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Hurt, relief, identity: Four excuses abusers of drugs and alcohol make

By Tim Woodley

Drug and alcohol misuse changes us. As dependency grows, excuses develop in a bid to justify the continued abuse of substances – and they’re more common than you might think. Here are four of them and the danger they pose to recovery, health and wellbeing.

 

Excuse 1: I’m not hurting anyone but myself!

You may think that your friends and family don’t notice your use of drugs or alcohol, but this is most likely not the case.  Talk to a trusted friend or family member and see what they have to say about it. 

Ask yourself if you’ve changed at all since you started using.  Are you still keeping up with all of your responsibilities at home and work?  Is your relationship with your friends, partner and family the same?  Are you still enjoying the activities that you did before you started using?  If the answer to any of those questions is no, you should ask yourself why.

The right to self-determination is used to deny the reality that their behaviour harms everyone around them – their family, their friends, and on many occasions even strangers. The truth? The harm that begins with yourself can, will and does extend to those around you.

Excuse 2: I just want a bit of relief.

Self-pity is a common companion to problematic alcohol and drug use. In the person’s mind, they’re victims of unfair circumstances and alcohol or drugs give them relief in a world full of pain.

This worldview allows them to blind themselves to the fact that their alcohol and drug use adds temporary relief when in reality it just compounds their misery and brings further problems. This defence mechanism can easily cause you to react with indignation when your loved ones try to intervene and help.

Excuse 3: If you had my problems, you would drink and use drugs too.

The truth is that we all have problems. The healthiest approach is to deal with those problems without self-medicating through sustained use of drugs and alcohol.

This excuse sidesteps the fact that problematic alcohol and drug use makes things worse. Playing the victim and not dealing with the problem at hand allows the individual a convenient excuse to justify their continued use.

In situations like this, there needs to be a profound cognitive shift. It’s okay to say you have problems and it’s okay to say you are struggling to or can’t cope. As with so many things that would help us and others, our fear is what gets in the way. Fear of over-stepping a friendship. Fear of appearing too needy. Fear of imposing.  Fear of revealing our struggle and having people realise we do not have it all together after all.

But here’s the thing: When you don’t ask for help when you need it, you assume all of a burden that might easily and gladly be shared. Worse still, you also deprive those who’d love to assist you of the opportunity to do so.

Excuse 4: This is who I am.

It can be hard for some to imagine an existence without drugs and alcohol. This excuse helps people to paint a romantic, self-pitying portrayal of themselves as a tormented soul doomed to a glorious end by a cruel world.

It enables continued self-destructive behaviour while allowing them to take a self-righteous stance against anyone who tries to help them – because if you really cared, you wouldn’t try to change who they are.

For the creatives in the entertainment industry, the idea that drugs and alcohol are elixirs of creativity is commonplace – “I am a musician, I am a writer, this is part of me”. Unfortunately, this is misleading and, when taken too far, irrevocably harmful.

The author Stephen King, who famously struggled drug and alcohol issues throughout his life, has no patience for those who claim that drugs inspire creativity. As he states in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, “The idea that the creative endeavour and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time.” The mystique that drugs hold in society is just that — an illusion.

He goes on to argue that artists who claim to use illicit substances to ‘stir their creative juices’ are more-or-less trying to justify their inclination toward such self-destructive behaviour. “But I need it to write!” or “I can’t express myself artistically without it” are not valid excuses but are instead symptomatic of a larger problem at hand. Drugs and alcohol misuse don’t make artists, they break them.


It can get better

While these excuses are real and damaging, it’s important we conclude with this message: you’re not a failure for having made them in the past or in the present. Drug and alcohol misuse changes people, and the ways in which our minds and bodies can draw us into patterns of substance abuse can change how we act and the stories we tell ourselves.

What really matters? How you act in the now – and how you pursue a life that is healthy for you and your loved ones.

Help Me Stop provides affordable and intensive non-residential and digital ‘Dayhab’ programmes for drug and alcohol misuse treatment. Our programmes are available at a tenth the cost of traditional, residential rehab – and they match or exceed their success rates. Talk to a team member today by calling 0208 191 8920 or use our contact form to get in touch. Take care.