Excuses Made By Addicts & Alcoholics

addicts excuses

Alcoholics and addicts tend to make excuses.  I know a lot of them, and I’m here to share.

Here’s something alcoholics have in common with everyone else: we have well-developed defense mechanisms.  We know how to protect ourselves, and that might mean protecting our feeling from what we think are attacks.  Basically, we tell ourselves stories.  We also know how to lash out at others, even if we’re not lashing out in a way that’s extremely dramatic.

Now, addicts aren’t exactly nuts or in some terrible head space, but it is the case that we do engage in some distortion.  It’s important to be able to deal with these excuses—ultimately, the person who wins out when you do is the alcoholic.

As a blogger, I don’t do anything without numbering it.  So, below are the Top 8 Excuses Made By Addicts & Alcoholics.

1. You are not so pure yourself

I used this one just once—I think it was 1988.  But I’ve heard it a lot.  It makes a lot more sense to the addict using it than to his or her audience.  The addict is thinking, hey, look at all the criminals out there.  You call in sick to work when you have to take your kid to visit colleges.  You slept with your friend’s boyfriend.  How is drinking any worse than those things?  To the drinker, damaging your own liver and experiencing your own hangover is your own business.  If you went out and got a DUI but you didn’t crash into innocent people in the process, what’s the big deal?

So, what to do?  You can’t win a pissing contest against a drunk.  You don’t want to compare sins.  That encourages the addict to pursue this line of thought.  Here’s what you do.  Say, yes, you’re right.  That’s that whole point—I’m not being superior because I’m not superior.  I’m asking you to try to take care of something that is life-threatening, that can be dangerous to others, that can hurt feelings and relationships.  It’s not better or worse than what someone else does, it’s just what it is.

2. Look At All I Have Done For You

As you might guess, this one comes from spouses a lot.  Or parents.  Someone who has done some things for the person who’s giving grief.  That person may have made sacrifices and/or may have provided for the person he’s verbally jousting with.

As you can see, this is a classic case of an irrelevancy.  Common sense is the answer here: that doesn’t entitle you to undoing the good done by those past deeds with your drinking.

3.This is who I am

Now, you can’t say “yeah, and that’s the problem.”  The alcoholic, here, is playing a version of the “nobody is perfect card.”  He may want you to love him as he is and may imply it would be rude to do otherwise.

This is a hard one to deal with, and it’s probably at the heart of what alcoholism is all about.  Alcoholism is all about being convinced you can’t change.  There’s a sweet, sad burn in the heart of an alcoholic: we all have our flaws and this is mine.  It’s a card I’ve been dealt.

So how to fence with this one?  Not by reading some “you can do it, man” script that smarts of sappy self-help.  No, friends, to me the best thing to do is show that person a picture of himself or herself in the past.  Alcoholism isn’t who the person is, and if you can demonstrate some past glories, this will at least defuse this excuse.

4. I can stop whenever I want

This is an example of the addict being human.  In a way it’s kind of lovely.  How easy would it be for you to admit something like this?  Maybe the alcoholic is partially convinced by this himself.  Basically, the answer to this is “then stop now.”  Logically, this is pretty iron-clad.  If he says he doesn’t want to stop that’s essentially saying he is addicted.  Plus, it’s just logical that even if he doesn’t quit it’ll get worse.

 5. At least me I don’t use drugs or drink like he does

When I was a drinker, guess what?  I knew people who were in worse shape than I was.  I knew people who did some of the hard stuff, and people who drank more than I did and who got into more trouble than I did.

Here’s how you confront this one.  If the drinker keeps it up, he will be like this other guy.  Now, you’ll get resistance on this, of course.  He’ll deny it up and down.  He’ll think you’re going down a slippery slope, overreacting.  But reason with him.  This other guy—we’ll call him Balto—couldn’t always have been as bad as he is now.  Balto was once the alcoholic in your life, right?

Now, you’ll get brush-back on this too, but he’ll get it.  I’ve known people who did decide to go straight after seeing a Balto crash his car or have seizures.

6. What problem? I don’t have a problem.

This is a close cousin of “I can quit any time.”  It’s distinct, though.  Having a problem but one that’s not so bad you can’t quit is different from having no problem at all.  Here, the alcoholic in your life—we’ll call him Duane—is defining his drinking as normal, social.

This can be a pretty big problem, because if Duane honestly has found a way of convincing himself  he doesn’t have a problem, he’s in big need of intervention.  It might be time to go into intervention mode, figuring out how to get the gang together and confront Duane

7. It will never ever happen again

And maybe it won’t.  But sometimes when a big drinker says this, it isn’t based on any clear plan for him to stop the behavior in question.  He’s just saying it.  It’s an easy thing to say.  The issue with this excuse is how many times it has been given.

It’s not something that will work very many times.  You need to get into a situation in which instead of repeated generic promises that it will never happen again, the drinker is acknowledging, when he makes a mistake, that he screwed up.  If he can explain how he was trying to fix things and do things differently, and how circumstances fought with him, you very well may be making progress.

8. All I want is a little relief

This is the place where your Duane tells you how difficult his job at the construction site or the law office is.  And relationship problems and difficulties stemming from what it is to be human.  This gets you into a sticky situation, because it’s hard to tell Duane that we all have those problems and yet we don’t drink too much.  Duane will not respond kindly.

So, the best thing here is just to let this one go.  Duane will be less prone to self-pity the more psychologically healthy he becomes.  The thing, then, is to help Duane get into a place of needing less relief.  Your job is to try to address some of his insecurities and perhaps some of his stresses.  As he begins the road to recovery, you’ll stop hearing this excuse.

Photo Credit Diricia de Wet on Flickr