In case you didn’t know already, addiction is a liar. It will do whatever it can to keep itself alive. One of the primary ways that it does so is through the use of defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are simply thought/behavior patterns that addicts use to continue on our path to destruction. They come in many forms and I am going to cover just a few of the more prominent ones:
Types of Defense Mechanisms
Denial – The granddaddy of defense mechanisms. “I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM!!!” I would yell. In the meantime, my physical and mental health took a beating, all in the name of me having a “good time.” The unfortunate reality is that by being in denial, I lost so much…relationships, jobs, not to mention any semblance of integrity I may have had.
Blaming – This occurs when the addict refuses to take personal responsibility for his actions and then places the blame on others. For instance, when I was in active addiction and had an accident with my mother’s car, I blamed the other driver instead of owning up to my irresponsible actions.
Lying – In my addiction, I flat out lied a lot. I lied about everything from where I was going, to who I was with, to saying that I was not under the influence (when in reality I was). The funny thing is that I thought that I was getting away with these things, but in reality, people knew I was lying and would call me out on it.
Rationalization – “It’s the weekend!” I would say. Like that is an excuse to go out and get high. “Doesn’t everybody?” I would proclaim. My thinking was skewed. I was so deluded by both my addiction and mental illness that I figured that my actions were “normal” or whatever that means. Once again, others saw that I had a problem but I was oblivious.
These are just a few. There are many others: manipulation, projecting, intellectualizing. And the list goes on, and on, and on. Relationships are one particular area affected by defense mechanisms. As a result of the lying, rationalization and other negative behaviors, trust is ultimately corrupted. It can take years to restore any sense of trust, if at all.
Acceptance is the Key
So how does one overcome the use of defense mechanisms? That’s a good question. The key, I believe, lies in acceptance. Unfortunately, this can sometimes come as a result of a significant life changing event, like the alcoholic receiving a DWI or an addict losing a job as a result of her use. Whatever the reason, acceptance of one’s illness is crucial. Through acceptance, we are able to free ourselves from the bondage of our defense mechanisms. It’s like being able to look through a window that was once dirty. We can then see the beauty of the world around us.