The destructive behavior of the addict is usually obvious to friends and family. These loved ones find it hard to understand how the substance abuser can rationalize their behavior. The addict is able to do this by using denial and fallacious thinking. The addict not only justifies their behavior with lies but they also fully believe these lies. It is only by finally seeing the truth of their situation that the addict can finally begin the work that will set them free.
Addicts will tend to use many false and illogical arguments to justify their behavior. The lies that addicts tell themselves can include:
* Life without alcohol and drugs is boring.
* The belief that the pleasures involved in their early experimentations with alcohol and drugs will one day return. The truth is that as tolerance increases it becomes harder to rekindle these early highs.
* They addict believes that other people complain about the substance abuse because they are killjoys or jealous.
* The belief that substance abuse is due to people having special talents or increased creativity.
* The idea that life in recovery is about deprivation. The addict believes that those who are in recovery feel like they are serving a prison sentence.
* The belief that previous failed attempts proves that the addict can never get better.
* The addict may believe that they have to hit a low rock bottom before they will be able to quit their addiction. The reality is that many addicts manage to give up their addiction without losing too much.
* The conviction that those working in the recovery community are frauds and that there is no real effective path to sobriety.
* The idea that the individual is a special case. They may agree that some people will suffer terribly because of substance abuse but still believe that they are a special case.
* The individual will be able to explain away all the problems due to their substance abuse as being due to other people or bad luck.
* The idea that life is meaningless so the best response to this is to get high or inebriated most of the time.
* The belief that most ‘normal people’ like to drink alcohol or use drugs. This also includes the idea that the fact that some people do not use alcohol or drugs proves that they are abnormal.
One of the reasons for why addicts are able to believe many illogical ideas is that they are dealing with cognitive dissonance. When people hold two opposing ideas at the same time it creates tension in the mind. There are three ways that people can deal with cognitive dissonance:
* They may adopt new ideas and use this as a means to rationalize their internal conflict.
* They can change their behavior so that it concurs more closely with their thoughts.
* They can change their thoughts so that their behavior appears more rational.
Cognitive dissonance can be highly dangerous for people because it means that:
* It gives them the ability to justify bad decisions.
* It keeps them trapped in ignorance.
* It allows them to continue to hold onto beliefs that are proving to be highly destructive in their life.
* It creates the attitude of us and them.
* It allows the individual to hold onto all types of bigoted and racist ideas.
The addict will frequently use cognitive dissonance as a means to justify their behavior. An example of this will be how they can ignore the damage that addiction is causing in their life. Instead of viewing the substance abuse as the cause of their problems they will view it as the tool that allows them to deal with these problems.
Denial is a common symptom of all types of addiction. This is a type of defense mechanism where people refuse to admit the truth of reality. The individual does not deliberately set out to believe in irrational things, but denial is how their unconsciousness deals with uncomfortable realities.
The purpose of this denial is to protect the ego from harm. In some instances such a strategy can be of great value because it means that the individual can avoid facing things they are not yet capable of facing. For example, when people are told that they have a terminal illness, and only have a few months to live, they usually go through a period of denial about this diagnosis. This gives their mind a chance to process the information and come to terms with it.
When denial becomes habitual it leads to suffering. This is because these false beliefs bring the individual in conflict with their reality. The only way that the individual can cope with this is by becoming increasingly deluded. It is only when they are eventually able to break through this denial that can find happiness.
All humans can be guilty of fallacious thinking but the addict turns this into an art form. Logical fallacies occur because people use faulty reasoning or the base their conclusions on inaccurate beliefs. The problem with these types of fallacies is that the individual can be 100% convinced that they are in the right. The most common type of logical fallacies that that the addict is prone to includes:
* The masked man fallacy is when people use true statements to produce false statements. An example of such a fallacy would be the belief that because many people relapse back to addiction it means that real recovery is not possible.
* Hysteron proteron refers to a situation where people assume something to be true based on a belief that has not yet been proven. An addict might claim that everyone who gets sober is bored so this means that there is no benefit to getting sober.
* The post hoc fallacy assumes that because two conditions follow each other they must be casually linked. The substance abuser might tell a story about how their friend became sober but died a few months later.
* A fallacy of composition is where people feel convinced that because a part of an argument is true it most mean that the whole argument is true. This can lead them to conclude that because some treatment options don’t work for every addict it means that all treatment options will not work for them.
* The argument from silence refers to the situation where the addict assumes they are right because other people have stopped arguing with them. The more likely reason for why these people have stopped arguing about the substance abuse is that they see how the conversation is going nowhere.
* Ignoratio elenchi refers to a situation where the individual has used irrelevant information to prove their conclusion correct. An example of this would be using the example of a sober person who suffers from depression as proof that substance abuse is a good idea.
In order to escape the misery of their addiction the individual needs to get beyond the lies that are keeping them trapped there. This can be achieved by:
* The most common way that addicts are forced to face the reality of their situation is by hitting rock bottom. Things become so bad that they can no longer ignore the truth.
* The individual does not need to lose everything in order to hit rock bottom – this is a dangerous myth. A high rock bottom occurs when people are able to accept the reality of their situation before losing too much.
* An addition therapist is trained to help substance abusers see the truth of their situation. This is usually not done by confrontation but by guiding the client to the truth.
* Those people who are caught in addiction are often advised to keep something like a ‘drinks journal’. That way they can get a clearer picture of how much they are drinking and how it is impacting their life.
* Critical thinking is a skill where people learn how to assess their beliefs and opinions in a more objective way. In order to think critically the individual has to keep an open mind and be willing to accept new evidence.
* If an addict gets to spend time with people who have built a successful life away from addiction it can greatly increase their understanding of what is possible. This is why inspirational people in sobriety are so important.
* There will be times when the addict is far more susceptible to reason. They may be more willing to consider their situation more logically when they are suffering the consequences of a recent substance abuse incident – for example, when they behaved badly while drunk.
* Addicts are far more likely to listen to an opposing argument when they do not feel threatened. Those who are skilled at counseling can get beyond the substance abuser’s defenses.
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