Justification and rationalization aplenty. When referring to a life that lacked many things, these two were, by no means, on that list; my muzzle could rattle off scenario after scenario for days on end as to why I did this or how I need to do that – and that’s coming from a pretty quiet, reserved gentleman. So, what’s the problem? Contrary to popular belief about addicts and alcoholics, the problematic justifying and rationalizing as a person living with the disease does not refer nor pertain to physically picking up and taking that first drink or drug. It does, however, start to set a series of events in motion that will eventually lead directly to it. This is why you will hear so many in recovery refer to the relapse happening far before the actual drink or drug is taken. My head defaults to a system that has been in power and control for years; governing my life in a single-minded and tyrannical manner. The system, which is not absent in many normal people as well, is basically this: a thought or behavior with subsequent punishment or a thought or behavior with subsequent reward – it became the basis for every decision that I made; whether or not it was a completely sound and conscious decision at the time really had no effect or influence on what I perceived as the final outcome; at least that’s how I see it when I look back on the life patterns in myself.
I do not claim that the physical act of taking the first drink was not justified or rationalized in the process – it certainly was – but it was not the primary means of such deliberate action. When I do something positive in my life, my head automatically starts to formulate a reward – it’s how I am wired and I am justifying said reward, whether it be food, an impulsive purchase, or any other life pleasure that provide instant gratification, because I did something virtuous and noble rather than simply conducting myself in a positive or productive demeanor because it was the right thing to do; a fundamental lack of integrity – whether or not it was to directly benefit me or not should play no part in the thought process – but it always does; human nature? Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean I cannot or should not try harder to stay conscious of these underlying intentions or motives as to why I am thinking or behaving in any particular fashion.
When the roles are reversed, which is far more existent in my particular situation, my mind defaults to formulating a proper punishment that must be inflicted upon myself; I view myself as unfit and unworthy; I deserve pain and suffering to the maximum degree. So on and so forth; but the problem was this – I justified taking a drink as both a punishment and a reward – I did something good, lets celebrate! I did something bad, lets numb and escape that unwanted feeling. This cycle, or system, of reward and punishment that plagues me continues to produce the menacing and treacherous symptoms like irritability, restlessness, and discontentment – in other words, the kryptonite of the alcoholic, leaving no chance for long-term recovery.
Then the shift starts to take over and the entitlement rears its ugliness; I stay sober for a period of time and now the world owes me something? All of a sudden everybody should just welcome me back into their lives with open arms? Look at me! Over here! Do you see me? Look at what I’m doing! Trying to find work again, preparing for schooling, attempting to pay my bills instead of avoiding them, getting out of bed in the morning and contributing to my life and the life of others. Don’t you see? Commend me; tell me how good I am; I deserve it god dammit! I’m doing exactly what an adult should be doing and I demand recognition! I’m special, aren’t I?
Wow – what completely absurd and irrational thinking; talk about self-centered; talk about egotistical and pride filled jibber jabber. What type of raving lunatic cannot see that as being an irrefutably unjustifiable and foolish view point? – that nutcase is me; it’s exactly how my mind sees it. I will start to rationalize my return to active addiction by feeling a lack of support or understanding. I’ll start to tell myself lies like, “even when I’m sober, my friends and family don’t get me, my drinking was never the problem all along; these other people were the problem; I’m just sober and alone now; I might as well go back out and try this drinking thing again; at least it’s dependable – it really wasn’t that bad anyway.” The lies only escalate from that point into, “I’ve already lost everything; I cannot have contact with my children; my career is gone; my divorce is final with totally unfair and unreasonable conditions; my house had to be sold, leaving me legally homeless three-thousand miles away from everything I once knew – what’s the use? It’s already too late.” These I can now recognize as critical red flags; that my mind and disease are in a very bad place – attack mode; and although these are true scenarios I have to deal with, it is by no means the end of the world – and that, I must always, always remember.
Much to the tune of self-deception for a lengthy period of time, I was not drinking to tolerate the world around me or what was taking place in it like I so often preferred to believe; I was drinking because I always managed to reach that pivotal point where my only option became drinking in order to tolerate myself. That was my ultimate justification, whether or not I chose to see or accept that is debatable, but thankfully, my eyes have been opened to embracing that as being the case. I hated myself; loathing and detestation of my mere existence; I couldn’t stand to be around me, but rather than address the problem head on, I backed down from that confrontation of myself in attempt to ignore the problem altogether; secretly praying that it would magically disappear; a truly unrealistic expectation. So every time problems didn’t disappear, I already found my solution drowning in a bottle of liquid escape – and it worked, that is, until it didn’t.
I took extreme measures to avoid myself, which did not solely involve indulgence directly in that anesthetizing solution. For instance, before I would even consider walking in front of the bathroom mirror in my home, I turned on scalding hot water in the shower so the steam would fog out my reflection – I couldn’t look at myself, staring into my own eyes was too painful; the occasional tears streaking down my cheeks when it got to be too much; tears of shame, guilt and remorse; I chose not to feel them and I didn’t want to see them either – but I still couldn’t stop being that miserable excuse for a human being. I was always qualified to justify self-destruction, but under no circumstances prepared to warrant self-improvement – all because I didn’t love or accept myself – I didn’t know how; I didn’t think it was possible, so I never tried. Today things are a little different. I don’t love the things I once did, but I don’t hate myself anymore – I can look in that mirror and know that I am at least giving it my all; doing the best I can, and learning to trust in the process.