Placing the Blame Where Blame Belongs

Imagine yourself flying in an airplane. You’re in the back seat. Suddenly, the plane nosedives and you begin losing altitude. Sitting in the back, away from the controls, you cannot do absolutely anything about the situation. Hopelessness leaves you breathless.

Now consider the same scenario. Only this time, you’re the pilot. The plane nosedives, but the controls are right in front of you. Your willingness combined with your ability to take control of the situation put you at ease. You grab the controls and lift the plane upwards, continuing on towards your destination.

What’s the difference in these two scenarios.

The answer can be found in one word – responsibility.

In the first situation, you were not responsible. It was someone’s else job to fix the situation. Therefore, you were hopeless.

In the second situation, however, you were in control. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault. And since it was your responsibility to fix the problem, you were able to get it under control.

With this analogy, it is easy to see how important it is for us to take responsibility for out-of-control situations.

The problem, however, is that human tendency is to do the opposite.

But how does this apply to addiction and recovery?

Simply put, when families of addicts blame other people for the addict’s choices, they take the responsibility away from the person to whom it belongs – the addict.

The problem here is that the addict is the pilot. (S)he is the one driving the plane of life. (S)he’s not in the back seat at the mercy of someone else. The decisions are up to the person – not the other people around.

Blaming others for the addict’s choices would be like placing the addict in the back seat of a diving plane. The problem is that nobody else can conduct the controls. Inevitably, in this situation, you end up with a crash.

In fact, 3 particular people suffer from blaming others instead of putting the responsibility on the addict.

Let’s look at each of the 3 people who lose in this situation.

The Addict

In most circumstances, the only person who can consume medication for a sick person is the sick person himself. The only person who can build muscle is the one who feels the need to work out.

Likewise, the only person who can get an addict clean is the addict. Additionally, the only person who can make an addict use is the addict.

Too often, families blame the addict’s friends, boss, spouse, etc. The actually works against the addict and strips him or her of their power to change. If it’s someone else’s fault, then they cannot do anything to fix it.

The best approach is to empower the addict to change by placing the responsibly where it belongs – on the addict. 

The Family

Someone else who suffers while blaming others is the actual family and loved ones of the addict who do the blaming. The family sets itself up for disappointment.

Have you, for example, ever called the customer service line to get a refund? You talk to someone for 5 minutes (after waiting for 10 for them to answer) only for the person to tell you, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that. Let me transfer you to my manager.”

You get frustrated because you expected the person to help. The problem is that the person you expected this from was not able to give you what you needed.

This is exactly what happens when the family blames someone else for an addict’s behavior. They set themselves up for unmet expectations since the person they are expecting to fix the situation doesn’t have the authority to do so.

It’s a losing hand, every time.

The Person Being Blamed

The other person who blaming hurts is the person being blamed.

Have you ever had to cover for a coworker? Ever got in trouble for something someone else did?

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

And in most cases, there is nothing you can do to fix it.

This is what happens when someone gets blamed for an addict’s behavior. The person is accused of doing something (s)he is not responsible for. Furthermore, (s)he is expected to change something beyond his or her ability to change.

Now, it would not be fair to express this point without addressing the objection - They may not make the addict use, but they sure make it difficult for the addict not to.

There is some truth to that. In a perfect world, an addict would have the sweetest spouse who never complained, the most obedient children who never bothered them, and the most understanding boss who never expected them to do their job.

The problem with this line of thinking, however, is that such a world does not exist. And yes, a nagging spouse, undisciplined children, or an irritating boss can make it more difficult for an addict to stay sober.

But they cannot make it impossible.

It is always the addict’s choice whether to use or not. Relapse is a choice. And sobriety is too.

Ultimately, what we want to do is find freedom.

Freedom from blame being placed on someone who cannot truly help since (s)he is not responsible.

Freedom for the family and their expectations of someone changing their situation who cannot actually help.

And freedom for the addict – the freedom to take responsibility and make a change in this new year.

Justin FranichComment