Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blame shifting

Here is another email question that I received:
My alcoholic boyfriend likes to blame everything on me......everything and anything he can think of, and it really brings me down, very down...and eventually leads to further resentment of him...
I have a full bubbling boiling pot or resentment deep in me that poisons me and makes me angry, that leads to me being sad again because I hate being angry and resentful and bitter, which leads to negative thought after negative's a muck of anger and pain and hopelessness that is cyclic and doesn't go away. I am tied of being blamed.  I am tired of being angry.  Any suggestions?

Blame shifting is one of the most frustrating things about alcoholism.  It is done not only by the alcoholic but also by the person who has a relationship with the alcoholic.  Blaming is really about trying to get away from uncomfortable feelings.  If I blame someone else, then I don't have to look at what I am doing or admit that I am wrong.

In the situation you describe,  your boyfriend can keep deflecting blame back onto you, coming up with excuses why it is YOU or the rest of the world who has the problem, not him.  Blame shifting allows him to stay in his disease, tucked safely in his denial, so he doesn't need to ever work on himself.  One of the biggest hurdles in recovery is humility.  Those who work the twelve steps and are humbled will stop with the arrogant antics of blaming others around them.  

I am able to see the blame shift now for what it is.  Before when I was unaware of my feelings, I didn't know what was happening.  I would be blamed or I would start blaming.  It was an automatic response.  I didn't even know it was happening until it was too late. 

Whether a person is alcoholic or not,  I don't think anyone likes to feel cornered or blamed.  The solution is to change my reaction when something bothers me and the blaming is right at the tip of my tongue.  I do my best not to react immediately if something bothers me.  I count to ten,  take a few breaths, walk away for a few minutes.  In short, I let it sit and figure out how I want to approach it.  I used to shoot right from the lip which generally caused a huge escalating argument.  But sitting with the feeling and pausing before reacting is not easy.  I am better at it some days than others, depending on where I am spiritually and emotionally. 

When I have sat with the feeling and something is still bothering me,  I will say how I felt when the event or situation occurred.  I don't say, "You made me feel like crap when......." but will speak about my feelings: "I felt angry when you yelled at me for ..........".  If he shifts the blame to you in the hot potato toss, which is a favorite game that alcoholics and Al-Anons play,  I would walk away and say, "It's how I feel." No further need for discussion. Once you stand by your feeling and take away the argument, there is nothing more to say. 

Another thing that I have learned is that most of the blaming does not need to be taken personally.  I know that is really hard but blaming shifted to me isn't really about me.  What your boyfriend is doing is HIS to own.  It is his disease talking.  If I realize that I can separate the alcoholics in my life from their disease, then I am not as quick to react.  What I need to do is work on my own shortcomings and get better at detaching from the disease of alcoholism when it is in my face.  Good luck. 


  1. You are right, blame shifted to you is NOT about you. This was a helpful post.

    Love you, Syd.


  2. Yep. When it all comes down to the nitty gritty, we ourselves know what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for. Which frees us up a lot.

  3. AS a recovering alcoholic and an al-anon, I LOVED this post today. Loved it, and it was a great reminder of what I need to be doing. Thanks!

  4. The hot potato toss can be such a ugly game, no one is a winner.
    If I can step away from the role and think before I act things seem to calm down as you wrote.
    My favorite line from the program in this instance
    What you think of me is none of my business.

  5. When I was lost in a relationship with an alcoholic it was just me an him. He was God to me and when he accused me of something it was my own insecurity and low self-esteem that accepted the blame. As I grew stronger and could see things more objectively I could decide if it was true or not. In sickness there was some part of me that believed that he was right all the time. Now I take the responsibility if it is mine to take and if not I ignore it.

  6. this is good stuff syd, a needed hear...

  7. Blame game. I don't like being blamed either. Who does. Yep, I ALWAYS did something to cause my alcoholic to drink. No kidding? haha, it was ALWAYS my fault. Yep, I don't take responsibility of another's actions. Really, it's not me, it you. :) Thanks for this Syd.

  8. Anyone that says they don't believe in any kind of HP can explain to me how often a post like this comes at JUST the time it is most exquisitely relevant and necessary. I value your thoughts and those of your readers so very much.

  9. Loved this post. You are so insightful Syd. But wait....are you like Alanon's equivalent to Ann Landers? ;o)

  10. Blame shifting is a communication detour used in many relationships, especially dysfunctional families. It is not specific to alcoholics, but I'm sure they practice is a lot.

    Regardless, this was a helpful post.

    Here is what a MD blogger I follow has to say about blame shifting, and other communication red herrings like over generalization & changing the subject.

  11. Fantastic post. Your clarity and absolute honesty is what keeps me coming back each day. Thank you.


  12. I have many people in my life who like to play the blame game and sometimes I find myself getting caught up in it. Thanks for sharing your insight. I have found that placing the blame on others only hurts the blamer. When I place the blame on someone I am giving them my power.

  13. How true, how true...the blame game. It spins round and round. I played it for years, I'm just glad I got off that roulet wheel. It's always so easy to blame everyone else because then you don't have to take responsibility for anything! I remember talking to someone after an AA meeting and going on and on about what my husband needed to do for my program and this person gave me the dose of reality I needed he said, "Your husband doesn't have to do a *#%*ing thing, you're the alcoholic!" I stood there, opened my mouth, thought of nothing to say and shut it. It was just the dose of reality I needed! Hope all is well with you and yours!

  14. The "hot potato toss game" is one I know well.

    It's a game I won't play with anyone, knowingly at least...again.

  15. In my alanon group someone said, just because someone offers offense you do not have to take offense.

  16. Last night was my first Al-Anon meeting. I am reading this daily! I blame my alcoholic for everything! There is nothing wrong with me! HA! Time to look in the mirror and start my road to recovery! Thanks. Be back tomorrow.


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