Inside the Mind of a Person with Addiction

Individuals with an addiction usually operate with their own logic. Their behavior can appear completely irrational to outsiders. Even when their substance abuse has spiralled out of control and is affecting their life, livelihood and relationships, an individual with an addiction will continue to indulge in the negative activity. Anyone who is not dependent on addictive substances consider this behavior absurd. They don’t understand that the individual with an addiction has the innate ability to explain away their self destructive behavior.

What is Inside the Mind of a Person with Addiction?

An individual who has become addicted to alcohol, drugs or other substances are able to condone their own behavior to themselves. When they have to face negative consequences they usually have an excuse or find someone else to blame. They don’t see their addictive behavior as the root of the problem. On the contrary they tend to believe it is the only thing helping them cope. This is the kind of denial based thinking that keeps an individual trapped within addiction for years.

The individual who has an addiction will use their flawed logic to explain away their behavior. Keep in mind that while the logic is not sound, to the individual it makes perfect sense. Some of the justifications could be:

  • Bad luck causes all their problems, not substance abuse.
  • They need alcohol or drugs to be able to cope with all the stress in their life.
  • Anyone who doesn’t drink or take drugs is boring.
  • The people who complain about substance abuse are the real source of their problems. They should mind their own business.
  • Giving up substance abuse would mean never having fun again and being deprived.
  • No one else really understands substance abuse. Even people who work in recovery aren’t really trying to help, because they don’t get it.
  • Substance abuse doesn’t have the risks everyone says it does.

Denial and Addiction

A defense mechanism often used by individuals who are addicted to explain their behavior is denial. This is when the individual refuses to face the reality of their situation. In the short term denial can be a good way for the mind to protect itself, but if someone becomes trapped in that state of mind long term, then it can be very harmful. The individual in denial can lose touch with reality and continue engaging in self destructive behavior.

Cognitive Dissonance and Addiction

Cognitive dissonance means the holding of two conflicting ideas at the same time. In the case of an individual with addiction, this conflict will directly relate to their thoughts and behavior. Even when the individual knows that substance abuse is harmful, their behavior doesn’t show it, and they continue the abuse. Cognitive dissonance can be overcome by the individual changing their behavior to reflect their thoughts. Or by changing their thoughts to reflect their behavior. Similar to denial, cognitive dissonance can lead to the individual becoming trapped in the harmful behavior because they believe it is rational.

The Logic of the Recovering Addict

For the individual who has escaped an addiction and is on the path to recovery, there is still the risk of illogical thinking. Some such individuals can continue to behave as though they are still addicted, even when they are sober. This is known as Dry Drunk Syndrome. There is the very real danger that the individual will look at recovery as just something to be endured until they can return to addiction.


Recovery is hard work but you don’t have to do it alone. Call The Villa to find out how we can support your goals for sober living.