* Perhaps you can send this article to someone who is making excuses!
Every struggling addict and alcoholic has to become a professional at making excuses while they are stuck in their addiction. This is just how denial works. In order to continue to justify their drug or alcohol consumption they have to somehow validate it in their minds, that they are doing the right thing, that they are just doing what anyone in their position would do.
Meanwhile their friends and family are begging them to change, pleading with them to get the help that they need, trying to encourage them to go get professional help. The struggling addict or alcoholic fears change and does not want to do this. They would rather stay the course and continue to self medicate. At least that is “safe” by their standards. They might be miserable in their addiction but at least it is consistent and they know what to expect. Going to rehab would be a huge roller coaster and the changes are intimidating and scary to most people. Thus there is a strong tendency to stay stuck in denial for months, years, or even decades. No one wants to face the music. No one wants to take that plunge into darkness and face the changes that they know that they have to make (if they want a better life in sobriety).
The fact that sobriety and recovery represented a “better” life never held much appeal to me when I was stuck in addiction. Again, this is because of the fear factor. I was afraid of change and it was just easier to keep doing what I had been doing in addiction. I heard the message of hope that people in recovery were trying to pitch to me and I just didn’t care. I couldn’t bring myself to care. I had to much fear to really take a serious look at what they were offering.
The problem is that no person on this planet likes to admit that they are afraid. No one wants to admit this openly to their peers. So we will make up all sorts of excuses in order to hide our fear, even from ourselves (this is part of denial).
So you might say, for example, that you cannot go to treatment because you would risk losing your job. Never mind the fact that your life is a total train wreck and your addiction or alcoholism has cost you good jobs in the past. Never mind the fact that you are a total mess and you run the risk of losing your job all the time due to the consequences of your addiction. Never mind the fact that if you got clean and sober you would be about 100 times more valuable to just about any company that you might work for. Never mind the fact that if you got clean and sober you would be much more reliable and dependable. Never mind the fact that if you got clean and sober that your performance at any job would increase greatly.
No, just forget all of those silly ideas–because there is this huge wall of fear that prevents you from becoming willing to go to rehab and change your whole life. So you stay stuck and you stay scared and then you try to justify it. So you make excuses like “I can’t afford to risk losing my job, what would I do for money? etc.”
It’s all lame. The excuses are all meaningless garbage when you really take an honest look at the situation. It is all just a big mind game so that the addict can twist their way out of making the necessary life changes that will bring them happiness one day. They are simply too afraid to face the unknown. Too scared to give sobriety a fair chance. They cling to the familiar, to their drug of choice, because at least that is predictable.
I used to work in a treatment center and many times a situation would come up when a person in treatment would decide that they wanted to leave rehab immediately. It was not time for them to go yet but for whatever reason they wanted to get out right now. The laws in my particular state prevented us from stopping anyone from leaving, so all we could do was to try to reason with them. (There is your hint right there about the futility that is coming in a moment: “Reason.” You can guess where this is headed I bet, because arguing against denial has nothing to do with reason).
So as staff members of this treatment center we would try to convince this addict or alcoholic to change their mind and stay in treatment. “Don’t leave early” we would plead “or you will only go out there and relapse.” As staff members of the rehab we had seen this situation happen enough that we knew this to be universally true: people who leave rehab early have a strong tendency to relapse. Probably 100 percent of the time. So we would try very hard to get people to stay.
It was never worth it. The person who has made this snap decision is back in denial, and they cannot be reasoned with. Logic is useless because they are stuck in denial and will not understand your arguments at all. They just want to get out at any cost. They will come up with any and every excuse in the book at this point. They will say anything just to get the heck out of rehab. Their minds are made up. You cannot change it at this point.
The amazing thing is that such people who left treatment early came back later, sometimes several months or years later, and said “you guys were right, I should not have left early. I relapsed and now I need help again.” This happened a few times and so it became even more evident to me that these situations were just pure denial. It was a form of self sabotage. Every person who “snapped” and just had to leave rehab early was setting themselves up for failure. And there was apparently no way to stop it once they had snapped. They had made up their mind to leave and there was just no changing it.
I bring up this example because I think the illustration of denial is perfectly suited to the person who stubbornly refuses to go to rehab. You cannot necessarily argue with such a person because they are not responding to logic at this point. They are in denial and it is like they have these big blinders on–all they can see is that they want to avoid their fear and the big change of sobriety and abstinence at all costs. It is almost like they are forced to make excuses and they cannot help it.
The addict or alcoholic who is in denial has drawn a line in the sand. They are essentially saying to you (and the rest of the whole world): “Look, I like using my drug of choice and you are not going to convince me to give it up no matter what you do or say, so just give up now and stop trying, because I will twist thing around in my own mind and come up with any reason or excuse that I need in order to avoid giving up my drug of choice.”
They may not even realize that they are consciously doing this, but that is essentially what they are doing. They are clinging to their drug of choice and pushing away all the alternatives (sobriety, treatment, abstinence, 12 step meetings) out of fear. They don’t want to consider those alternatives because doing so is scary to them.
In addition, they are not very likely to admit that they are being dominated by fear. Most people will not admit that fear is driving their actions. But you can be sure that it is fear that prevents them from giving abstinence a chance.
Think about it carefully for a moment here: “What does an addict or an alcoholic have to worry about by giving abstinence a chance to work in their life? They know that if they don’t like the results they could always just go back to drinking or taking drugs, right? So what could possibly prevent someone from giving abstinence a chance? What could stop them from doing this experiment?”
There are no valid excuses for this, and there is only one possible answer. Fear.
Fear is the only thing that holds an addict back from sobriety. Fear is the only thing that can prevent a struggling alcoholic from going into a detox center.
They will make excuses and come up with all sorts of reasons as to why they cannot stop drinking or go to rehab right now, but in the end it all boils down to FEAR. Every single time.
Sobriety is a game changer that invalidates all excuses
Again, don’t try to argue against excuses because at this point the addict or the alcoholic is no longer using logic. If they were, then they could easily go interview a bunch of people who are living in recovery now (such as at an AA meeting) and find out that their lives are all vastly improved now.
You could ask such people who have found sobriety “So, would you say that your life is better now that you quit drinking?”
What do you think a room of recovering alcoholics is going to say to that question? The fact that they are not back out drinking is enough answer in itself. They have found a better way.
Sobriety is a game changer. It doesn’t just “improve your life a little bit” but it changes the entire thing around from the inside out.
All of those excuses about why you don’t want to go to rehab just become stupid and petty and meaningless in the face of long term sobriety.
I have been clean and sober for 12+ years now and my life has improved by several orders of magnitude in recovery. And to imagine, I used to make excuses myself as to why I could not attend rehab! Just look at how silly and petty those excuses seem now that I have achieved such joy and happiness in this new life. Sobriety invalidates all of those excuses and trivializes them.
My viewpoint when I was still stuck in denial during my addiction was that I would have to go to rehab and that they would probably urge me to go live in long term treatment for several months and that this would cause me to “sacrifice everything.” This turned out to be exactly right–eventually I did “sacrifice everything” and replaced my old life of misery with a new life in recovery. The only thing that held me back from doing this was fear. I did not know what happiness in sobriety would be like and I was afraid of it. I knew that I could be happy for at least short time periods by using drugs and alcohol and I was clinging to that. I was terrified that I would be even more miserable in recovery for some reason.
What I had to do in the end was to get to a point where I was so miserable in my addiction that I no longer cared about my own happiness. That is a very depressing place to be but it was necessary in order to reach a point of full surrender. It was only after becoming so miserable that I was able to give sobriety a chance. I was able to drop my denial and face the fear of the unknown. Because to be honest I was just sick and tired and I no longer cared. I had to reach that breaking point and become super miserable before I was willing to face my fears.
Time invested in treatment is like buying a winning lottery ticket for those who remain sober
If you could compare my life today after 12+ years of sobriety to what it would have been like if I had never got sober then you would see a vast difference for sure. This is why I say that sobriety is a “game changer.” When you stay stuck in active addiction everything spirals out of control and gets worse and worse over time. When you are in recovery everything gets progressively better and better over time so long as you keep taking positive action and avoid relapse.
So this gap between sobriety and addiction becomes wider and wider over time. Each month or year amplifies your decision to either stay stuck in denial or to pursue recovery.
After 12 years of time I am sure the gap in my own life is absolutely huge. Today I have friends, family, a great career, plenty of security in my life, and so on. If I had spent the last 12 years self medicating it is difficult to estimate just how low I would have fallen in life. Perhaps I would be dead or in prison by now, who really knows? Or maybe I would still be kicking in some way but be miserable and still facing all sorts of chaos in my life. Whatever the case may be, you can bet that this gap between “12 years in recovery” and “12 years in addiction” would be absolutely enormous. Just think of all of the years of misery that I have been lucky enough to avoid.
Can you really put a price on that 12 years? I don’t think that you can if you really understand the implications here. If you continue to self medicate and stay stuck in denial then you get 12 years of continuous misery and chaos. Things just get progressively worse over time with no real hope for improvement.
On the other hand if you happen to take action and find recovery in your life, then each month (or year) that goes by is more joy and positive experience in your life. Each learning experience builds on the one before and you become happier and happier over time. Life gets good. As people who are working an active program of recovery often say “It just keeps getting better and better.” Why would you not want to experience this? There is only one possible reason someone would want to avoid this path, and it is not a rational reason at all: fear. Fear is what holds us back from this new life in recovery. Fear is the only thing that ever could possibly hold us back. The new life is there for the taking, all you have to do is surrender and start taking direction and advice from other people.
Even a failed trip to rehab is worth something
Many people who go to treatment for the first time will not “get it” immediately. This is not uncommon.
Part of the problem is that nearly every human will:
1) Overestimate their own ability to overcome addiction.
2) Underestimate the power of their addiction.
We are hard wired to make these two mistakes, so don’t feel too badly for making them yourself. I made them more than once, and had to learn these lessons the hard way.
I ended up going to 3 treatment centers before I finally “got it.”
Later on in my recovery I was blessed with the opportunity to work in a treatment center for several years. This was a blessing because I really got a good chance to learn more about addiction through simple observation. I watched thousands of people come into rehab over the course of several years to try to get clean and sober. I watched many of those people relapse and come back for more treatment later on. In doing this I was able to learn quite a bit about the true nature of addiction.
Lifestyle changes are never easy to make. They never come easily. It is always going to be a struggle for every person who tries to overcome this sort of thing. But it is certainly not impossible and I have watched many people succeed as well.
The key is to push all of those excuses out of the way. If you are really serious about changing your life then you need to squash your own ego and get out of your own way. Listen to what other people are telling you to do for a while.
Do an experiment: Get out of the driver’s seat and let someone else dictate your life for a while. I know that sounds scary and radical but what have you honestly got to lose?
Whatever you have been doing in life has not got you the results that you wanted. Struggling to self medicate all the time is no longer working for you (it used to work, not so much any more. Addiction is progressive and tolerance gets the best of us eventually). So what would it hurt to take advice from someone else for a while? From anyone else–it doesn’t really matter who. Just so long as it is not your own ideas (which have brought you only misery and chaos lately).
Go to treatment. Stop making excuses. Your life is not going to magically get better if you are still stuck in addiction.
Yoda said “Named your fear must be, before banish it you can.”
I had to admit that I was scared of sobriety and therefore of treatment/rehab as well.
Finally facing this fear was the key that unlocked a new life of joy for me.
No more excuses. Go seek help today.