Having Trouble “Staying Stopped”?

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.


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