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The Relationship Between Alcoholism and Blame

Alcoholism is a dangerous disease, and it can cause serious consequences throughout all aspects of someone’s life. Why does alcoholism cause people to change their behavior and frequently blame those around them? How does it influence the way people think?

What Makes an Alcoholic?

To be considered alcoholism, drinking habits need to interfere with physical health, mental health, social wellbeing, or occupational success. There are different types of alcoholics, ranging from functional to severe chronic users. While some people may function better than others, drinking enough to be considered an alcoholic implies some level of harmful consequences.

Alcoholics’ and addicts’ perception of reality warps when their addiction fully develops. Once a dependence on alcohol cements itself, the abuser will often begin justifying and rationalizing their behavior subconsciously. These justifications can involve shifting blame and abdicating much of their personal responsibility. These behaviors center around the agency someone feels and treatment professionals refer to it as the “Locus of Control.”

Locus of Control

This term refers to the degree to which people think they have control of their lives. A person with an external locus of control believes that outside forces are governing their life and they have little to no agency. In the context of alcoholism, does the abuser have control or are they being coerced into their habit by external factors? Research is beginning to show that, to some extent, both can be true at once. The addict has the power to stop their behavior, and there could be extenuating circumstances that predispose this person to abusing alcohol.

As we learn more about addiction, the emphasis on moral character and personality traits as the main issue has been revealed to be unhelpful, and in many cases untrue. While the alcoholic does ultimately have agency over whether or not they drink, attributing their behavioral issues to moral weakness or some other defective trait can strip that person of the belief that they can get better. Psychologists are discovering that alcoholics aren’t people missing a willpower that would allow them to drink normally, but often they are people who are exposed to alcohol more frequently. This kind of exposure, especially when growing up, can show someone that the natural thing to do when under stress or adversity is to turn to alcohol. Though we are learning more about how to treat alcoholics humanely, they can engage in inappropriate behavior like wrongfully deflect blame.

Alcoholism and Blame

These blaming behaviors often help the abuser extend their habit because it allows them to convince themselves that they’re not responsible for the impact of their addiction. A study analyzing past locus of control study results found that most alcoholics didn’t externalize the locus of control, but those who did externalize struggled the most with alcoholism. According to Dalbir Singh Saini,  District Social Welfare Officer, Hisar, Haryana, India, “…the individuals with external locus of control had the tendency to get relapsed after the conventional treatment programmes.” These results reinforce the idea that if an alcoholic believes they have no power over their life, they may not recover as successfully as others who believe they’re in control. The passive thinking associated with this attitude can lead alcoholics to blame those around them. Each person experiences alcoholism differently, but there are often common methods and reasons alcoholics use to mask their behavior or shift blame.

Denial

This popular tactic relies on the alcoholic flat out denying they have any problem. By ensuring others that they don’t have an issue, they also reinforce the idea in their own mind. If the alcoholism becomes more serious, this tactic tends to fall apart. Telling people you don’t have a drinking issue becomes much less believable when you’re missing work or disrupting your family life.

Coping Mechanism

This thought process acknowledges that there’s a problem, but deems drinking a necessity. This person believes external factors force them to drink in order to cope. This excuse often starts with a nugget of truth as traumatic events can drive people to drink, but chronic alcohol abuse is not a productive coping mechanism, and the addict would undoubtedly be better without it. This behavior allows for someone suffering with alcoholism to blame those around them for their substance abuse. They wouldn’t have an issue if it weren’t for their terrible job, tough marriage, exhausting kids, or et cetera.

Faux Confidence

This is one of the most stereotyped rationalizations available to addicts. The, “I can quit whenever I want” mentality delays any meaningful action from the addict and their support system. This confidence is almost always hollow, especially if a physiological dependency has formed. Because of the extreme nature of alcohol withdrawal, quitting cold turkey is not only difficult, but dangerous to one’s health. Whenever considering detoxing from alcohol, medical professionals should be involved to ensure the process is safe and successful.

“I Know an Alcoholic”

If you are close to an alcoholic, normal relationship expectations may not apply. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that, without treatment, can be fatal. Along the way, the alcoholic may lie to you about or blame you for their problems and it’s important to keep several things in mind.

Tips for Dealing With an Alcoholic
Curing ThemYour job is not to cure this person of their disease, and you shouldn’t agonize over trying. Addiction-based diseases are complicated and affect people physically and mentally. They require a trained professional to treat properly.
Abusive BehaviorDo not excuse abuse or other unacceptable behavior. “Oh well, they were just drunk” is not a healthy mindset when that’s the nature of their disease. If they’re abusive when drunk and they’re usually drunk, then they’ll be abusive more often.
Face ValueIf they swear to you that they’ll never drink again, don’t believe them. These statements give them space to continue their habit in secret if you believe them. They will begin lying more if their alcoholism gets worse. Be prepared to catch them lying to you.
TreatmentYou are not a trained counselor or detox professional. The faster you can convince this person to pursue professional help, the faster they will return to normal. Alcoholism almost never solves itself, and it’s healthier to reach out for help before it starts doing more damage.

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