Rationalization is a defense mechanism in which a person invents reasons for problem behavior. Addicts rationalize their behavior to the point where it becomes okay to use drugs and drink alcohol—at least in their mind.
The reasons given for engaging in destructive behavior distract from the unreasonableness of the response. There are no logical connections to using cocaine excessively due to losing a job or a relationship. Some reasons a person might give also include, “I’ve been under a lot of stress at work so I drink more” or “I need to take this drug because of my frequent headaches.” Many people say, so what? If the person has a viable excuse for their behavior, it is okay. This excuse-making may be social, psychological, emotional, physical, financial, occupational, or related to one’s family.
Rationalization allows the individual to continue destructive behavior and takes place internally. It also provides an excuse for not taking action to give up alcohol or drugs. A person will rationalize to themselves and to others. Internally, rationalization occurs when an individual’s ego seeks to defend itself through illogical reasons, which in turn, make the actions acceptable to the ego. If one rationalizes their drug behaviors, they can maintain consistency between their actions and thoughts. Rationalization allows individuals to get away with not feeling guilty about their destructive behavior.
Rationalization with substance abuse is very common. Many addicts believe they can stop the addictive behavior at any time and control their addiction. They rationalize the effects of the drugs or alcohol to such a degree that even with intervention from a medical professional urging them to stop, the addict will continue the drug or alcohol use.
When an individual enters recovery, rationalizing thoughts will need to end. The addict will need to realize that rationalization only makes problems worse. It is easy for a person to fall back into old familiar frames of mind and rationalize continued drug or alcohol use. Early in recovery it is extremely important that rationalization be checked, as a person can be vulnerable to being easily swayed back into drug or alcohol use. The little voice in your head might begin to surface and tell you that it is okay to have a drink because you had a hard day at work or an argument with your spouse. During these times, the addict should stop to recognize the old way of thinking and contact someone for support.