Building a life free from the burdens of substance abuse requires rethinking old thoughts and behavior patterns.
One common obstacle many people in recovery must overcome is the habit of thinking of themselves as victims of their circumstances. History has proven that the human spirit is amazingly resilient. Tapping into this natural resiliency is a vital part of the recovery process.
Playing the Victim in Your Personal Relationships
Falling into the victim role is common among substance abusers because it allows them to manipulate the people they’re closest to into enabling their addiction. When you portray yourself as a victim, the people around you go out of their way to relieve your immediate suffering—even if their actions aren’t helpful in the long term.
- You complain about being overwhelmed by student loan debt, so your mother slips you extra cash that you use to purchase drugs or alcohol.
- You show up on your sister’s doorstep after being evicted, so she lets you stay at her home rent-free even though she’s worried about you being under the influence around her young children.
- You constantly tell your friend that he’s the only one who really understands what you’ve been going through, so he continues to let you into his life even after you’ve stolen money or personal belongings to feed your habit.
Blaming others for your misfortune is closely associated with a victim’s mindset. For example, you may try to justify your drinking by saying you wouldn’t need to drink if your job wasn’t so stressful or if your spouse wasn’t so critical of your actions. Blaming others places stress on your personal relationships, fracturing necessary support systems and preventing you from fully owning up to the consequences of your actions.
The Victim Mentality and Low Self-Esteem
Falling into the trap of having a victim mentality can be a sign of low self-esteem. Someone with low self-esteem doesn’t feel as though his or her actions have any consequences. They make statements like:
- I’ll never amount to anything, so why should I continue to try?
- No one will forgive my past mistakes, so I should just get used to being alone.
- Bad things happen no matter what I do.
- I tried to get sober, but I relapsed. Being clean just won’t work for me.
When a victim mentality is due to low self-esteem, it’s important to find ways to focus on your positive attributes. This might include expressing yourself through art, music, or creative writing. Volunteering at a nonprofit organization or exploring your spirituality are also excellent ways to boost self-esteem. When you realize all of the gifts you have to offer the world, it will be easier to move past the habit of seeing yourself as a victim.
Developing a Victim Mentality After Trauma
Sometimes, people who suffer from a victim mentality have developed self-destructive thoughts and behavior patterns because of past trauma. They’ve survived child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, or other traumatic experiences and are struggling to move forward with their lives.
Exposure to past trauma does have a tremendous impact on one’s life, but no single individual is defined by one experience. Our lives are shaped by the situations that are beyond our control as well as the choices we make and our relationships with the people around us. When you allow trauma to define your worth as a person, it becomes too easy to use drugs and alcohol to numb your pain and avoid moving forward with your life.
Seeing Yourself as a Survivor, Not a Victim
Occasionally feeling discouraged and overwhelmed is a normal part of being human, but it’s dangerous to form your entire identity around a victim mentality. When you feel as though you have no power over your addiction, personal relationships, career, or finances, you won’t be able to move forward with a sober life for yourself.
When you seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, you’ll learn how to:
- Process past trauma in a way that promotes healing
- Take responsibility for your own decisions and actions
- Accept others as they are
- Face past mistakes and the consequences of poor decisions
- Avoid giving power to others by allowing them to control your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors
Addiction is a chronic illness, much like diabetes or asthma. It’s not attributed to a lack of willpower or a moral failing. Addiction requires treatment, but it’s only a small part of your life story. Your destiny is entirely up to you.