Having Trouble “Staying Stopped”?

Posted on January 13, 2015

Refuting Your Excuses
by Michael Edelstein, Ph.D.

“It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.” ~Mark Twain

Excuses Stopping? Easy. “Staying stopped?” Not so much.

Have you ever had thoughts like these?:

“I can start tomorrow”, “I really need a drink”, “I’m too tired”, “I’ll just have one”, “This is how I have fun with my friends, it’s not hurting anybody,” “It’s too hard to quit.”

“Excuses” are statements we sometimes make to ourselves that make our addictive behavior seem reasonable.

In other words, we use excuses to justify behavior that we know is harmful. These excuses are destructive. They block, interfere, or sabotage our goals of addiction recovery and more. We may be so practiced in thinking these excuses that they have become automatic. We may not even be aware that we’re making these excuses unless we pay close attention to our thoughts.

“Refutations” are statements that disprove or weaken an “excuse.”

“Refuting Your Excuses” is an exercise for learning to pay attention to our habitual excuses and to evaluate them logically. Is the excuse true? Does it make good sense? Is it helpful?

How to Refute an Excuse:

1. For a recurring or current excuse you use, create a list of 5 to 10 meaningful refutations – – statements that disprove the excuse you are using.

2. Write these refutations 3 times a day for at least 30 days until they are ingrained in your thinking.

3. Whenever you have the urge for alcohol, drugs or other addictive behavior, identify the thoughts that make “using” seem reasonable. Then refute these excuses.

Your Excuse: What’s an excuse you tend to often use? (example: “It’s ok to drink or get high right now because it’ll be the last time I do it.” )


Your Refutations: Create a refutation for the excuse written above by circling or adapting phrases from the list shown below. It might be helpful to combine negative (e.g, #1) and positive (e.g, #2) refutations in your list.

1. I’ve used this excuse hundreds of times. It hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. It always has led to the next time.
2. I’ll feel better tomorrow if I don’t drink or get high today.
3. This “time” could mean losing my job, ruining my career or destroying my relationship.
4. How many days is this one going to last?
5. I don’t HAVE TO indulge this “last time.”
6. I’m lying to myself, pure and simple.
7. I can change this statement to: “No more times!”
8. I’ll be better off now and better off tomorrow with: “No more drugs or alcohol!”
9. Since I choose to use, I can choose not to use.
10. If I choose not to use, the discomfort I’ll feel will be temporary, not forever.

Do you have additional refutations to suggest? We love to hear them, just use the comment section below.


6 thoughts on “Having Trouble “Staying Stopped”?

  1. Rori

    Great to hear what I have always known. Jut need a little affirmance/reassurance/ whatever each day. I’m new so I’m not sure if I’m even using this correctly (I’m a little older and not so good with technology!) Any guidance is greatly appreciated.

  2. Richard H.

    I have used many excuses in the past to cover up my wrong doings. It wasn’t till I started to refute them did I see, all the good intentions in the world can’t cover up my clear intent of wrong doings.

    A little self awareness has brought me to a new level, in that when I refute my decisions to do something, it’s all on me to make the choice knowing that it is wrong and I will have to deal with the negative consequence and not just excuse them with good intent…

  3. Brian Burgess

    When you’ve reached the point of alcoholism, it’s all but impossible to imagine how you will be able to be out having fun without a drink in your hand. It can take a few weeks to develop new routines out on the town without alcohol, but if you stick with it, you will realize how much fun you can have without it.

  4. Reid K. Hester, Ph.D.

    Well said. Our users of the Overcoming Addictions.net web app for SMART Recovery also set up custom text messages that the app sends to them to remind them of their reasons for changing, their plans, etc. The texts act as a gentle and usually positive reminder to stick with their plan to stay sober.

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