I got some bad news yesterday evening. A cousin whom I hadn’t seen in years, but who used to have a very important place in my life, was killed in an automobile crash on his way home from work. He was pushing 70 years old, and if he’d been sick it wouldn’t have been all that much of a shock. An auto crash, though. What a bummer!

And what a wonderful excuse to use. I’m probably in no danger, but it bears keeping in mind. Depression is a big trigger for me, and so is grief. If I let it happen I could work myself into both. Nothing wrong with grief; properly dealt with, it’s a painful but important part of life that allows us to get on with our own after a loss. But us alcoholics and other addicts ran from pain like a squirrel from a pit bull.

I’ve used all sorts of excuses in my career. Probably the most popular was the “he done me wrong” refrain. Give me a good resentment — even if it wouldn’t have made much sense to a sane person — and I’d convince myself that I needed a drink (or whatever). Hey, if you had my problems, you’d get loaded too!

There were a lot of variations on that one. As the saying goes, I’d “drink because the dog ran away, then to celebrate when he got home.” The same went for other drugs: celebrations were a great excuse. So was “getting to sleep.” Now, I knew very well that alcohol and most other downers affect your sleep so that you get less benefit from it, and I could very well have gone to bed with just a little snort to keep the devil away, as the Irish say. But getting completely loaded on one thing or another was the real objective, even though I didn’t realize that at the time.

There were others,

Relationships: “If you were married to that bitch…”

  • The job: “You have no idea what I see out there. I don’t want to talk about it!” (I was a cop.)
  • Death
  • Birth
  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Fatigue: “Just a little pick-me-up!”
  • and Just Because — just because I was an addict.

It’s easy to find reasons to use, to relapse, to justify bad behavior, to curl up and avoid people, to strike out — to do all those things that we know we shouldn’t. What’s hard is to remember how miserable all that made us.

When we’re looking for an excuse.

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