One of the most prominent characteristic of typical addictive thinking is to externalize problems, to blame things on other people or situations. This tendency to play the role of victim and/or to be bitter about what life has “done to” him or her is totally unconscious on the part of the addict and is part of the denial system. Those addicts who have an easier time expressing hurt outwardly invariably take on the role of victim, while those who express anger outwardly with greater ease take on the role of being bitter or angry. The unconscious reward in this for chemically dependent individuals is that they never have to look at themselves, and therefore, never have to quit using substances.
Another dominant aspect of addictive thinking is extreme self-centeredness. Remember, these are qualities of the addict in his or her active disease, not necessarily qualities of the person outside his or her addiction. This selfishness occurs as the addictive behaviors become more and more the central feature of the addict’s life, to the point where other priorities, such as family, health, work, and God, are slowly pushed away. The addict can’t see it, but once head-over-heels in addiction, he or she is the center of the universe, accompanied by his or her best friend (alcohol and/or other drugs), which inevitably turns on the addict at some point with devastating results. By this point, the addict is isolated and only “living to use and using to live.” The reward center in the brain is damaged, as is the world around the addict.
An additional aspect of addictive thinking is impatience. Addicts want what they want when they want it, and will say whatever they have to say in order to get it. Many addicts also seem addicted to danger, excitement, and impulsive behavior. It is all about changing the way they feel right now, regardless of the consequences. With this impatience comes the behavior of saying or doing whatever the addict has to in order to get the drug. All this perpetuates the “going fast”aspect of addiction and the loss of control that can lead to fatal consequences.
The natural inclination with addictive thinking is to repeat the same act over and over and over again. Also inherent in addictive thinking is the belief that the addict can manage his or her addictive behavior. For example, the alcoholic in denial believes over and over, “This time when I drink, it will feel just as good as it once did and won’t cause any problems.” The power of denial is amazing.
Another part of addictive thinking is a need for problems. As long as an addict has a problem, he or she has a reason to use. Of course, addicts are unaware of this need because of denial, but they always seem to be in conflict with something or somebody. Just because an addict enters some form of treatment and verbalizes that he or she is an addict does not mean it is an end to addictive thinking. In early recovery, even the most dedicated person will go in and out of addictive thinking on a daily basis. That is why it is so important for the addict in early recovery to attend daily recovery meetings, get a sponsor, and read recovery-approved literature. The more that a person hears, sees, and models recovery-oriented thinking and behavior, the less denial—and with that, addictive thinking—is likely to play a role in his or her life.