By: Marilyn L. Davis
“The trouble with excuses, however, is that they become inevitably difficult to believe after they’ve been used a couple of times.”― Scott Spencer
I Need Excuses When…
Most of us give excuses when we do not want to do something, or someone questions us about why, when, or how we did or did not do something. We use excuses to:
- Avoid change
- Placate authority
- Get someone off our back
- Defend our actions
- Argue the point
Do You Tend to Use the Same Predictable Excuses?
Do you find that you give the same excuses when challenged? Most of the excuses have worked for you, or you would have dropped them from your speech.
We tend to use the same excuses and typically only stop using them when they no longer work with people. However, when you continue to use your predictable responses, it appears to others that you’re not changing or taking responsibility for your actions, behaviors, and attitudes.
Have you ever thought about what these excuses mean? Start thinking about them from the perspective of what others hear when you use them. Click To Tweet
8 Commonly Used Excuses
1. “I thought…”
This one is about your assumptions – how it “ought to be.”
You may even have a seemingly better way of doing things. But you should probably realize that many suggestions and directions were tried and ultimately found lacking over the years. The current recommendations and tips are in place because they tend to work for the whole.
Solution: Listen to people who have been in recovery and try what they’ve done.
2. “I assumed…”
Again, deciding that you know something without verifying information is your assumption or opinion of what someone meant, how to do something, and possibly the projections of your way being the right way.
Solution: Ask questions when you think you know how to do something or assume you do.
Phrasing it from your perspective of “I thought, or I assumed,” and then stating your position will let someone else know where you are coming from, and in some cases, your thoughts and assumptions may work.
However, if someone can give you valid reasons or a historical perspective on why your assumptions will not work, be respectful, and try their directions, suggestions, or solutions.
Sometimes your ideas have merit; other times, they won’t work. Assuming and thinking you know how something should work may prevent you from learning how and why to do things more effectively.
When you do not know how to do something or use something more effectively, ask questions before, not after.
3. “I didn’t know any better.”
This one puts the responsibility for your knowledge on someone else – family, teachers, friends, sponsors, accountability partners, or treatment providers.
You can learn – you learned the language of using; you can ask questions – “Where can I get drugs?”
Since you wanted an answer, you know that asking a question will get you answers. If you are uncertain about something, ask so you do not have to use this excuse again.
Solution: If you genuinely want to do something better, you will ask knowledgeable people how they do something.
Simply because you have not had people in your life that could help you learn a better way of doing things, or you have chosen to ignore their directions in the past, does not mean you cannot get the help you need now.
4. “I don’t know how…”
If you legitimately do not know how to do something, did not understand the instructions, do not comprehend the written directions or vocabularies, that is understandable, this is a new subject – recovery, but you need to ask questions for clarification. Most people do not know something until they ask about it.
Continuing to state, “I don’t know” may be an indication of your lack of interest in getting better. When you find yourself thinking this one, ask yourself, “Who might know?” There will be times that the answer is someone else.
Other times, such as group, when someone asks you a question about you, the legitimate answer will be that you know. For instance, it is reasonable to decide that you understand how you feel when someone asks you.
Solution: Before using this excuse, think to yourself – “who should know” – them or me.
Finishing out your sentence with “I don’t know because – no one taught me, I wasn’t aware of that, I didn’t realize that, but I want to do things differently” will create opportunities for people to help you learn.
5. “I need to…”
Typically, people use this one when they want the conversation to move away from them or use it to appease or calm someone. You usually use this one when you get uncomfortable, either because what is being pointed out for you to look at causes this discomfort, or you’ve heard people talk to you about it before. The same issue keeps coming up because you are not changing or following the directions.
Alternatively, you may use this one in the hopes that you can appease the authority into believing that you are finally going to do what you committed to doing before.
Solution: Instead of stating or talking about what you need to do, put effort into accomplishing something from your To-Do list or following someone’s directions.
The To-Do List is just the start; learn to follow through with what you need to do, and for heaven’s sake, be realistic in your to-do’s.
You will feel productive and proud and no longer have to talk about what you need to do, but you can talk about what you have done.
6. “I didn’t know to do it differently.”
This one also also puts the responsibility for learning something on others – family, spouses, teachers, friends, or whomever. You obviously can learn – the language of the streets, lifestyle, or your occupation.
While you may not know any better than to use if you are upset, knowledgeable people in recovery know how to recover or give you alternative solutions when you are upset.
Solution: It is your responsibility to ask peers, sponsors, accountability partners, or your facilitator for solutions. These people are resources for change. Even if you did not have people who supported your efforts to change in your use, you have them in your recovery.
7. “I’ve always been this way.”
The simple fact is that you are in recovery to change a lot of “how you’ve always been.”
Continuing to use this excuse demonstrates your unwillingness to ask how-to and then follow through with directions to change or indicate how much fear you attach to changing. The status quo is probably why you relapsed or didn’t make much progress in your recovery.
Solution: Reflect on what you have typically gotten by doing things your way. If you like the outcomes, you probably will not change, but if you do not want the same results, you will change “the ways you’ve always been.”
8. “I’m trying.”
Trying is the excuse that people give when they have expended or put forth energy and effort in an unproductive way or in such a way as not to carry out a goal. Think of it in terms of did you try to drink or use drugs, or did you put effort into doing those things?
“I am trying” is sometimes about making changes or doing something in a less than productive way. Again, ask people who have been successful in their efforts exactly how they did something and then follow the directions.
Solution: When you find yourself using this excuse, see if you have asked experienced people exactly how to do something and do not assume that you know what to do. You will also need to verify that you did it precisely as they said, not altered the directions so you could intentionally fail and then blame others.
Recovery Means No More Excuses
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I swear.”
He grunted. “Like I’ve never heard that excuse before. Funny, but I expected a little more originality from Moira’s daughter.”
If you find that people in recovery do not buy into your excuses:
• It is sometimes because they used them, too
They are simply tired of excuses and not actions. Be appreciative that some people in your life are willing to expect your best from you, not the best excuse.
It will take an effort to stop using excuses. If you are legitimately making an effort to stop using them, you may find yourself saying them and then immediately retracting or withdrawing them for a while. That is okay; it demonstrates that you are making an effort to change. Recovery is an opportunity to change, to stop the self-defeating behavior of making excuses and make changes, and work to find solutions that will make recovery work for you.
After all, we know you did not miss that meeting because your kitty had hiccups.
Writing and recovery heal the heart.
When you’re ready to share your experiences with addiction and recovery, consider a guest post. How you say something will touch others in ways that my words can’t – that’s the benefit of a collaborative writing site.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.