Why Are Addicts So Good at Justifying Actions?

who do addicts justify

The late great Theodore Geisel wrote in one of his many many works, “You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” This man is also known by many as Dr. Seuss. He was a brilliant man who conveyed simple life lessons in his books. With this excerpt, the simple idea he was conveying was to keep our eyes open and take everything in as it comes. This is more or less a metaphor for being open-minded and learning about yourself and/or the ways of the world, one might say. This is a fantastic mindset to grow and build in life. However, with addicts and alcoholics, we can tend to take things too literally and overdo them. We are great at turning those open eyes into blind eyes and doing whatever it is we please. The chemically dependent do not like to be inconvenienced and the alcoholic thinking upstairs is calling all the shots as justifying our actions for the things we desire becomes easier and easier.

Sitting back and reflecting on some of our more questionable decisions made, we see the impulsivity and regret beaming brightly between our judgments. WE are all human beings that make ghastly mistakes on a regular basis. We deal with the aftermath of a situation accordingly as it comes, but most of our questionable choices are downsized in our heads because justifying our actions is what we do. Our future selves probably hate us.

Looking but Not Seeing

Have you ever spent too much of your hard earned money in one quick sitting, knowing that you shouldn’t? Or told yourself that you would or wouldn’t do something specifically, and then you just went and ripped up that mental contract into pieces? Almost like kind of disregarding your gut feeling with things. I know any addicts and alcoholics reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. The amount of times we drew a mental line in the sand to not cross and then did back flips over after a little bit of mental anguish is too many to count. Whether we’re justifying actions or not isn’t even a thought that crosses the mind really when we’re in active addiction. When we’re using and deep in it, all morals and values usually kind of go out the door. We’ll say we’re not going to drink during the weekdays and end up getting plastered every night because it was a hard week at work. Another common one was that we wouldn’t spend the money in our bank accounts over the weekend, just to find the account in the negative on Monday morning. Or lastly a favorite of mine was always when we say we’ll never do something again and then days, hours, maybe minutes later- we find ourselves sitting in that shame again from justifying actions.  

What we often fail to realize is that the ramifications for justifying our actions don’t really strike until later on- hence the future self-comment mentioned earlier. One of the biggest things in this life that is a gift and a curse is the power of choice. Everything we do is a product of some form of resolution, minus involuntary actions like breathing. So if some form of internal conflict arises inside, we pick a side. Yet so many outside social factors affect the direction we head in and the Alice in Wonderland path we choose. This leads to justifying such actions that may affect us or others down the road.

what's your excuse

I always say life is but a collection of mistakes and learning and budding from them hopefully, (or not).  In the meantime, we continually do things we are not always proud of and have to second guess from time to time. The key is not beating ourselves up over said mistakes because they’re all necessary in some form or another for mental growth. However, trying to find a balance is the key to such stages of wisdom. When your different sided beliefs clash, it can be uncomfortable. Therefore, our minds tell us to side one way or another to relieve this. As addicts and alcoholics, we side with what gives us instant relief. We begin justifying actions and saying the ever famous, “I’ll worry about it later.” We play mind games and convince ourselves of a particular reality that is often exaggerated, distorted, or ignored. We want to believe what we want to believe but must keep in mind that everything isn’t as it always appears.

The thing is that even when we get sober and enter recovery, the justifying actions thing doesn’t stop there. Addicts and alcoholics are fantastic at stating they’ve been to enough AA or NA meetings already that week. We justify our relapses and alcoholic thinking saying it could always be worse. I hear of so many rationalizations in the rooms of recovery and each one has you scratching your head. “I can take steroids as long as I’m not getting high from them” “I can skip meeting my sponsee so meet with this chic.” Or even, “I haven’t had an urge to get high in a while; I don’t think I’m an addict/alcoholic anymore.” That’s as classic as they come right there.

Taking the time to do just a little bit of introspection and discovering the way we tick is crucial. In this life, you know yourself better than anybody else is ever going to. Figuring out certain attributes of ourselves and why we think justifying actions is okay is vital to the process of life. Decide whether deep down you want to keep doing something and paying for it later or to keep that impulsivity in check as we think about our choices before sticking them in concrete. The key to taking this step back is asking “why.’

Call Yourself Out

We all live different lives and encounter all sorts of experiences that end up getting looked over in one manner or another. In many situations with justifying actions, our minds are screaming one thing while our actions are only showing that of another. Don’t try and convince yourself that your addiction “might” work out in your favor. It’s a justification that’s not worth it. If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need detoxification, please call 866-802-6848 or visit www.coastaldetox.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting by to help figure out what options are best for sending your life is a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.