The Truth: It is true that relapse during recovery is common, and many substance abusers spend years going in and out of various rehab centers. But while drug and alcohol treatment isn’t a panacea, it does represent the last best chance for addicts who are serious about getting clean and sober. Treatment most definitely can work, if the addict is willing to put in the hard work necessary to make it happen.