Deciphering Everyday Excuses and How to Quit Needing Them
Why We Need Excuses
Most of us give excuses when we either do not want to do something, or are questioned about why, when, or how we did or did not do something. Excuses helps us avoid taking responsibility for our actions, or our lack of effort. They may have worked in the past, but they will keep us from moving forward in our life and recovery.
Recovery involves reflecting on our actions and our excuses for doing something a certain way; usually, our way. Excuses also apply to our non-actions. Another important consideration is to evaluate the results of our typical actions.
When we reflect on our usual outcomes, if helps us see if we like the results. If we do, there's little point in changing. However, if we do not like the outcomes, then it might be time to stop using excuses, and make changes.
Most of us give excuses when we either do not want to do something or someone questions us about doing or not doing something. Excuses work in several ways. Often, we use excuses to:
- Avoid change
- Placate authority
- Get someone off our back
- Defend our actions
- Argue our point
Excuses That Keep Us from Changing
We Use the Same Predictable Excuses
Most of our stated reasons seem to work in our favor, or we would have discontinued using them; however, they will keep us from experiencing the most out of our recovery. When we continue to use the same excuses, it is difficult for people to believe them.
We've justified and rationalized our actions in our use, and continuing to use the same excuses merely demonstrates our irresponsibility, unwillingness to change and our resistance to the process of recovery. Continuing with these excuses might be an indication that we are:
- Not applying effort to changing
- Remaining the same
- Using old behaviors
- Resistant to change
- Unwilling to follow directions
How Do You Stop Needing Excuses? Solutions
Many explanations have underlying meanings. So, what do our explanations say about us? When we use the following, it helps to understand what others hear in the unsaid words.
This one is about assumptions - how it ought to be from our perspective. We may have a seemingly better way of doing things, but should realize that many suggestions and directions have been found lacking over the years. The current ideas and trends are in place because they tend to work for the whole.
Again, this references that we think we know something without verifying our information. Assuming is simply our opinion of what someone meant or how to do something. Too often, our assumption of how to do or not do something, is an indication that we think our way is better.
Sometimes our ideas have merit; other times, they're found lacking. Assumptions and thinking we know how something should work may prevent us from learning a more efficient way of doing things.
- Solution: Learn to ask questions. Phrasing it from our perspective of “I thought, or I assumed” and then stating our position, lets someone know what our ideas are. In some cases, with a better explanation, our thoughts and assumptions may work.
But if someone can give us valid reasons or a historical perspective on why our assumptions won't work, it is better to be respectful and try their directions, suggestions or solutions. When we don't know how to do something or use something in a more useful manner, it's better to ask questions, before, not after.
Maybe Someone Else is Responsible
“I didn’t know any better.”
This one puts the responsibility for our knowledge on someone else – family, teachers, friends, sponsors, accountability partners, or treatment providers. We apparently can learn – we learned the language of using. We could ask questions – “Where can I get drugs?” We wanted to know these things at the time, so we asked, and got answers.
- Solution: If we genuinely want to know how to do something better, we will ask knowledgeable people how they do something. Simply because we previously have not had people in our life that could help us learn a better way of doing things, or we chose to ignore their direction, does not mean we cannot get help now.
“I don’t know.”
Most people do not know about new subjects until they ask about it. For this reason, if we do not know about how best to recover, it's counterproductive to be embarrassed about our lack of knowledge. Do not be embarrassed to ask for:
- Clarification of the terminology
- Rephrasing of concepts
Continuing to state, “I don’t know” may be an indication of our lack of interest in getting better. When we find ourselves thinking this one, ask, “Who might know?” There will be times that the answer is someone else. Other times, when someone asks a question about us, the legitimate answer will be that we know. For instance, when someone asks us how we are feeling, it is only appropriate for us to know.
- Solution: Before you use this excuse, think to yourself – “who should know” – them or me. Finishing out your sentence with “I don’t know because: I wasn’t taught that; I wasn’t aware of that, or I didn’t realize that", will open up the possibility of receiving help for the situation.
“I didn’t know to do it differently.”
This one also puts the responsibility for learning something to others – family, spouses, teachers, friends, or whomever. It blames others for our lack of awareness.
- Solution: We apparently can learn – the language of the streets, lifestyle, or our occupation. While we may not know any better than to use if we are upset, there are knowledgeable people in recovery who do know how to recover, or give us alternative solutions when we have problematic feelings. It is our responsibility to ask peers, sponsors, accountability partners or our facilitator for solutions. These people are resources for change. Even if we didn’t have people who supported our efforts to change in our use, we have them in our recovery.
The Give Me a Break Excuses
“I need to…...”
Typically this one is used when we want to get someone to move on with a conversation or to placate them. We usually use this one when we are uncomfortable or feel guilty. These feelings often stems from what is being pointed out for us to look at; or because the same issue keeps coming up because we are not changing or following the directions. Alternatively, we may use this one in the hopes that we can appease the authority into believing that we are finally going to do what we previously committed to doing.
- Solution: Instead of stating or talking about what we need to do, we have to put effort into accomplishing something or following the directions. We will feel productive and proud; no longer having to use the excuse, but talking about what we have done.
Trying is the excuse that people give when they have expended energy in a nonproductive manner or in such a way as to not accomplish a goal. Think of it in terms of did we try to drink or use drugs or did we put effort into doing those things? "I’m trying" is sometimes about doing something in a less than productive way.
- Solution: Again, ask people who have been successful in their efforts exactly how they did something and then follow the directions. When we find we're using this excuse, see if we have asked experienced people exactly how to do something, or are we just assuming that we know what to do.
Refusing to Make an Effort
“I’ve always been this way.”
The simple fact is that we are in recovery to change a lot of “how I've always been”. Continuing to use this excuse is a demonstration of our unwillingness to ask how to and then follow through with directions to change, or can be an indication of how much fear we attach to changing.
“But I’ve Used These Excuses for Years.”
It will take time to stop using these excuse. If you are legitimately making the effort to stop using them, you may find yourself saying them and then immediately retracting them for a while. That is okay, it demonstrates that you are making the effort to change. Recovery is an opportunity to change, to stop the self-defeating behavior of making excuses and start making changes.
- Solution: Reflect on what we have typically gotten by doing things our way. If we like the outcomes, we probably won’t change, but if we do not like the results, we will change “the ways we've always been.”
Personal Preference for Excuses
What excuse do you tend to use the most?
When the Excuses No Longer Work
If you find that people in recovery don't buy into your excuses:
- It is sometimes because they used them, too
- They no longer accept the excuses as reasons for lack of change
- They would like to see you change for the better
Be appreciative that there are some people who are willing to expect your best from you; not the best excuse. Stop looking to make your excuses work and work to find solutions that will make recovery work for you.
After all, we know you didn't miss that meeting because your cat had the hiccups.
© 2013 Marilyn L Davis