Rationalizing and Normalizing Dangerous Behavior

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rationalizing dangerous behavior

Addiction affects every facet of a person’s life, but those suffering from the disease may not realize the extent of the impact of their drug or alcohol use. Addiction can develop beneath the surface over a long period before a person realizes that they have developed a genuinely unhealthy practice. At that point, addiction may be extremely difficult to overcome with willpower alone.

Reevaluating one’s relationship with drugs and alcohol frequently can help an individual identify problematic behaviors early in addiction’s development. However, it is also possible that a person is continually rationalizing or normalizing their behavior to avoid confronting the problem. Normalizing dangerous behaviors can not just lead someone away from getting the help they may need to overcome an addiction; it can lead to romanticizing the meaning of drugs or alcohol or otherwise avoid the adverse effects of addiction in one’s life.

Take a Look at Your Thinking

Many people don’t realize that they are rationalizing their thoughts about engaging with drugs or alcohol. Addiction can cause a person’s brain to justify a decision that has already been made. Rationalizing thoughts can manifest as justifications or excuses as to why alcohol or drugs may be necessary, or at least accepted, in a particular situation. However, looking at one’s thought patterns and being honest with oneself can illustrate how these thoughts are typically happening in the back of one’s mind.

Instead of thinking afterward that it was an incredibly stressful day at work and hitting the local bar can help one calm down, addiction can instead create an urge to drink and force the brain to think of why it may be okay to engage in the practice. Instead of reacting to stress, addiction may be causing these urges, and then think of ways to justify it later.

Recognizing that this rationalization is taking place can be difficult as the person often believes that the lies they are telling themselves are real. They don’t know their thoughts are tricking them. Before taking a drink or reengaging with an addiction of any kind, it is paramount that each person is honest with themselves about why they feel this urge. They can discuss why they think such an action is justified with a support person and find another alternative to cope with the stresses.

The Problem with Normalizing Dangerous Behavior

Normalizing the use of an addictive substance is another way that the brain may be tricking itself into thinking that addiction isn’t the problem. However, while rationalizing one’s thoughts may be an individual struggle, normalizing one’s behavior often relies on one’s company or culture. This kind of thinking most often manifests by comparing oneself to others and can create thoughts like “if we all drink every day, then it can’t be too bad.” Unfortunately, addiction doesn’t concern itself with others’ actions and instead represents one’s relationship with drugs or alcohol.

Different people will have different experiences with drugs or alcohol and will respond differently to their use, both in its immediate effects and the development of addiction. Looking at others’ practices to gauge one’s dependence is a way of trying to normalize what may be a very destructive practice for an individual. It is not just okay, but encouraged, for each individual to judge their own relationship and limitations with addictive substances. Just because others are drinking often or in excess doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have varying degrees of adverse effects for all individuals. Taking a personal approach and evaluating one’s relationship with drugs or alcohol outside the concerns of others can allow a person to be more honest with themselves in their use and begin to paint a more accurate portrait of one’s relationship with an addictive substance.

Start Asking Questions and Be Honest

Rationalizing and normalizing behaviors can feel like a battle within oneself as the mind tries to convince itself that its cravings are justified. It will prompt many thoughts and questions that can make drug or alcohol use seem either warranted or inconsequential enough to be negligible.

Catching oneself asking certain questions or thinking specific thoughts can be the first step towards creating a plan that is honest and focused on sobriety while helping quell these urges. “What could one drink hurt?” “I had a stressful day and haven’t had a drink in a while, so it must be okay.” “I’m just having fun, and I haven’t missed work, so what harm can one drink do?” Identifying questions or thoughts like these can prompt each individual to analyze whether they are looking for a release from their stress or a reason to justify the decision to engage with drugs or alcohol they have already made. Working with professionals and supports can help each individual break down their own thought patterns and realize how rationalizing and normalizing these dangerous behaviors can create a fast track towards a developing addiction or causing relapse.

Being able to identify and change when you find yourself rationalizing or normalizing dangerous behaviors can be the first line of defense against relapse and the first step in understanding the extent of addiction’s influence over your life. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction and is ready to take the first step towards your sobriety, Avalon Malibu can help you today. We offer a variety of programs to help you balance your life and recovery, including our detox program, residential care, partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs. We also offer an extensive catalog of therapeutic approaches that can help you personalize your time with us to be the most impactful possible for your unique needs and goals. We offer art therapy, yoga, meditation, as well as many physical approaches, such as our seasonal ropes course, all complimented with our cognitive-behavioral approach to help you better understand your own thoughts and relationship with drugs or alcohol. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call us today at (844) 857-5992.

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