Victim Mentality – An acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave as if this were the case in the face of contrary evidence of such circumstances.
Survivor Mentality – Focusing on overcoming the negative activating events and promoting ones adaptive behaviors.
Nobody likes a victim, yet everybody likes to play one. This is by no means exclusive to addicts and alcoholics. I believe it is safe to say every human in history has been guilty of this at some point in life. Yet for the sake of this piece, we’ll focus more on the former.
Let me preface this entire post by saying I could win an Oscar for my role as the victim. Critics called my performances in “Boo hoo, oh poor me!” and “But it wasn’t my fault” both highly compelling and almost believable. Keyword: almost. This childlike behavior was a commonplace, deep-seated thread of my active addiction. I bathed in self-pity. The world was out to get only ME, and it was I who had the worst luck of them all.
Victim mentality becomes second nature to the addict and alcoholic. We have our despondent phrases locked and loaded, ready to spew onto whatever bystander we feel wronged us. So much so, that close friends and family come to expect nothing less than this nasty character trait. An indistinguishable panoply to deflect anyone’s attempt at “finding us out” so to speak.
It comes as no surprise when an active addict employs this technique. It is a surprise, however, when the addict still brandishes this weapon in recovery. Within the walls of this treatment center, I have witnessed enough blame thrown around at everyone else for a lifetime of so-called “wrongdoings”. Relatable to not paying the metaphorical parking meter and then yelling, lying or generally causing a scene when handed a ticket by the meter reader. You know damn well you didn’t feed that meter!
I myself am guilty for blaming the BHT staff for all my problems. I have silently blasted twelve step programs for being too organized and judgmental. I have accused both my wife and my parents for putting too much pressure on me, convincing myself that they played a part in my use. “THEY were the problem, NOT me!” All of this entertaining the illusion that once we put down the drugs and alcohol, we will magically find ourselves cured! This idea is like losing a turn or going to jail in Monopoly, do not pass GO, do not collect $200! The addiction is not the problem, it is only a symptom of the actual underlying issues.
I won’t stray far from the subject at hand (maybe), however, I feel the need to touch on the difference between sobriety and recovery. Sobriety is simply abstinence from any mood or mind-altering substances. Recovery is a practice in the total transformation of mind, body and spirit. “Getting sober” typically involves some form of detox and then residential treatment program amounting in thirty, sixty, or ninety days (If you’re serious about the endeavor). On the flip side, living a life in recovery involves utilizing the numerous resources and tools discovered in a rehabilitation program. Action!
Recovery gives us the tools we need to accept life on life’s terms, solving our problems from within ourselves, not relying on any outside source. We do this by taking responsibility for our actions and therefore our lives. After all, we only have control over ourselves, and the spectrum of expectations we put on others is a farce. If we put expectations on other human beings, we will always be disappointed. Satisfaction never guaranteed.
Drugs and alcohol manifest as a temporary solution to an addicts underlying struggles, blanketing the entire problem itself. Just as food, sex and work are also capable of manifesting into temporary solutions to an array of problems we face as individuals. Ever heard of self will run riot?
As an addict in recovery, playing the victim card is useless, yet it is a time-tested tradition amongst those with the disease of addiction. Take away the drugs and alcohol and bear witness to that of a victim. If I haven’t gotten passed assuming the world owes me something, then I am in for some hard truths. I am bound to end up where I started, like turning left four times thinking I am heading in a different direction.
A branch of victim mentality stems from our fears. Not like, “Oh my God there’s a shark and I’m bleeding in the water” kind of instinctual fear, but literally, False Evidence Appearing Real. I mean let’s face it, once the substances aren’t running through our bloodstreams, we are figuratively naked and afraid. Not as exciting as the TV show, but just as scary.
And Guess what? This may hurt a little. Life isn’t fair. Once we understand this fact and make peace with our past, whatever that looks like, then we stop with victim mentality. The old adage is true, anytime we point the finger at someone, three are pointed back at us. Recovery is all about coming to terms with our actions, not the actions of others. It is here where we learn to expel this poisonous mentality. Digging beyond the surface to find a solution, for both addicts and their family members.
For an addict, as was the case with myself, we often do not even realize we are playing the victim. We truly believe everyone is out to get us, and we are convinced all bad things are happening to us. Guilt is the driving motivator of this. We are doing bad things, so in turn we start to anticipate bad things to come; like cycles of karma, namely bad karma.
We lie, cheat and steal, and our loved ones suffer. As a result we begin to expect them to be upset with us. We become like a wounded animal, ready to bite back at the drop of a hat when we feel threatened. To make matters worse, if we can bestow blame onto somebody else, it is a convenient band-aid that masks us from looking at the real problem: ourselves and the confusion surrounding our own suffering.
So, what can be done? First and foremost you need to Get Honest with yourself. If you’ve been through any form of therapy or valley of recovery enterprises like I have, I would bet you have heard this phrase time and time again. Furthermore, I would double down on the idea that you are tired of hearing the same old dose of reality.
Until you can sit back and take an honest assessment of your life, and how your own actions got you there, you will have a tough time ridding yourself of this reckless behavior. Ownership is the key. Basking in the sorrow of your circumstance does not provide you closure, it only reinforces its power in your life. It is time for you to switch your victim mentality to a survivor mentality!
Concerning friends and family members of an addict, the same rules apply. These are not mindless platitudes for addicts, these are essentials for a life worth living. Yes, the path of destruction an addict and alcoholic leaves behind can be very overwhelming, but I ask again: What good will come from constantly dwelling on it? All you’re doing is rehashing your own open wounds, and most definitely theirs!
Do they need to be held accountable for the damage they caused? Yes. Should they be aware of the pain they dealt you? Yes. But should every phone call to home consist of a guilt trip, reminding them of how awful they were? The answer is no! And a “thank you” afterwards would still make the answer a full sentence with the added bonus of manners!
If you think about it, the amount of energy wasted on victim mentality is absurd. Our culture doesn’t make it any easier on us either. Entitlement is a thing, reality television a thing, suing people over nonsense, also a thing. There are so many different avenues for the lies to control us through; subconscious mind programming leading inevitably to believing you’re a victim.
Of course people play the victim because we have some insane core beliefs that tell us that it is an accepted form of recourse. On top of all that, social media is down right harmful to our human nature; conditioning at it’s finest. The part played here feeds off our character defects and therefore, our victim mentality.
Another example to consider: We have shows, specifically game shows like Survivor, where you can get the chance to win a million dollars. Say What?! All you gotta do is be the “Liked” version of yourself, play by the rules and have some skill in the way of actual survival.
Let’s be real people. Facades like this only teach us how to play better victims and if you survive, while taking out your opponents in various ways, congratulations! Here is a truckload of money. Good Lord! While other parts of the world live without clean water and enough food, survival is a game for us to play and we wonder why we have a difficult time grasping victim mentality. How about we put some real tools in the tool box?
While it is true that the world owes us absolutely nothing, I am not ignorant to the fact that some people get dealt a crappy hand. Many are born into awful circumstances. Poverty, handicaps, disease, parentless, poor education etc, etc. Simply put, debilitating conditions. Our life circumstances are not always our fault, yet we choose to suffer from them instead of using them as our motivators, as momentum. Our past transgressions do not have to define us, however they may destroy us if we allow them to.
Honestly ask yourself, what good can come from wallowing in the self-pity of my life? Will it make me happier? Is it sustainable for survival? Will it bring me serenity, or good favor? Rhetorical questions, right? No matter the events that took place, big or small, bad or seriously awful, you and/or your loved ones were blessed enough to survive!
There is work to be done on getting past this notion that ”The struggle is real.” Not to say that the struggle isn’t actually real, it is until it isn’t, but it all starts with a change in perspective. This applies just as much to addicts as it does to everyone else who joined the journey of life; and it is a constant battle. Side note, as I am writing this, thoughts of “Gee, you should take your own advice.” are bubbling up.
I never want to be insensitive to the nature of people’s lives or trauma’s, but the fact of the matter revolves around the need to ask yourself: This happened, now what am I going to do about it? Are you really going to let some unfortunate life events keep you in this vicious cycle? Let them dictate the rest of your life, too? Or will you take ownership of your actions and feelings? Focusing on how to change them for the better instead of justifying said actions out of fear, ego, and false pride.
Victim mentality is optional, as is that of survivor mentality. The difference holds incredible weight in the recovery of an addictive personality. When I stop looking at what life has done to me and start focusing on the solutions, a whole new world abounds. The decision of which you will inhibit is completely up to you. Choose wisely.
Written by Jared Schappert & Crystal Champ