Keep the Responsibility Where it Belongs

An addicted person will make every attempt to shift the blame to others — it’s just the nature of addiction.

One of the more frustrating aspects of addiction is the addicted person’s immediate effort to blame someone else for his problems. Lost jobs, broken marriages, arrests, illness, bankruptcy, injury, addiction itself — they are all someone else’s fault. Don’t get caught believing a steady stream of stories about how other people have caused the person’s problems.

On the other hand, appealing to the person’s better judgment will seldom work. That judgment is buried under months, years or decades of self-destruction and harm to others that he now cannot face. Drug and alcohol abuse lower awareness. Bringing a person back to responsibility must involve a process of gradual unburdening so as to not overwhelm a person to the point of relapse. This is the job of a good rehab program.

But for the moment, do not accept that everyone else is the cause of the addict’s problems. As soon as this pattern emerges, discover the facts for yourself. If it’s not possible, at least insist on not being sucked into the misleading tactics of the addict. There are injustices in life, but in the vast majority of cases, a person creates or at least majorly contributes to his own situation in life. And even when life hands one a low blow, it is one’s responsibility to buck up and handle it. One thing to look for is any effort on the addict’s part to overcome his or her problems in a responsible manner. If this effort is absent, the likelihood increases that the full truth is being concealed.

How to do it wrong: A father comes home after losing a job. This occurs after several months of worsening mood and relations at home. His wife sees that he spends no time with her or the children any more and there are increasing arguments. He loudly explains how the boss is a jerk and got things all wrong and he got fired as a result. He even makes a few vaguely threatening comments about “getting back at his boss.” The wife could make one of two mistakes at this point - either believe the whole tale and sympathize, or appeal to the better judgment of the husband and try to get him to see how he could have avoided being fired, “for the sake of the children.” The former approach is going to let the husband live a lie and will enable matters to continue to go downhill. The latter approach, no matter how accurate, could lead to a violent argument.

How to do it right: The best choice here is likely to be one very similar to that presented in, “Reject the lies and manipulation” rule: Enlist the support of the extended family to get to the bottom of the problem. Especially when there are children involved, don’t try to deal with a stronger, more threatening person on your own. Also don’t let your shyness or embarrassment stand in the way of asking for help. If the first person you ask won’t help you, keep asking until you get help. When someone is struggling with addiction, it is not unusual for it to require the efforts of a group for the problem to get fully handled.