Addicts will tend to have plenty of justifications for their self destructive behavior. To other people these excuses will usually appear lame but the individual is likely to view them as logical and true. The reason for why this person has been able to go so far wrong in their thinking is that they have fallen victim to many logical fallacies. All humans will have errors in their ideas and opinions, but fallacious thinking can be particularly severe among substance abusers. These logical fallacies will need to be overcome if the individual is going to be able to build a new life away from addiction.
A logical fallacy can be defined as an idea that comes about from faulty reasoning or belief. This means that the individual may feel that their illogical belief is justified because they fail to see that it is built on a shaky foundation. They originally used wrong information, or a misunderstanding of that information, to reach their conclusions. It can be difficult for people to accept that what they believe is wrong because even when their original assumption is proved inaccurate they may fail to see how it relates to their current position. This is because they have already forgotten how these original assumptions lead to the current belief.
There are a number of different types of logical fallacy including:
* Argument from ignorance is when people believe that something must be true because it has not been proved false.
* Appeal to probability is the belief that because something could happen it automatically means that it will happen.
* The masked man fallacy is when people use true statements to produce a false statement.
* Hysteron proteron is where people assume something to be true based on a statement or idea that has not yet been proved.
* Begging the question (petitio principia) occurs when a proposition that requires proof is assumed without such proof. An example of begging the question would be an alcoholic who justifies his drinking by saying that it can’t be bad because all his friends do the same and they are happy – it assumes that his friends really are happy.
* The post hoc fallacy is the belief that because events follow each other there is a causal relationship between them.
* Ignoratio elenchi is where the individual has used irrelevant information to prove their conclusion correct.
* Argument from fallacy is the belief that because there are some errors in the conclusion then this must mean that the whole conclusion is inaccurate.
* Argument from silence is where the individual believes that silence from those opposed to their argument must mean that it is correct. This is often closely related to argumentum ad nauseam where people are too bored to discuss the issue further.
* Shifting the burden of proof is where rather than trying to justify their own argument the individual insists that other people prove them wrong.
* Fallacy of composition is where the individual assumes that because something is true for a part must mean that it is true for the whole.
In order to sustain an addiction the individual has to rely heavily on denial and delusion. If they were able to see the reality of their situation they would find it much harder to continue with their self-destructive behavior. The type of logical fallacies that the addict will believe includes:
* The belief that because alcohol and drugs made them feel good in the past it will continue to do so in the future. Even when the addiction is clearly destroying the life of the individual they can still hold onto the belief that the good times are going to return.
* The belief that because substance abuse once seemed to make them happy it will not be possible for them to find happiness in sobriety.
* The idea that because they previously failed in their attempts to get sober it will mean that all future attempts will be doomed to end in failure.
* The belief that sober living is boring. The addict fails to see that it is their own life that is predictable and lacking in opportunities.
* The idea that they have to lose everything in order to become sober. There is no benefit to giving up an addiction after a low rock bottom than a high rock bottom – the sooner the individual can give up the better.
* The belief that all their problems in life are due to bad luck and other people and not substance abuse.
* The idea that substance abuse makes people more creative. They fail to see that alcohol and drugs steals creativity.
* Most addicts will believe that the health warnings associated with addiction are exaggerated. They will also tend to believe that they are the exception to the rule and will be able to abuse these substances without suffering many of the negative consequences.
* The belief that the addiction specialists and recovery community is full of charlatans, and that there is no real way out of their misery.
Illogical thinking can keep people trapped in addiction for much longer than they need to be. There are things that can be done to help the individual overcome logical fallacies including:
* An addiction therapist can encourage the individual to examine their current beliefs and weed out fallacious thinking.
* Critical thinking is a skill that allows people to assess their own thoughts and ideas. It also means having the willingness to change ideas and beliefs when more compelling arguments are provided.
* Listening to opposing arguments and giving them a fair hearing.
* Developing beginner’s mind. This is the ability to temporarily put aside biases and opinions when digesting new information.
* It is important that people do not associate their beliefs and opinions with their self worth. Just because they have picked up some logical fallacies along the way does not mean that they are bad or stupid.
* The individual needs to put a high degree of value in the truth. Ultimately it will not be possible for people to fully know the truth of most things but they can get as close to this as possible.