Why Do Alcoholics Blame Everyone But Themselves?

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Alcoholics are individuals who cannot control their drinking, although they have experienced many adverse effects due to this behavior. While alcohol consumption among alcoholics varies, they generally drink more often and in larger amounts than others. Deflecting blame is a common strategy that excessive drinkers use to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from the disease of alcoholism, please contact Guardian Recovery today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Learn how we help those who need it most escape from the clutches of addiction and reclaim their lives.

Why Alcoholics Play the Blame Game

There are many reasons alcoholics blame others for their drinking problems, and they are all in an attempt to avoid accountability for their behavior and its effect on others. Moreover, accepting responsibility means they must take their loved ones’ feelings seriously and make substantial changes in order to transform their lives.

Blaming individuals and extenuating circumstances helps the alcoholic excuse their behavior—at least in their own mind. Common reasons why alcoholics assign blame to others include the following:

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To Avoid Accepting Control Over Their Lives

Although alcoholics cannot control their drinking, this doesn’t mean they don’t have the power to make choices. Unfortunately, many alcoholics don’t see it this way. Instead, they claim that uncontrollable outside forces are responsible for both their past and future actions. They convince themselves that their lives and decisions are governed by other people, past experiences, and current situations.

In most cases, alcoholics have been subjected to at least a few risk factors, such as biology, dysfunctional family dynamics, childhood trauma, lack of willpower, etc. That is, some circumstances may indeed predispose certain people to addictions. However, having an external locus of control or a belief of being “under the influence of chance, fate, or powerful others” may actually be detrimental to long-term recovery

In fact, in a recent study, researchers found that patients with a high external locus of control and greater impulsivity experienced more relapses and increases in drinking severity.

Although alcohol users do need to understand the factors that may have contributed to their disorder, they must also believe that they have the power to overcome them and recover from their addiction. If they do not, they can continue blaming their parents, unhappy childhood, and anyone and everything else for their present inability to change.. 

To Avoid Change

Many people fear change, especially if they know it will be challenging. Unfortunately, active addicts and alcoholics are no exception. They are afraid to take on the physical and emotional work needed to overcome addiction. It requires the individual to take an unfamiliar deep dive into their thoughts and feelings without reliance on their usual coping mechanism (alcohol).

According to AA, alcoholics are “driven by a hundred forms of fear.”  One of these is a profound fear of change, often experienced by those who aren’t truly ready to quit drinking. So, for example, if a person in the early stages of recovery relapses, they might blame fellow alcohol-using friends who enable their behavior.

To Avoid Denial 

Alcoholics are often in denial because admitting the truth would lead them open to change.  Therefore, alcoholics might blame others when confrontations occur. This can help them reinforce their false beliefs that they are in control and that everyone else is wrong. Moreover, if they don’t have a problem, there’s nothing to deal with or argue over. Therefore, family, friends, or coworkers are misguided and can be blamed for instigating conflicts.

Although alcoholics commonly approach confrontations with denial, this can backfire as the disorder becomes more severe. For example, if a person’s alcoholism has progressed so much they are missing work, unable to pay bills, or going on week-long binges, they will gradually become less and less believable.

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To Maintain a Coping Mechanism

Because alcoholics often use alcohol as a means of self-medication in times of stress, they also tend to consider these sources of stress as worthy of blame. This means that external events, or as noted, the “locus of control,” are always reasons to drink, even when excessive alcohol use has been ongoing for years or decades. To explain further, the alcoholic can use stress as a way to confirm that drinking is a needed coping mechanism. All they have to do is list all the stressors they are currently experiencing. 

According to Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, some risk factors for self-medication include psychiatric disorders, childhood trauma, intense emotional experiences, and physical and emotional abuse, among others. It was further noted that these risk factors all have stress in common and that “many are stressful experiences or memories of stressful times.” 

And sadly, alcoholics can add fuel to the fire every time their drinking is problematic, such as being arrested for drunk driving or other alcohol-related offenses. And even if a traumatic event was the impetus for a person’s uptick in drinking, it certainly would not be a practical or healthy coping mechanism to utilize long-term.

There is an important distinction to make between alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse. A person who is alcohol dependent will not be able to stop for a significant length of time without professional help. Someone who abuses alcohol regularly might be able to quit on their own, and they might not experience withdrawal symptoms when they do quit.

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To Avoid Guilt, Shame, and Remorse

Blaming others is an effective way alcoholics avoid feeling guilty. This is because guilt often leads to shame and remorse, highly unpleasant emotions that cause depression and stress. In fact, some research has shown that these feelings as potential threats to an alcoholic’s well-being and avoid relapse.

In this and many other ways, alcoholics can use blame as a defense mechanism. If others try to confront them about the damage they’ve caused, they may feel as if they’ve been backed into a corner. Therefore, the alcoholic comes out fighting, using whatever tactic they can to make the other person question their own motives and role in the alcoholic’s dilemma.

Shame and embarrassment are powerful emotions that may prevent those who experience them from engaging in similar behavior in the future. For an alcoholic, embarrassment is best avoided because there may be unwanted social and emotional consequences.

Recovery From Alcoholism Is Possible

If you or a loved one are abusing alcohol and blaming others for this behavior, it’s time to consider seeking professional help. No one should have to fight and overcome addiction alone, especially when comprehensive, evidence-based treatment programs are available to help.

At Guardian Recovery Center, we provide a safe, therapeutic environment for those committed to overcoming addiction. If you are ready to break the chains of alcoholism and reclaim your life, please contact us today for a free, no-obligation health insurance benefit check.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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