Human beings have a natural instinct to protect themselves. Sometimes, though, we only think we’re protecting ourselves. In recovery, addicts use all kinds of defenses to shield off painful realities and keep people from getting close to them.

Defenses help us avoid pain, but they do so in an unhealthy way. When we rely too heavily on our defenses, we distort our reality to a dangerous degree. The facade is sure to come crashing down soon enough, in the form of a relapse.


Cutting these defenses means identifying them. Most of us rely on just one or two big ones. If we can recognize when we’re using them, we can seize the moment to toss the defenses aside and confront our feelings head-on. The following are some common defenses addicts use which stunt their recovery:

Acting innocent – Appearing nice and sweet to keep others from wanting to change you


Withdrawing – Avoiding confrontation to keep problems private


Acting Helpless or Dumb – Making it out like you don’t even know there’s a problem


Manipulating – Toying with others’ minds to improve your own public image


Projecting – Accusing others of the thoughts and behaviors you want to hide.


Sarcasm – Making bitter remarks to conceal your true feelings.


Intimidating Others – Threatening or screaming at others to scare them away from you.


Silliness – Laughing making jokes to cover up your true feelings.


Glaring – Giving dirty looks or staring intently at others in order to intimidate them.


Minimizing – Glossing over problems–refusing to acknowledge their severity.


Denying – Refusing to acknowledge or believe an obvious truth.


Rationalizing – Explaining your feelings or behaviors in a way that sounds reasonable


Arrogance – Presenting yourself as better than others.


Judging – Looking down and condemning others for their thoughts or behaviors.


Seductiveness – Acting flirtatious, alluring, or sexual in order to avoid confrontation.


Agreeing Easing – Complying without objection.


Intellectualizing – Thinking with your head, “not your heart,” in order to rationalize emotional pain you may be causing others.


Evading – Changing the subject.


Self-Pity – Feeling bad about yourself, too bad to get treatment.


If you’re not sure which of defenses you use…the people around you probably know. Talk at length about the subject with your family especially, as well as anyone else in your support group. If you don’t think you use any of these defenses—find out for sure. Much of the time, we’re not even aware we’re doing it.