Delay: Denial’s Fall-Back Position

Rationality doesn’t roll over and play dead in the face of addiction. Active addicts experience intermittent flashes of sanity, like when I thought, “This place is gonna kill me,” while stocking up on liquor at Costco. But denial doesn’t surrender either. Rather, the addict brain beats a strategic retreat. That’s when full-scale denial morphs into the “Yes, but ….” of delay.

You work it all out in your mind. This time, fed up and determined to assert your will, you will finally, once-and-for-all, hope-to-die, lash-me-to-the-mast-and-don’t-untie-me-no-matter-what take the steps necessary to save yourself.

But there’s a catch: catch 80-proof. This commitment, this solemn vow isn’t for today. It’s for tomorrow. When daybreak dawns, however, all your good intentions evaporate, overruled by an addict brain too fragile to contemplate life without its only reliable coping medicine. The need for alcohol or drugs to stave off withdrawal, satisfy intense cravings, and regain a semblance of control is always so much more persuasive than mere rational intention.

So you tell yourself this new day is not a good day to get sober and today’s intention’s are tabled until tomorrow. Again. Because you can’t stop. No matter the intensity of the sincerity, your brain will not allow you to make that jump from a commitment to do something tomorrow to a promise to do it right now. So you take that first drink or drug and give up on the day.

You’re screwed. And you know it. Because you keep doing it and watching yourself do it and hating yourself for doing it. But you have no choice. And some part of you knows that too which only feeds the desperation. No wonder unconsciousness is such a relief.

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