holdup manIt was recently reported that a Washington man applied for a job at a restaurant in his community. He talked with the manager and filled out a job application. A few hours later the same man returned to the restaurant with a gun and commenced to rob the very manager he had applied with a few hours earlier. The manager gave the application to police and they made quick work of capturing him.

The foolishness of that episode is laughable. We react by wondering how someone could be so dumb. How could he think he would not be recognized? And yet when we are in our addiction our denial helps us commit the same kind of errors in logic, and we often believe we will get away with it.

And it is not just the dum-dums who fall into the behavior. Often the brighter the addict is, the better they are at denial. They become expert at justification and rationalization that is so believable they can fool most of the people most of the time. However those closest to the addict get worn out. They start to recognize the lies, and over time trust is destroyed often irreparably.

It is not unusual when I treat couples to hear a story from the spouse of a recent incident and then hear the addicts’s version. Often the addict version sounds very believable, often makes one want to be sympathetic and supportive. But because I have heard the true version, the addict’s thinking and justification system is revealed.   It is a powerful therapeutic moment, a chance for the addict to understand how his thinking errors betray him.

A client from a few years ago started to complain bitterly about how he was being treated by his in-laws.  I try to hold up the mirror for the addict so that he may view reality, and not remain in justifications that denial has created.  No! You weren’t treated poorly, you created this entire mess by your addictive behaviors. You destroyed the family and the marriage by your drinking and abuse. You are being treated poorly because you behaved poorly and no amount of excusing yourself can change that fact. It is often hard for the addict to look in that mirror. Those that cannot, do not heal.