One of the realities of addiction is that it comes with a sophisticated array of psychological defense mechanisms.
These defense mechanisms shield the addict from the reality of their behavior, as their actions continue to harm themselves and everyone around them. These defense mechanisms – what we would call excuses – allow an addict to rationalize their addiction even as their world crumbles around them.
Here are 10 of the most common addict and alcoholic excuses we encounter, and why they’re nonsense:
- 1 Excuse #1 – “I’m not hurting anyone but myself!”
- 2 Excuse #2 – “I just want a bit of relief.”
- 3 Excuse #3 – “If you had my problems, you would drink/use drugs too.”
- 4 Excuse #4 – “This is who I am”
- 5 Excuse #5 – “I need to drink (or do drugs) to be social.”
- 6 Excuse #6 – “I need to drink (or do drugs) for work.”
- 7 Excuse #7 – “I’m not an addict, I can stop whenever I want”
- 8 Excuse #8 – “At least I don’t drink or use like he does, now THAT dude has a problem.”
- 9 Excuse #9 – “Everyone else drinks/uses”
- 10 Excuse #10 – “Life is pointless and I’m going to die anyways, I might as well go out on my terms”
Excuse #1 – “I’m not hurting anyone but myself!”
To anyone who has been forced to watch a loved one struggle with addiction, you know this isn’t true. But to the addict, the right to self-determination is used to deny the reality that their behavior harms everyone around them – their family, their friends, and on many occasions even strangers.
Excuse #2 – “I just want a bit of relief.”
The excuses given by addicts often have a self-pitying and manipulative component. In the addict’s mind, they’re victims of unfair circumstances, and alcohol or drugs give them relief in a world full of pain. Any attempt to help them is an attempt to take away their only comfort in a cruel world.
This worldview allows the addict to blind themselves to the fact that their addiction is the very cause of their misery. This defense mechanism can cause the addict to react with indignation when their loved ones try to intervene and help.
Excuse #3 – “If you had my problems, you would drink/use drugs too.”
A twist on excuse #2, this again puts the addict in the role of a victim seeking relief from a cruel world that just doesn’t understand. But the truth is that we all have problems, and most of us find ways to deal with those problems without self-medicating through substance abuse.
This excuse blinds the addict from the fact that alcohol/drugs simply makes their problems worse. In fact, their addiction is probably a cause of most of their problems, problems that would go away if the addict could get clean and focus on daily personal growth. Playing the victim simply allows the addict a convenient excuse to justify their addiction.
Excuse #4 – “This is who I am”
Many addicts are unable to imagine their own existence without their addiction. This excuse lets the addict paint a romantic, self-pitying portrayal of themselves – a tormented soul doomed to a glorious end by a cruel world.
This excuse allows the addict to justify their continued self-destructive behavior, while allowing them to take a self-righteous stance against anyone who tries to help them – because if you really cared, you wouldn’t try to change who they are.
Drinking can definitely produce some fun times in social settings, but this excuse often involves the addict completely denying the many times alcohol/drugs have caused them public embarrassment. It also completely ignores the increasing social isolation caused by their addictive behavior.
Excuse #6 – “I need to drink (or do drugs) for work.”
This excuse allows the addict to justify their addiction by twisting it into a positive thing. Whether they need to drink to network, get closer with the boss, or to entertain clients, the addict can rationalize their addiction as a “cost of doing business”.
This excuse ignores reality, which is that their addiction has probably already negatively impacted their work performance – a problem that will only continue to get worse.
A twist on this excuse is the “tormented creative type”, who “needs” their addiction in order to fuel their creativity.
Excuse #7 – “I’m not an addict, I can stop whenever I want”
This excuse involves pure denial on the addict’s part. There’s little logical reasoning going on here – the power of addiction simply forces the user to claim that they want to drink/use, even in the face of heavy consequences.
By definition, an addict is someone who continues to use, even when their use has negative consequences on their everyday life. But that doesn’t stop addicts from denying their problem, when facing the consequences of addiction.
Excuse #8 – “At least I don’t drink or use like he does, now THAT dude has a problem.”
It’s true, there is always someone more drunk, more high, more messed up than you are. But comparing yourself to others who are further down the spiral of self-destruction in order to justify continued addiction is denial at its finest.
The truth is that every alcoholic on the road to self-destruction has used this excuse:
“I’ve never been arrested for drunk driving”
“I’ve never hit my wife in a drunken rage”
“I’ve never been divorced because of my drug use”
“I’ve never lost a job because of my drug use”
“I’ve never had an overdose”
Of course, all this really means is that the addict hasn’t quite fallen to that particular level of destruction. Unfortunately, the addict also refuses to see that – if they continue down their path – all of these will eventually come true, and they’ll end up just like THAT dude.
Excuse #9 – “Everyone else drinks/uses”
Its true that we live in a world that loves drugs and alcohol. By comparing themself to the typical recreational drinker/user, the addict normalizes their abnormal behavior.
Of course, “everyone else” doesn’t experience the same problems and life consequences as a result of their drinking or drug use. If the alcoholic really wanted to be like everyone else, they would simply stop after a couple of drinks, like most people do. But the truth is that they can’t, heck, they don’t even want to.
Excuse #10 – “Life is pointless and I’m going to die anyways, I might as well go out on my terms”
Many alcoholics and addicts feel like their life is pointless. They use this despair to justify their self-destructive behavior.
Its a self-perpetuating cycle – the more they drink/use, the more their life becomes about getting the next fix, and the less meaning they find in anything else. The less meaning they find in anything else, the less reason they have to quit using/drinking.
The reality is that drinking/using lets you avoid the much bigger challenge of actually doing something meaningful or productive with your life. But once you quit, you can start to focus your energies on finding that meaning. That meaning, whether its a connection with a higher power, helping others, striving for holistic growth, or even simply finding joy in this precious gift we call life, is also what helps addicts stay sober for life.
Have you ever found yourself using any of these excuses? Or have you heard them from someone you love?
It’s normal for addicts to justify and rationalize their irrational behavior, but the fact is that every addict is lying to themself when they use these excuses.
You really do have a problem, and you really do need to do something about it. You may be scared of the future, and terrified of facing the realities of your life, but recovery is possible. However, first you have to be straight with yourself.