I’ll Protect Myself by Not Looking at Myself
For many of us, admitting that there is a substance abuse problem or addiction creates fear, shame, and embarrassment. As a result, the only way we can come to terms with it is to avoid it. Avoiding the truth of the problem relies on denying that there is a problem, rationalizing or justifying. We minimize the outcomes of our use, or embellish the circumstances to try and convince ourselves and others that our use and behaviors are not the problems.
Hear, See, and Speak No Evil about Me, Please
Rationalizing and justification take place internally and externally. These are the lies we tell ourselves and others about our use. I had many people question my continued use and behaviors.
Rather than acknowledge that what they were telling me was legitimate, I refused to see any other viewpoints.
My denial about the severity of my problem should have been clear to me, but denial is such a difficult barrier to breach, both by the person and others.
The Many Ways We Avoid
If you find that you are trying to steer the conversation away from a particular point, maybe that is what you need to discuss.
- “No, that is not how it is.”
- “I won’t listen to this kind of criticism.”
- “Stop bothering me.”
2. Minimizing, Downplaying, or Underestimating the Problem
- “I don’t think it’s as bad as you describe.”
- “There are people who have beers every night, and they don’t have problems.”
- “I only act that way when others push my buttons.”
3. Leaving Out The Information That Would Prove A Point
- “I discussed my drinking with my doctor, and he said I was within limits.”
(Unfortunately, the limits the doctor discussed were amounts for a week, not a day.)
- “I’m getting a divorce. I’m stressed and need a drink.”
(Unfortunately, he forgot that his drinking was a major consideration in the decision for the divorce.)
- “I got fired, and I’m not the only one smoking pot.”
(Unfortunately, he forgot that he had several write-ups for the issue before.) +
4. Avoiding or Running from the Obvious
- “Let’s talk about something else.”
- “I hear what you’re saying, but you’re wrong.”
- “I don’t want to discuss this.”
- “I’m uncomfortable talking about this.”
If you find yourself wanting to run away from a conversation, think about this differently – there is probably a reason that family and friends return to this topic.
It might just be that they see a problem that you are trying to avoid.
5. Avoiding the Problem with a Flood of Words
We aren’t able to talk about the real problem because we start talking about so many other things that have nothing to do with the issue. We do this in the hope that whoever has confronted us will get sidetracked and forget the problem.
- “I have to tell you about my work situation – a new boss and new rules, oh and he hired his daughter. All of these changes are just driving me crazy. I don’t know if I can adjust to the new rules and guidelines and the favoritism. You know how traffic is, and we’ve got new rules about being late. I think he should give us time to adjust. After all, we worked under different guidelines for years, and we just need time to get used to the new ones. And then, there’s the policy on calling in sick. I don’t always know that I’m not feeling well until I get up and there’s no time to call before the office opens, and then we’re considered a no-show, plus we are talking to his daughter, the receptionist. I did tell you that she was his daughter, didn’t I?”
(Hangovers are horrible.)
6. Frenzied, Messy Distractions to Avoid
If we are desperate and distracted enough, others may have to bail us out or rescue us for our newest mishap.
And obviously, if everyone stays focused on the new problem, there’s no time to discuss the drinking or using. There’s usually some manipulation in this one; clearly, if you’ve got all this other stuff going on, people ought to understand why you’re using.
7. The Real Issue or “Who Is at Fault”
- “I’m only reacting to them.”
- “If they would only change the way they do things, I would not have to drink/use/act this way.”
- “If you had to deal with what (ever) I have had to deal with in my life, you would drink/use/act like I do, too.”
- “Now that I am sober/clean/acting differently, I need to have my spleen taken out. It has bothered me lately, and I think I need to have many tests to decide if I truly have cancer. These tests will let me know what is REALLY wrong with me.”
Blaming, projecting, and awfulizing your situation does not diminish the reality of using.
8. Overly Confident and Intelligent
9. Rationalization and Justification
- “I do not think my problem is bad, and I just don’t feel it’s that big a deal.”
- “Studies show that a glass of wine is beneficial.”
- “I go to work at 9 o’clock every day, and I can usually function well by 11 AM.”
10. I Am Different Justification
- “I do not drink/use/or behave as bad as so and so, and they aren’t even in trouble.”
- “My brother is anti-social and he’s are not in trouble.”
- “I am fully aware of the impact of my drinking, but I can learn to control it better.”
- “I’m too far gone to get any help.”
- “How can you expect a dilapidated old drunk/junkie to change?”
- “I have acted this way all my life and I cannot change my ways on such short notice.”
This defeatist attitude will keep you actively using. A better approach is to decide that change can and will happen at any time if we just choose to take advantage of opportunities to heal.
12. I Do Not Need Any Help; I Now Have all the Answers
- “I’ve been sober/clean/acting differently for twenty-five minutes now, and I understand what my problems are and it is no longer a problem.”
- “Thank you for your help; you have confirmed what I was thinking.
- “I know so much about it, I do not have to pay you for counseling; thank you very much.”
No one is saying you aren’t intelligent about a lot of things, but taking the advice and guidance from professionals or those who have more time in recovery than you do, would show humility and offer you more answers. You might demonstrate your intelligence more if you did take some advice.
13. I’m Too Old to Have That Problem
- “I am retired, financially secure and come from a good family.”
- “I only take things that my doctor prescribes, thank you.
- “Alcohol is good for blood pressure, but I’m sure you didn’t know that.”
- “I didn’t start drinking until I retired, which shows how responsible I am.”
- “I’m a respected member of my community.”
- “If I drink while cooking dinner it’s no one’s business but mine.”_
Regardless of your standing, your age or your socioeconomic status, alcoholism, and addiction are issues for all ages.
14. Pretending and Placating to Avoid
- “I‘ll just look like I’m listening; I’ll let them get it off their chest, and then go on about my merry way.”
- “I see your point, and I’m going to do whatever you tell me to do.”
(Then you do whatever it is that you wanted to do besides following the directions.)
The thinking that accompanies pretending and placating is:
- ‘I hoped that worked, and they will move on to someone else in the group that needs help. Once you are off my back, I will feel so relieved that I will forget what I promised to do.’
- ‘Glad they believed me; I have always been good at pulling the wool over someone’s eyes, and here are, trained counselors.’
- ‘I will show them, I will say one thing, and then do what I want to do.’
15. Scared Sobriety
- “I know I cannot drink/use or act this way ever again because I will get sick and die.”
- “These consequences will scare me into recovery.”
- “I know that I am afraid of my addiction now, and I know that I will never drink or use again.”
- “I do not need to do any other type of recovery work as this fear will do it all.”
Many people use drugs and alcohol to bolster themselves and overcome their fears. Therefore, making fear the motivating factor for your recovery seems contradictory, doesn’t it? Yet, people will claim that fear can keep them sober. Rarely does that work.
Dropping the Facades and Seeing Your Past
Have you ever used these excuses when someone brings up your substance use? I understand why you have; denial, avoiding, rationalizing, and justification protects you from embarrassment and exposure.
When I Listened to Others
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
Image: Hear, See, Speak