“It’s not my fault — it’s a disease.” “My family has a history of addiction, so it makes sense that I’m an addict, too.” “My parents drove me to drink.” “My significant other drove me to drink.” “My mental health drove me to drink.” “If things at work weren’t so stressful, I wouldn’t need to use heroin.” “I can’t be expected to control myself.”
When someone is in the midst of an addiction, it can be very easy to blame outside forces. After all, thoughts like this act as a sort of protective barrier, allowing addicts to continue using substances despite the negative influences their addictions have on their lives.
Unfortunately, the only way to achieve sobriety is to push these excuses away and take responsibility.
The danger of playing the blame game
Addiction is a disease. Mental illness — another disease — can make developing a substance use disorder more likely. A traumatic experience, an unhealthy relationship or mere genetics can also increase the likelihood of a person developing an addiction.
Even though the underlying causes of addiction might be beyond the person’s control, how he or she responds to the addiction is something he or she can control. Some people choose to dwell on the origins of their addiction and make excuses for their behavior, while other people recognize that — while it’s not their fault they’re an addict — they have the power to pursue sobriety and correct their mistakes.
People who rely on excuses and explanations (e.g. “I’m only an addict because of my family history” or “I’m an addict because of my mental illness”) tend to feel better in the short term, because their words encourage sympathy and pity from other people. Excuses like this also tend to help addicts absolve themselves of guilt, since nothing they did during their addiction was “technically” their fault.
These excuses, however, do nothing to discourage further drinking and drugging, nor do they actually fix any of the issues in an addict’s life. Excuses will not help addicts mend relationships or solve their financial problems. Excuses are not enough to sustain sobriety.
Here are a few signs that addicts do not want to take responsibility for their addiction:
- They deny or minimize things they’ve done while addicted.
- They demand forgiveness for their behaviors.
- They accuse others of interfering with their recovery process.
- They believe that if they relapse, it will not be their fault, but someone else’s.
- They use the fact that addiction is a disease as an excuse.
- They believe that only one part of their life is responsible for their addiction, e.g. their job, their significant other.
Stop blaming others and take control of your life
Every person is responsible for the choices he or she makes. Some of these choices will be fueled by an underlying illness (e.g., addiction, mental illness), but ALL of them are each individual’s responsibility and his or her responsibility alone.
Blame plays an influential part in steering a person to the path of addiction, and so it has no place in the life of an individual on the road to recovery. People who achieve sobriety are the ones who avoid blame. They’re the people who work hard to fight against that voice in their heads. They disregard the automatic justifications that come from their lives as addicts, and face their fears head-on. They take responsibility.
Sovereign Health of California is a rapidly growing, national collection of residential behavioral health treatment centers for mental health disorders, substance use disorders and co-occurring conditions. Our clinicians treat all co-occurring conditions concurrently — a technique known as dual diagnosis — to best help our patients make a full recovery. Sovereign also offers a continuing care program, through which patients can continue to find support and encouragement in their recovery after they leave our care. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Courtney Lopresti, M.S., is a senior staff writer for Sovereign Health, where she uses her scientific background to write online blogs and articles for a general audience. At the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her master’s in neuroscience, she used functional neuroimaging to study how the human cerebellum contributes to language processing. In her spare time, she writes fiction, reads Oliver Sacks and spends time with her two cats and bird. Courtney is currently located in Minneapolis. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.