The Blame Game in Addiction and Recovery: There is Hope!
The addict blames loved ones for their drinking or using. Or they blame their favorite team losing the game tonight. Or they blame it on their boss, living in the wrong country, their spouse, their child, the broken-down car. Or they find someone or something to blame for their relapse.
Loved ones blame the addict for their drinking or using and not being able to stop. They blame the addict for losing their job, not paying the bills on time, the house being a mess, being irresponsible or rebellious, not caring about anyone but themselves, and destroying the family.
They may blame the addict for loving their drugs or alcohol more than they love their spouse or their children.
The Blame Game in addiction and the recovery process is a vicious cycle that only serves to perpetuate the disease in both the addict and their loved ones alike.
But there is hope and a way to stop the blame game and start getting healthy, and it begins with understanding the intricacies behind the blame and why it’s so influential in perpetuating addiction.
Why the Addict Blames
The addict uses blame as a way to play the victim and justify the need to use or drink. Blaming is a massive part of the disease of addiction.
When drugs or alcohol are over-consumed, especially for long periods of time, the brain and body can become physically addicted but also mentally and emotionally as well.
Chemical and hormonal changes in the brain, damage to neurotransmitters, and the like, trigger a survival mechanism in the brain’s thinking to find any means possible of continuing to get the alcohol or drugs into the body.
When observing an addict without any personal attachment to them, it is possible to watch their brain almost click or shift into a method of justification, compartmentalization, lying, and manipulation.
In this behavior, they are not only trying to convince those around them, but also themselves, that their warped perception of a person, place, or thing is the truth when deep, down, somewhere buried beneath the grip of addiction, they know it’s not. Often, this manifests as blame.
The addict can find anyone or anything to blame as a way to reconcile their self-destructive behavior in their mind.
There is also a massive amount of embarrassment and shame that can accompany a substance abuse addiction.
If the addict cannot bear these emotions, they may use blame as a way to deflect or bury what they are feeling, often without even realizing that is what is happening.
Why Loved Ones Blame the Addict
If the addict has a disease, why do loved ones fall into playing the blame game?
When loved ones, especially when they live with the addict, are trying to survive the tremendous verbal and sometimes physical abuse, financial ruin, legal issues, and other consequences that almost inevitably accompany addiction, their brain is forced to adapt as well. In other words, the disease of addiction is contagious.
But just the same way that one person may not have precisely the same symptoms of the flu that gets passed around the office or at school loved ones, although they may not also abuse drugs or alcohol, become sick as well.
Some loved ones will cope by enabling the addict in a variety of ways that may include taking care of things the addict should be able to do for themselves like laundry, paying bills, communicating with employers, cleaning their personal space, cooking, doing chores, and the like.
Then they will turn around and blame the addict for being irresponsible, lazy, not caring, putting everything on their loved ones to handle.
The addict may or may not have asked for these things to be done for them. And so the finger pointing and blaming continues back and forth, back and forth.
The acronym D.E.N.I.A.L. as it applies regarding addiction stands for “Don’t Even Know I Am Lying” and is also a big part of the blame game.
The addict must be able to reconcile their drinking or using in their mind to continue a behavior that they know is not only self-harming but harming to their loved ones and anyone else in their path.
They may reason that the stereo that they are about to pawn for drug money ‘really doesn’t work that great anyway’ and that ‘I’ll get a better one to replace it later’ which never comes, because financial distress and ruin often accompany addiction in the long-run.
But their diseased thinking does such an excellent job of convincing them they are right, they may not only feel justified in pawning the stereo but that they are doing their family a favor!
During sober times, the truth may start to rise within them that what they did was wrong; they may begin to feel guilt and shame. And guess what the guilt and shame do? It becomes intolerable, so they drink or use again, so they don’t have to feel it.
There will always be a good reason to use or drink in the addict’s mind and always a way to justify it, even making it sound reasonable to those around them in some cases.
Loved ones affected by the disease of addiction also grapple with D.E.N.I.A.L. For instance, they may try to cover up the drug or alcohol abuse of their addict to keep up public appearances by bringing the addict in off the front lawn where they passed out in the hope that no one saw them lying there.
The loved ones’ brain can also have a twisted way of justifying addictive behaviors to explain them into reasonableness as a coping mechanism and not even realize they are doing it, such as describing a drunken passed out husband as being overly tired and stressed at work, or just not feeling well.
Some loved ones may be so unaware of the presence of addiction in the home that they assist the addict in securing substances such as picking up prescriptions or buying significant amounts of alcohol as part of the regular grocery shopping.
Some addicts seem to behave better or are even down-right fun when drunk or high versus when they are looking for their next drink or fix, a time when they can exhibit irritable and irrational behavior.
As a result, loved ones that are plagued by D.E.N.I.A.L. will play the blame game in various ways to justify the addict’s behavior and why they are enabling, including the proverbial “walking on eggshells” around the addict to try and ensure that they are easier to deal with or be around.
Blame Turned Inward is an Insidious Part of Addiction
Perhaps the vilest, insidious, and challenging part of the blame game is the tendency to turn the blame on oneself.
Addicts, while blaming other people, places, and things for their continued substance abuse, may also simultaneously, often secretly blame themselves and beat themselves up for not being able to control their drinking or using.
They will frequently try to set limits for themselves such as “I’ll only drink beer, not hard liquor” or “I’ll only take pills that I can get prescribed by a physician” or “I’ll only have one drink at the party” or “I’ll just take this one last hit, and then I’ll quit” only to find themselves out of control once again, blaming themselves for being too weak to stick to a self-imposed limit.
For loved ones, the blame game almost always ensues initially as a defense mechanism against the addicts’ substance-induced blame, rage, and verbal and mental abuse and the consequences of the addicts’ behavior.
Some addicts can be extremely abusive, even dangerous to their loved ones or others. We’ve all heard of spouse or children of an addict being horribly abused, beaten, and even sometimes worse during a drunken or drug-induced rage.
Other addicts, while not at all dangerous, can experience hefty consequences that may affect their loved ones including loss of job, home, spouse, or children, legal consequences, and incarceration.
Both the potential abuse and consequences resulting from the addicts’ behavior can be triggers for a loved one to blame themselves. They may say or think things like, “If I just hadn’t woken him up, he wouldn’t have needed to start drinking again” or “If I was a better husband/wife/parent she wouldn’t feel like she needed to use,” and on and on.
Loved ones can feel a lot of guilt, shame, and responsibility for the addict having a problem in the first place as well as not being able to stop their self-destructive behavior.
The Good News: No One is Actually To Blame
The erroneous thinking that anyone has the ability to cause, control, or cure addiction is entirely untrue.
Addiction is a disease, and loved ones are no more responsible for causing the addict in their life to start or continue drinking or using as they would be accountable if they had diabetes or cancer.
And nothing a loved one says, does, or refrains from doing, will cure the disease as it is a chronic condition. Addicts aren’t inherently evil people and are not to blame either.
They have a powerful, cunning, and baffling disease that is physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. No one grows up deciding they want to be an addict. Blaming each other for what is out of anyone’s control is not the way to find a solution to living peacefully with the disease of addiction.
Taking Responsibility is the Answer and the First Step in Recovery
There are things that both loved ones and addicts can change in their thinking and behavior that will help them to cope better while living with the disease.
The overall main change is to start taking responsibility for themselves, no matter what the other(s) continue to do. For the addict, if they hit bottom and realize they have a problem, they can seek help.
They can ask their doctor for help, attend an AA or NA meeting, or check themselves into a rehabilitation center. In a recovery setting, they can continue to take responsibility by stopping the blame game and committing to the recovery program by following suggested guidelines and willingly do the recovery work.
Even if their loved ones’ behavior doesn’t change, they can still work their recovery program and improve themselves.
For loved ones, taking responsibility often means doing less for the addict – a lot less. No more managing, mothering, manipulating, or martyrdom.
There are recovery programs for loved ones of addicts for a reason. Joining a therapy group at a rehabilitation center, seeking individual therapy, and attending 12-step meetings such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon are great ways to stop focusing on the addict and become aware of their self-destructive behavior.
It is typical for loved ones of addicts to let their own needs fall to the bottom of the to-do list and, when left at the bottom long enough, can adversely affect basic self-care, long-term health, career, dependents, and more.
Loved ones have a choice to continue with their own lives and take care of themselves, regardless of whether or not the addict is in recovery or what they are or are not doing.
For both addicts and their loved ones, a life of peace and serenity can be had once the blaming stops, and they start putting the focus back on themselves. And the best news is that one’s serenity is not dependent on the other.
It is possible to have a recovery from the disease of addiction for both the addict and their loved ones.
There is hope. Pick up the phone, seek therapy, or attend a meeting. It takes courage to take the first step and courage to continue. But you don’t have to go it alone.
Do you need help understanding the blame game knowing how to deal with it in your Addiction Recovery program or treatment?
You can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.
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Midway, UT 84049, USA
Phone: +1 435-654-1082
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
Addiction- The blame game
Inside the mind of an addict. Blaming others for our addiction is our way to avoid taking responsibility for all the damage we are causing not only ourselves but others. It’s not until we choose to Recover that we can see and acknowledge that the blame is ours to face. Once we do, we then begin the Our Recovery Journey.
Why Blame and Shame Don’t Work
If it is results that you are looking for, rather than blame and shame, consider a different approach – one that focuses on the solution and how you can help the employee articulate how they will reach the solution rather than an ongoing process that merely points out the problem.