Rationalizing is something most of us do every day. In terms of addiction, however, rationalization can have serious or possibly deadly consequences. Despite widespread research identifying addiction as a disease, many people continue to think its basis seems completely irrational. From the outside, people are unable to understand why an individual would “ruin” their lives with substance use. And too often, family members, co-workers, and friends falsely believe that ending addiction is just a matter of willpower.
It doesn’t help that from the perspective of someone who is struggling with substance use, avoiding treatment and continuing the harmful behavior is frequently based on denial that their drinking or drug use has gotten out of hand.
Here are 6 things people tend to tell themselves in order to rationalize an addiction.
1. “I can stop at any time.”
This is a common phrase proclaimed by people who believe they can control the urges, cravings, and use of drugs or alcohol on their own. This reason to continue using is a true example of denial that delays us from seeing the seriousness of our problem. It allows people to avoid entering treatment and dealing with the issue. Although it may be possible to obtain short stints of sobriety by white-knuckling it, long-term abstinence and changes in this way tend to be uncommon for even the most determined of individuals.
2. “I need alcohol or drugs to be social.”
Some people believe alcohol or drugs allow them to behave more freely and interact with less anxiety in group settings. These individuals cite the substance as making them feel less inhibited with others. The truth is that over time, addiction actually isolates a person. We have less control over our words and actions when inebriated. We can become an embarrassment to friends in social situations and are often not viewed as “cool” as we believe.
3. “I’m not hurting anyone else.”
This self-righteous rationalization is one of the most harmful excuses. It reveals that the person is out of touch with reality and unable to recognize that other people suffer as a result of their addiction. Those around us see firsthand just how destructive our behavior is to our relationships.
4. “If you had my problems, you would also drink or use drugs.”
Individuals with this mindset see themselves as a victim of the world they live in and are unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they avoid life’s problems by self-medicating. The truth is that alcohol and drugs only really complicate the existing issues in our lives. By drinking or using drugs, people avoid relationships and push aside their emotions, which then helps perpetuate the harmful cycle.
5. “I can’t get addicted to legal drugs that are prescribed for me.”
In just the past 15 years, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled and the number of deaths from prescription opioids has also increased by the same staggering amount. The truth is, legal opioids affect the same reward systems in the brain as heroin and morphine and may lead to addiction at increasing doses in order to achieve the same high.
6. “It’s not the right time to quit right now.”
There is never a perfect time to get treatment for addiction. People often use the excuse that they cannot take time off work, ignoring the fact that there are legal protection laws that will allow for a leave of absence. There are also intensive outpatient programs that are available, allowing a person to balance work during treatment. Others say they just have other things that they need to do besides go to rehab. This is simply not dealing with the situation and may be based on fear of the unknown. If a person wants to get sober, they must make the time for it and end the self-sabotaging behavior.
There is an endless list of rationalizations that people tend to use to avoid getting clean and sober. People who struggle with addiction tend to be good at manipulating others and fooling themselves. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it may require professional involvement to face the truth.